Charles Sweeney, chief operating officer at Tamdown, considers customer focus and how vital this is in all areas of our industry
The first customer service complaint in recorded history is inscribed on a clay tablet which resides in the British Museum and dates from 1750 BC.
A merchant called Nanni complains at length about receiving really poor service from his supplier of copper, Ea-nasir. Customer service is clearly not a new concept.
The world is more sophisticated today, but human behaviour remains unchanged. If a customer feels they are being treated well and the level of service is exceptional, that customer is likely to come back again.
Making sure that “customer focused” thinking is embedded at every level of a business is the key to ensuring we deliver a product or service that meets the ever-rising expectations of our customers. At Tamdown we have undertaken various initiatives over the past year to ensure our business and people remain focused on our customers at all times. Talking to our customers about both the good and the bad is key to making sure we continue to improve.
Our customer’s customer
As contractors to the housing market, we all need to be consistently mindful of our customer’s customer – the residents. Site works can, of course, be stressful for existing residents and those in the local area, so ensuring consideration of this group is essential.
We received feedback recently from a resident. They commented: “I am writing to pass on my appreciation to the guys working on the road at the entrance of your new site. They have helped us out, by directing us out if needed and generally making things easier and safer for us. A breath of fresh air."
As winners of Employer of the Year at the 2016 Construction News Awards, we are big believers in empowering our people. Our staff are encouraged to go above and beyond to not just meet but exceed customer expectations. This is central to being a customer focused business.
Dealing with disappointment effectively is also essential. It is not possible to get everything right, first time, every time in our industry, especially with differing expectations from different people or teams. That said, it is possible to deal with any issues quickly and effectively to turn a negative into a positive.
Working to make sure sites and staff are consistent will also help with putting customers first. All elements of a site must be strong, we all need to be good at what we do and be consistent in order to meet the customer's expectations at all times.
Customer service is not something that just comes from sales, customer care or similar teams. It needs to be ingrained at all levels of a business. It is important to offer excellent customer service at all stages – before, during and after a purchase or order.
Ensure clear communication throughout so avoiding ambiguity, have a good knowledge of your product or service to ensure accurate information, and practise good time management to give the customer what they want, when they want it.
So why be a customer focused business? With busy schedules, it can be too easy to be inwardly focused on the business; its processes, goals and day-to-day operations. As business leaders, there are also numerous external influences on our radar, with constant industry and political change. But our businesses would be nothing without customers, so it is vital that our customers are central to everything we do.
Although this may seem obvious in some ways, keeping it in the forefront of our minds all day everyday for everyone in the business, is the challenge we should all rise to.
Extended sales team
“Customer champions”, individuals who have received an exceptional service, can be seen as an extended sales team. They will talk and write about the good service they received and will recommend your business to others, so you see more potential customers through word of mouth and recommendation. News can travel fast, particularly through online channels, including social media.
Back in 1750 BC, Nanni made it clear in his complaint that he did not want to be treated in such a way again. Considering the effort it would have taken to inscribe the complaint onto the clay tablet, I sincerely hope he received much better customer service as a result.