Communication Coach: Building a proactive customer communication process

(Photo: iStock.com/frender)
(Photo: iStock.com/frender)
(Photo: iStock.com/frender)
(Photo: iStock.com/frender)

At the 2022 NALP Elevate conference in Orlando last week, several sessions addressed the subject of customer communication. Contractors are discovering that building a proactive customer communication process is a distinct competitive advantage that is not easily matched.

Every industry has its customer service challenges. This presents an opportunity for businesses to stand out, especially younger companies that may struggle with competing on quality alone. If your company commits to getting progressively better at meeting these challenges head-on, profitable upgrades and referrals are likely to follow.

Due to supply chain issues and the current labor shortage, customers are more tolerant of service that isn’t quite at a level they would prefer. Start experimenting and build a proactive communication process now, because it will become invaluable when the next downturn arrives.

To get started, make a list of the problems customers consistently complain about. If you need inspiration, go to the Google Profiles of your competitors or companies in nearby markets and look for negative reviews. You’ll discover many of them are due to poor communication.

  • Crews don’t show up prepared
  • Schedules are changed without notice
  • Office staff aren’t familiar with project details
  • Phone calls and emails are not returned timely
  • Clients cannot reach their favorite representative
  • New crew members are unfamiliar with client preferences
  • Regretful customers comment, “If I had known in advance that …”

Categorize your challenges

There are several ways you can do this. You could use service disciplines, such as sales, marketing, and production. This is useful for training. Another way is through the lens of a customer, such as communication, quality of work and relationships.

The customer-centric approach gets to the heart of why communication is the top reason customers choose not to work with a company. They will accept higher prices and sometimes lower quality if that is understood in advance. This explains why people will buy from companies they know, like and trust, even when things are not equal.

One of the sessions I attended at Elevate was Proactive Communication: Staying Ahead Of The Customer. One of my favorite takeaways was how proactive communication was characterized as customer love. Those two words encapsulate what customer service is all about. It gives individuals at every level of the organization a mindset to act on behalf of customers in the moment. And that’s something customers love.

These tactics are seemingly simple, but surprisingly powerful when they become part of your culture. Jeff Rossen noted in this presentation with co-presenter Mike Caprio, “We never say no at our company. Everyone in our company knows that.”

Building your communication plan

Words are powerful. Steve Jobs recognized this. It’s why he instructed his people to never say, “We have a problem.” That’s just as upsetting to customers hearing the word no. Instead, Apple employees were advised to use disarming words that signaled a shift to new information that was open for discussion, “It turns out that …”

Making communication an intentional process may just be the way to clean up little things that are holding your business back from growing as it should. Building a proactive communication process takes effort, but team members will quickly accept that work over putting out the fires of customer complaints.

When you get this right, customers will take notice, and it will raise your company culture. This makes it a marketing distinction and a recruiting advantage too.

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