Tuesday, June 18, 2013

5 Ways to Piss Off Your Customers

We’ve all had customer service nightmares that never should have happened. I don’t know about you, but I’ve come to expect that sort of thing from big companies like AT&T and Best Buy. Don’t even get me started on insurance and power companies.  

What really gets me is when modular home factories and builders shoot themselves in the foot by screwing up in ways that have nothing to do with their core products.  A customer that has problem with either one usually has it after they have signed and contract and paid a deposit. A majority of those problems occur after the house is set.

One thing you need to remember, the builder is the factory’s customer and the homeowner is the builder’s customer. The homeowner is not the factory’s customer. This gets rather confusing when the crap hits the fan.

What’s sad is that there’s just no excuse for it. With all the email and phone correspondence before, during and after the house is ready for occupancy, you would think that everything that should be addressed was the first time and when promised.

Is it any wonder that you can look at all the modular factories and find one company that consistently gets things done right while a nearly identical competitor can’t manage a single flawless home?  Add the builders to this statement too.

Since I know you don’t want to be in the latter category, here are five common pitfalls that every business should avoid like the plague.  

1. Fail to deliver. With all the great logistics services available for the factory, there’s simply no excuse for failing to deliver a home to a builder as promised, barring weather. And yet, it happens all the time. The production schedule is running behind, they show up on the wrong day, or they don’t show up at all. Builders run into scheduling problems and forget to mention it the homeowner or simply don’t show up for a few days.

2. Waste your customer’s precious time -- and test their patience. How much time do you spend on the phone or online just trying to figure out what’s gone wrong and get it taken care of? And you never seem to get a straight answer until you’ve asked to speak with whoever’s in charge or threatened to take your business elsewhere. The homeowner is stuck between a rock and a hard place. They’ve already bought their home and can’t just go buy another one, so tag, you’re it.

3. Customers create problems out of thin air. Let’s face it. Not all customers are fun to deal with. And since a lot of the factory service people have the attention span and patience of a two year-old, they should never deal directly with the general public. Builders fall into to this same trap. I’ve had homeowners come to my front door at 11 PM demanding to know why I didn’t fix the broken screen on their window yet and I had only found out about it at the end of the work day.

4. Ignore feedback (or make it hard to give it). In the age of Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest, you’d think companies would clue in to the fact that, if they don’t take feedback to heart or make it easy for customers to get in touch with them, they’re going to get eviscerated in a very public way, which is never a good thing. And yet, some companies make it nearly impossible to contact them directly.

5. Hamstring employees. The most important to remember is that 90 percent of all problems are management problems. If anything, the real number’s actually higher. So most of the problem situations we attribute to individuals on the front line are actually caused by bad management and flawed processes. Go figure. Whole Foods just got themselves in hot water because they threatened to fire two employees who spoke to each other in Spanish while the company policy is to speak English only. People threatened to boycott them and Whole Foods changed their policy to say that customers had to be addressed in English only but not between employees if they choose. Another management decision gone wrong.

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