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Etiquette of Service Calls (including Time Slots)

There is a lot of etiquette involved with service calls. Again, it is the little things that make a big difference. I think it is best to outline them in order that they occur:

Before an Appointment is Made:

  • Have the ways to contact your support methods clearly published.
  • Menus should be simple and hold time should be reasonable.
  • Have customers do troubleshooting steps (if necessary), but make that experience pleasant and personal.
  • If available troubleshooting options have been exhausted, arrange a service call.
  • Have the same representative arrange the service call – do not transfer the customer.
  • Arrange a service call at the customer’s convenience, not the company’.
  • Keep time slots to a minimum (1 or 2 hours is probably okay, but anything above that is really pushing it). If possible, have exact times (we’ll be there at 2:00 PM).
  • Get directions.
  • Read back the service call information to the customer and confirm.
  • Ask them if they have any questions, comments, or concerns.
  • After the customer hangs up, go back to the computer system and verify the service call appointment was made correctly.

After an Appointment is Made:

  • Someone should verify service call appointments daily to ensure they have been entered correctly.
  • The customer should be called and asked to confirm the service call appoitment 24 hours prior. If the appointment was made within that 24 hour period, do not call.
  • At the beginning of the time slot or about 1 hour before the representative is expected to arrive at the customer’s home or office, have the representative call to confirm any directions and the time of the appointment as well as give the customer an update (running on time, early, etc.).

During the Appointment (steps for the representative):

  • If possible, park on the street (wide streets only) or in a nearby parking space. Do not annoy neighbors, but try to avoid the customer’s driveway (cars leak, etc.). If you need to park in the driveway, confirm that with the customer before the appointment (see the previous step above).
  • Wipe your feet thoroughly.
  • Use the doorbell. If there is no doorbell, knock three or four times.
  • When the customer answers the door, introduce yourself and greet the customer by name.
  • Wipe your feet again (this time it’s for show).
  • Ask the customer if they would prefer you put covers on your shoes before entering. (They have plastic things you can put around your shoes.)
  • Give any personalized gifts as necessary.
  • Do what you have to do to fix the problem.
  • Do not bring any food or beverages in the house. You can ask if the customer is okay with you brining water in the house, but if they say no, it’s no.
  • Avoid going in and out if possible.

After the Appointment:

  • Call 48 hours later and ask if the problem is fixed or if the customer had any problems. Give a basic customer satisfaction survey.
  • Call in another two weeks and ask if everything is okay.
  • Send a card or a letter in the mail another week (total three weeks later) thanking the customer for their time and patience and apologizing about any issues.

Throughout the Entire Process:

  • Everyone involved should be friendly.
  • The customer’s convenience and satisfaction should be the ultimate goal.
  • Hold times and amount of transfers required should be as little as possible.
  • The customer should be addressed by name.

If you do all of those things, you’ll have an amazing customer service experience for your service calls. The keys are to keep time slots as small as possible, be nice, and confirm everything.

On Monday, we’re going to have some unrelated content. Then, on Tuesday, there is going to be more about time slots.

Making A Service Call Personal

OK, so your company is going to have to make a service call to a customer’s house. How do you make the experience personal?

Read up on the customer.
Read up on the customer a little bit before going to their house. Check out their file and see how long they have been a customer, where they live, and any other notes. Maybe even do a quick Google search and see if they have been in the newspaper lately, etc

This may be slightly debated, but you can bribe some people to like at least tolerate the service call experience. Bribe them. Not cash, but thoughtful little gifts. Here are some good ways to bribe without it being too tacky:

  • When the customer is making the service call appointment, ask if they have any pets. If they have a dog, bring the dog a little bag of treats. If they have a cat, bring a little toy mouse. Make sure there is enough quantity so at least all of the pets can get something.
  • If they don’t have any pets or if the item needing fixing/maintenance is expensive, ask if they have any small children. Bring a little toy for the children or a little coloring book with some crayons. Keep things simple. If the item is expensive, bring both pet and children gifts.
  • If they have older kids, consider getting them a small gift card ($5 or so) to a local music store or the local mall (you may be able to get the gift cards for free since you are send the store customers – just ask them).

Get and use names.
Just don’t give out random gifts – put the kid or pet’s name on the items. To Bob from your friends at The Air Conditioning Store. This makes the experience quite personal and the customer will feel less like just another service calls. When the customer answers the door, address them by name. Try and address the customer by name throughout the entire service call.

If you are going to an office.
If you are going to office you can do one or all of these things. Consider getting a little flower arrangement for the break room, a pen for your client, or something thoughtful and creative along those lines.

Also consider giving out things that your business offers that may help customers. It should be a tangible item that the customer gets for free (i. e. not discounted).
It’s not that complicated to make a service call personal. It takes a little bit of effort, a little bit of money, and that’s it.

Update: At 11:30 AM, I called the company that was supposed to be coming to my house to fix my television. The service call was setup incorrectly and they couldn’t come. No call or anything. They gave me a credit on my month’s bill (it was about 20% of the month’s bill) and I have re-scheduled the appointment for a couple of weeks from now.

Home & Office Service Calls – A Series

A lot of businesses have to go to their customers’ homes or offices for some things – whether it be sales or service. Whatever, the reason, the experience better be good or you risk losing a customer, which as everyone knows, is certainly not a good thing.

This will be a series on how to do home and office service calls. We’ll even touch briefly on how to do home and office sales calls.

  1. Today: Introduction and Series Overview
  2. Tomorrow: Make it Personal
  3. Friday: Etiquette of Service Calls (including Time Slots)
  4. Monday: Unrelated Content (an Interview or Guest Writer)
  5. Tuesday: Time Slots
  6. Wednesday: Conclusion (and Overflow Day – in case I think of anything else that should be mentioned

There is a new category for service calls. There is also a new category for guest writers. Within the next few weeks, there will be at least one guest writer posting here about a topic they specialize in or about an experience they had.

A note
Just a note to the Service Untitled readers who own tech businesses or other businesses that don’t require physically going to a customer’s home or office – I would suggest reading this as it is something that you will likely have to do at some point, and you can apply it in other situations (such as going to meetings at say, a bank or a potential partner’s office).

A service call is a difficult part of the customer service experience. Depending on why the service call is taking place, it could be something as serious as something being broken (like air conditioning, electrical circuits, etc.) or something as minor as routine maintenance. Despite the reason, the customer is rarely happy that the service call is occurring.

Like most customer service experiences, you have to think of the service call from the customer’s viewpoint. They have to wait at their home for someone to show up, the person shows up (sometimes late) and likely gets their house dirty or their landscaping messed up, and to top it all off, the person doing the service call (who I’m calling the representative even though I’m pretty sure they have a special name – feel free to post it as a comment) may not even be able to fix the problem and there is always the risk that the representative could steal or break something.

Lots of things to go wrong with the customer service experience and very few things to make the customer happy. If something is broken, the best case scenario is that the customer thinks “OK, this broke, but they need the fixing as painlessly as possible.” That’s not terrible, but again, the customer would prefer that whatever it is did not break or require maintenance. So, as a business owner, you should try and make the normally bad experience a great one and that’ll help set you apart from your competition.
I think this should be an interesting series. I actually have someone expected to come to my house to fix my television today (between 8 AM and 12 PM), so I’ll pay attention to what the representative does and does not do to make the customer service experience either bad, acceptable, or great.

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