Ultimately, when you stop and think about it, isn't satisfying our clients about doing the right thing?
We are smack in the middle of the most challenging economic times our 20-year-old company ever has seen. Sales are hard to come by, and overhead reductions and layoffs have left an atmosphere of fear and anxiety. It is just this sort of atmosphere that can create the perfect storm for reduced client satisfaction. This situation is not unique to us; companies all over the country are feeling the pinch, and none that I know of are immune.
|Often, a one-year warranty is looked at as a "must provide" to clients, and companies breathe a sign of relief when that year goes by without a call. This is a lost opportunity!|
Many companies in our industry are struggling for survival, no longer enjoying the relative excesses of years past. It is during times like these that it takes foresight, well-planned cash reserves and, most importantly, internal fortitude for leaders to see the big picture and do the right thing.
What kind of warranty does your company offer? About 10 years ago we extended ours, so that now we provide an industry-leading three years on all material and labor, and I know of no other companies in our market that meet or beat it.
Often, a one-year warranty is looked at as a "must provide" to clients, and companies breathe a sigh of relief when that year goes by without a call. This is a lost opportunity! We use our warranty as just one more reason to partner with our clients. We tout the fact that we have a dedicated handyman who, in addition to doing small projects for us, also quickly and efficiently handles warranty calls. We have made the investment in this person because it shows commitment to our clients and ensures that we can walk our talk.
Recently we ripped out a custom tile shower that was eight (!) years old, well over our generous warranty period. However, there had been a recurring problem, and while we had always addressed the issues, we ultimately realized there were some underlying problems in the installation that we could not properly address unless we removed everything. The client was blown away and has talked to us about doing more work for him, and he even referred other clients.
All the industry pundits advise maintaining a commitment to a disciplined and well-funded marketing program, especially when times are tough and leads are thin. This commitment to marketing is the same as committing to maintaining and even stepping up your warranty. Saying you will take care of something and then getting it done in a timely and efficient manner will generate business for you (and take it away from your less-than-accommodating competitors). But it takes discipline and a long-term view.
Every referral is like water in the desert, especially in a down market. Doing the right thing — even when it is tough — will ensure your clients' long-term satisfaction and faithfulness. They'll come back to you and send others in your direction as well.
|Dave Bryan is the president and CEO of Blackdog design/build/remodel in Salem, N.H. He is also a facilitator for Remodelers Advantage. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.|