Customer Service: What Does it Mean to You?

There are three things you need to know about customer service, and none of them has anything to do with surveying.
 1. Do what you said you would do, when you said you would do it. 
 2. Problems don’t get better if you wait to address them.
 3. Call them before they call you.

I just recently had these points come into focus once again at my local outdoors store. I was planning a hunting trip and needed some work done on the rifle I would be using. At the store I explained what needed to be done and that I needed it by a certain date (before the trip). I left the rifle there with the understanding that they would check to make sure they could get the work done by the time I specified and that they would call me in a day or two to confirm.

Well, guess what—no phone call. A week or so went by, and when I called them they again said they would check on it and call me right back. No phone call again. Another week went by, and we went through the same drill. Of course, by now it was too late to take the rifle elsewhere and I had no confidence that I was going to get it serviced. Then I started applying pressure, engaged the owner, let them know I was not impressed with their customer service, and in the end, the job got done on time.

The owner of the store is a friend (I used to work with his grandfather, just in case you’re wondering how much experience I have at this stuff), and I took the opportunity to offer a little mini-seminar to his staff on customer service, which he gladly accepted. Here is the essence of what I told them and how it applies to you the surveyor.

First, we all expect people to do what they say they will do. When you don’t do what you said you’d do, you’re lying. People don’t like liars. Make it a company policy and part of your training regimen to make sure that everyone understands this concept, and if they can’t do it, they need to get another job. I have tried to emphasize this over the years by saying, “If you say you are going to do something, DO IT!” I think to help understand how important this is there should be a new word: DOIT. It’s one word and is the fundamental basis for all good customer service.

Surveyors universally seem to think that the quality of their survey work (and every surveyor I have ever talked to claims to subscribe to the very highest standards) has something to do with customer service. It does not. As far as most clients are concerned the fact that you are licensed as a surveyor creates a presumption that your work is professional. They don’t know anything about surveying. That’s why they hired you. They do know, however, if you did what you said you would do.

Second, waiting to address a problem won’t make it go away or make it get better. We all would prefer to avoid problems—it’s human nature—but you need to be more disciplined than that. Deal with any problems right away while you have a chance to fix them. In the case of my gun work, they should have immediately recognized that there was a customer-relation problem in the making and dealt with it before it became a big issue. Had they returned my first call and jumped on the issue, it wouldn’t have been a big problem. Discipline! This leads to the third axiom.

What does it mean to call them before they call you? It means that you, the service provider, know when a problem is developing, so it’s up to you to take action. You know when things have changed, for example if you can’t get the job done when you said you would. Now, ideally you will employ the first principle, that is, do what you said you were going to do. But if you can’t, for whatever reason, you need to immediately let the customer know. Almost everyone will understand that things change and sometimes commitments have to be altered, yet no one is willing to accept avoidance of the problem.

Again—discipline! If you wait for your customer to call you, the customer is already put out and will have a lot harder time accepting your excuse. If you call them, in anticipation of them calling you, they are likely to be appreciative and understanding. Think about it. It’s just common sense. Like anything else in life, just treat your customers as you expect to be treated.

Use these principles and you will be happier, your clients will be happier, and your business has a much better chance of success. That sounds like a good deal to me.

About the Author

  • Daniel E. Beardslee, LS
    Daniel E. Beardslee, LS
    Dan Beardslee has been a licensed professional surveyor since 1975 and is a graduate of Washington State University with a degree in business administration. He has been an employee, a partner, and an owner of land surveying businesses since 1973 and is the author of numerous publications, including Business Management Handbook for Land Surveyors.

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