6 Signs Your Service Stinks

Ouch! This isn’t a very nice title for an article at all. What’s even more acerbic is that many owners and managers in our industry seem to be missing the top signs that our service quality quite possibly isn’t all that. I wish I had a dime for every time an alarm company owner told me, “We provide the best service in the industry!” If we are being truthful with ourselves, the fact of the matter is that no matter how good we are, we can all get better at the service we provide.

Many people in positions of power at companies today suffer from a massive disconnect with reality when it comes to how their service is being perceived by customers and employees alike. It’s as if we run our business like a horse with blinders on. Those of you who see past the blinders and into the peripheral know you have some service issues, but for some reason consciously elect to procrastinate on fixing them. Usually this is either because you don’t recognize exactly where the trouble lay, or because you are unwilling to spend any money to repair it.

Let’s look deeper and consider whether we really save more money by doing nothing. Following are six key signs that your service may be in need of some immediate attention and/or training to really raise the bar and become as good as you tell everyone you already are. 

1. Poor Employee Retention

If you have a revolving door of employees, you have no chance to build a relationship with your customers. Knowledge about individual customers walks out the door with every employee you lose. Do you know why they leave? Even more important, what are you not doing to gain their loyalty and longevity?

Consider bringing in an outsider to consult with and observe your team and operation. Outsiders can see things you are too close to be able to recognize and can dialogue with employees who will tell them things they would never say to you. This is a sign that is easily missed by upper management. If your frontline employees stay less than three years, you have a bright red flag waiving in the wind. 

2. Customer Complaints

Did you know that, on average, only about six out of 100 unsatisfied customers actually take the time to complain? In other words, 94 percent of your customer base will never say a word if they think your service stinks. Worse, when these unsatisfied customers do complain, frontline employees often prefer to pass them off to someone else rather than deal with it.

Not receiving many complaints is in no way any indication that you’re providing good service. If your employees have not nurtured relationships with your customers, many of them will dump you for a competitor the first time something goes wrong. When complaints are brought forth to your frontline team, do you really think this information is getting back to you?

Complaints should be deeply treasured, well documented and shared with management so as to learn as much as you can. 

3. Employees Not Empowered

Unless you empower frontline employees to resolve customer complaints and challenges, your service is definitely being perceived as stinky. Customer issues should be handled from start to finish by the people you have in place to do just that. Your customers do not want to wait, or even worse, be transferred to multiple people to have their problems resolved.

With very few exceptions, there is nothing worse than having to repeat the problem over and over again to different people. This is an amazingly common problem throughout our industry and one that has only one solution: training! Empower your team with the knowledge and give them the tools to defuse angry customers. Train and empower them to make decisions to resolve these issues and take ownership of them.

No matter how good you already think you are, consider blowing some dust off your wallet to provide tangible customer service training. This will help your entire team get better at building relationships and adding value to doing business with your company — as opposed to your competitors. If you are unwilling to both train and empower them, the strong message you send everyone is that you just don’t trust them. When you don’t trust them, they will go away, and so will your customers. 

4. Loss of Long-Term Customers

When you lose a long-term customer, you have an enormous billboard of a sign. Once you have built a long-term relationship with a customer, your ability to retain that customer significantly increases. This is especially true when something goes wrong. When a customer who would normally give you the benefit of the doubt takes their business elsewhere, it’s almost always about your service.

Have you ever lost any long-term customers? What did you do to try and regain their trust? Were you able to find out the true reason they left, and what did you do with that information to prevent this from happening in the future? The customers you lose hold the information you need to succeed!

No matter what they may tell you, losing a long-time customer is seldom about price, it’s about a loss of faith in the service you provide.

5. Few Referrals & Low Re-signs

A new sale followed by a new cancellation is not a terrific business strategy. Taking one out for every account you put in affords you the opportunity of working real hard to stay right where you’re at. If your service is so outstanding, why aren’t more of your delighted customers sending referrals your way? Slow organic growth and low re-signs are, with very few exceptions, a direct reflection of how your service is being perceived.

If your sales team is generating new business everyday but you are taking out as many (or more) than you put in; you might take a look at your service to find out why. When the service relationship you provide exceeds the expectations of your customers, you have an open door to ask for more referrals. At the same time, you can expect to garner a higher percentage of re-signs when your service creates a relationship that emotionally bonds people to your company.

The old customer moving out does everything he can to help sell your service to the new prospect moving in. At the same time, if your service is truly outstanding, why on earth wouldn’t he take you at his new location if he moves within your market? To quote a wise old mentor, “Satisfied customers buy from you, but delighted customers sell for you.”

How do you teach your team to create an emotional bond to doing business with your organization? How much does it cost you not to? There are many simple “no-cost” ways to generate more referrals and re-signs when you provide excellent service. 

6. Low Morale

How educated are you in terms of employee morale? If morale is low, your customers will absolutely know it. They will never say a word but they will feel it. Low morale is not necessarily a result of stinky service; it usually creates service that stinks. If your employees are suffering, rest assured your customers are, too.

The hardest pill for most of us to swallow is the answer to why morale is so low. How employees feel about working in any organization is akin to a river that always flows from the top down. What is the big boss doing to instill a sense of pride through
out the company? How are challenges addressed and who is in positions of leadership throughout the organization?

What proactive steps do you take to instill pride throughout the company, and how does your management team hand out rewards and recognition? Do you actively train employees and managers with tools to make their work life easier and more rewarding? Is there a team spirit in your organization that nurtures accomplishment, or is everyone in fear of making a mistake? Do you empower them to make decisions? If so, how do you train them to make good ones?

Low morale is the most costly of the six signs, and one that is far too often blamed on something else.

Parting Shots

There are obviously more than six signs to identify service that stinks, but these are the top ones to take a hard and honest look at. If you recognize any single one of the six as something happening at your company, I highly encourage you to focus some meaningful attention toward redirecting it. If you recognize more than one, every minute you procrastinate and keep telling yourself how great your service is will absolutely cost you big, direct-out-of-pocket dollars. Being too frugal to train your team is penny-wise and thousands of dollars foolish!

Those of you who proactively train and make corrections to these issues will have little trouble taking the other guy’s dollars and putting them in your pocket. It’s just like taking candy from a baby. Today, exceptional service has become the exception to the rule. When you make the effort to improve it even just a little, you will be rewarded with sustainable loyalty and profitable growth simply because your competitors aren’t and their customers know it.

Always remember, “A satisfied customer is eight times more likely to switch to a competitor than a delighted customer.” Mere satisfaction isn’t good enough and unless you heed the signs, your service probably stinks.   

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