It’s been tough to know when a job is 100% complete. Our people aren’t sure how to know if they’re done. Sometimes the customer calls back weeks later with a concern or complaint, and we have no idea how to respond. How do we get better control?
Thoughts of the Day: Insuring that a job is done means doing it to the customer’s satisfaction. Start with a plan. Getting sign off before departure can eliminate a lot of problems later on. Work on training both customer and employees. Build rewards for completion on time, in budget, without re-dos. Make it a company motto: done right the first time, and learn to achieve that every customer, every visit.
What does your customer expect? What would cause the customer to say they were extraordinarily satisfied? These are questions that should be brought up in the sales process, answers documented by sales people and handed over to the people who will do the work.
Asking the customer to set the standard gives the customer a feeling of control and involvement in the outcome. How would they know if the job was done? What should they look out for? These are questions that help to clarify expectations.
Of course, these questions can also be posed to clients on the jobsite, by people who will be doing the work. Re-asking qualifying questions at the time work is being done may help bring to the forefront additional information the client didn’t think of at the time of sale. The goal is to insure that the people doing the work are clear about what the customer expects.
Trying to address a problem days or weeks after the fact is nearly impossible. When the job is completed, make it one employee’s job to get the customer and do a walk through. Use a checklist to insure that specific tasks or deliverables are reviewed by both your employee and the customer. Ask the customer to initial the check sheet at the time of the walkthrough.
Of course, if the customer calls days or weeks later and isn’t satisfied, it’s in your company’s best interest to make things right. Having a signed checklist will help the manager in charge to determine how much of the problem is really incomplete work, and how much might be due to a change of heart on the customer’s part. At least with a sign-off on the check sheet, your manager in charge has more negotiating room to offer to do the work as an additional work order.
Define the standard you expect to deliver. Teach it to your employees. Explain it to your customers. Make the standard explicit and tangible. Something that both employee and customer can touch and feel.
Create a checklist that points toward a job fully completed. Use industry standards if they’re available. Provide a warranty if you think you can afford to, to reassure customers of your company’s intent. Make people in the field responsible for delivering on any re-do’s, reporting on why the re-dos were necessary, and explaining how they won’t let it happen again.
Invest in training your employees. Don’t assume your field staff knows how to handle customers. Do role plays to practice walking through a job. Start out with a simple example, and a cooperative customer. As the practice session(s) unfold, make the examples more complicated and the customers more difficult to understand.
Starting work with a plan will also help to insure the job gets done on time and in budget – everyone’s goal. Have the people who will be doing the work meet before setting out, to review the plan and ask questions. Make sure they know how to submit a change order request if the customer asks for additional work to be done. With approved changed orders your company is likely to be paid for add-ons, rather than told to eat the cost because only the original budget was okayed by the client.
Reserve a portion of the money you planned for the job’s payroll, to go towards a bonus if the customer is satisfied. Get everyone working on the job invested in its success. Pay for performance once the job is done right.
Measure results and post them where everyone can see. If you have multiple teams, track results by team. Ask customers to rate their satisfaction with the work. Show in a graph how many jobs / team were rated as satisfactory and unsatisfactory. Ask the leading teams to coach the rest of the group.
Looking for a good book? Sales & Operations Planning – Best Practices: Lessons Learned, by John Dougherty & Christopher Gray.