Quality work does not guarantee quality service! You might execute the best quality results of any pavement maintenance contractor in the area, but do you provide the same level of execution on the service side? Are your customers really loyal when it comes to staying with you?
The list is very long of pavement maintenance contractors who feel that as long as they can deliver the best physical results, the customer will maintain their loyalty. While the technical and physical components are a must, even more critical is your ability to work with people and to treat customers with respect and congeniality…consistently!
A reality in the medical profession is that the three most important components to patient retention are availability, affability and ability — in that order. This is just as true in the pavement maintenance industry.
Where would you rank yourself on availability, affability and ability? Consider the brief description for each characteristic presented below and judge for yourself how successful you, and your company, are in living these three traits.
Availability represents the degree of ease that others experience when needing to contact you. Are you available? This does not suggest that you should have no schedule or priorities, and that you are merely to wait for the telephone to ring each day.
Priorities and schedules must be set and implemented, but you still must still position yourself to make it easy for customers to connect with you.
Increasing your availability to others can be as simple as keeping your cell phone on your person 24 hours a day (and turned on). It might include letting those covering your phones know where you are and where you will be at any given time. Perhaps even more important is returning calls promptly.
Tips to be More Available
1. Educate your workers on your schedule…don’t keep things a secret.
2. When interacting with customers, ask them about their availability and adjust yours.
3. Invite your customers to contact you 24-7.
4. Increase your follow-up with customers; this projects an image of greater availability.
Affability suggests that an individual is friendly, approachable and easy to talk with. This does not require you to be a joke teller (that’s laughability, HA!)
This characteristic is made stronger when you are available and in the “receiving” mode with others. Do you listen to others when they are talking or are you just hearing words? Do you remember to ask how their day is going?
To be affable requires you to enjoy and take the time to enjoy the people side to your business success. Customers realize that you are trying to make money (off of them), but they also want to be treated with respect, in a friendly manner, and to feel appreciated.
Tips to be More Affable
1. Actively listen with your whole body…look at people
2. Take notes and summarize what you thought you heard
3. Follow-up in 24 Hours to a recent conversation or request
4. Always inquire as to how they are doing.
Ability is perhaps the easiest of the three “A’s” to describe because it is what most contractors try to sell and develop. The ability that you exercise to become more available and more affable must be as great as your ability to perform work.
Most customers realize that after an initial background check is completed on your company, that you possess the ability to execute whatever work needs to be completed. What they really want to explore is how available and affable will you be during the process of completing the work.
Tips to be More ‘Ability’ Based
1. Maintain personal and employee education on techniques, material improvement, equipment, etc.
2. Develop formal work procedures and processes than invite greater consistency
3. Develop safety, quality, and production goals
4. Invite more customers on “walk-abouts” while your workers are working or finishing up.
Never forget, while executing quality work is imperative, two “non-negotiables” will serve you well to establishing long-term success. First, you must be available when your customer need you, and second, you need to be affable when you are interacting with them.
Building strong ties to customers that will last the life of your business begins when you place your priorities on Availability, Affability and Ability.
Brad Humphrey is President of Pinnacle Development Group, a consulting organization to the construction industry. Brad is a regular contributor to this magazine and speaker at the National Pavement Exposition where he will be presenting five sessions including “Critical Issues for Small Contractors” Jan. 23-26, 2013 in Nashville. For more information about Brad’s firm, go to www.pinnacledg.com.