HOW TO BUILD A SOLID REPUTATION WITH IMPRESSIVE CUSTOMER SERVICE
How do your customers and your prospects perceive you and your installation company? It is important to understand the components of your image and take steps to make sure that you are seen in a favorable light. This will affect your efforts in making new sales and in your customer relations and retention.
First, how are you positioned in your market? Are you the elite high-end company who has earned a position at the top of your market? If so, then you will consistently win profitable business based on that position. Your reputation will allow you to win jobs even when others underbid you. Clients will seek out your work based on their expectations of a higher level of quality equipment and workmanship.
Go the extra mile for your customers and maintain the highest level of customer satisfaction possible. Referrals will bring you clients who are willing to pay more for your upscale services and they will enjoy a sense of confidence to be working with the best. At the other end of the market, you find companies focused on winning jobs based primarily on low prices. These companies do not have the confidence or experience to charge more and are often unrealistic when pricing jobs. They may believe that they are helping their clients by offering the lowest possible prices, but that is totally wrong.
Underbidding is a real problem, because it destroys profitability in the market for everyone. Ambitious low bidders may work very hard to complete these jobs on budget but will often fall short and not make enough money to cover their total costs of doing business. This causes financial stress that can result in poor workmanship and customer dissatisfaction, eventually driving down profits in a market until the low bidders ultimately go out of business.
FINDING MIDDLE GROUND
Most companies fall in between these two extremes and make up the middle of the market. Ferraris are super elite. Kias are super cheap. How many cars can you name in between these two extremes? The point is that there is a lot of room in the middle of the market for you to define your image. Your company identity is defined as the sum of the impressions that your customers and prospective clients have experienced in dealing with you. There are so many ways that these impressions are made.
Your logo, business cards, office design and location, vehicle signage, TV/radio commercials, newspaper ads, yellow pages ads, and mailings can be carefully planned to build your desired image. These tools are outbound and easily controlled. Make sure that your proposals are very professional and clearly communicate your image. Your sales presentations speak volumes about the quality of your company.
Other impressions that your customers receive from direct contact with your company include phone calls, meetings, presentations, proposals, and basically the sum of all direct contacts with your staff. This is where your staff’s professionalism, training, experience, attitude, and people skills all come into play.
GREAT CUSTOMER SERVICE
Successful companies build a solid reputation— one client at a time. In this type of service industry, customer satisfaction is extremely important. Even a single unhappy customer can hurt your reputation. Because you are making a reasonable profit, you can handle customer service problems and complaints. That is when you need to spend extra time and money to make a problem right. Go the extra mile for your customers and maintain the highest level of customer satisfaction possible.
That comes with the territory. Your image should also include the highest level of honesty, integrity, and business professionalism possible. It costs money to hire the best staff, train them, reward them, and retain them. Quality installations come from trained professionals. It costs money to market and advertise. These are important reasons why your company needs to charge more.
Your image should also include representing the finest AV products that you can obtain. Always strive to create a better experience in picture quality, sound quality, and ease of use. These will also push your prices higher. You are either moving upscale or downscale. There will always be someone with little or no experience who wants to sell cheaper. Don’t compete with them. Raise your standards of excellence and distinguish your company and your workmanship as far above the low end as possible. Both you and your customers will be happier with the results, if you have the guts to raise your standards and charge more.
Rich Riehl (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Los Angeles-based consultant to the CI business and creator of BidMagic.