Be the company your customers come back to, even when they lie to you.
One of my biggest pet peeves is customers who lie to us. I am amazed by the lack of honesty and the ownership that people fail to take for their own actions any more.
One of the major advantages of working from home on Tuesdays and being out of the office so much this summer at the ARCSI Summer Success Tour is that my office staff has realized that I am not the complete mess my customers often make me seem to be. The typical scenario goes something like this:
Office Manager: Mrs. Smith, we are calling because our cleaner is at your house, and we could not find the key. Is there another way into your house?
Mrs. Smith: Well, I talked to Derek last Tuesday and told him to skip this cleaning.
Office Manager: I am so sorry for the mistake. Would you like to reschedule your cleaning?
Normally this ends with my office staff rolling their eyes and deciding that I have the world’s worst memory and I ALWAYS mess up the schedule. As a result, the general consensus with my office staff is that Derek cannot answer phones because I just mess things up. What has been interesting is that for the past several months, I have averaged 10 days in my office all month, with the most number of days being 12. And on those days, I was in scheduled staff and business meetings for nearly every minute of those office times. On the rare occasion I did answer the inbound phone line, it was usually the employee line, not the customer line.
Well, this last month, the office staff started to keep track. A total of nine customers reported that they talked to me directly. One in particular was very specific on the day and time, because she remembered calling from the shuttle bus at the airport and speaking to me. (FYI, I am the only male in the office, so it is pretty clear when I answer the phone.) But on that day, I was giving a presentation at a conference several hundred miles away from my office.
I just wish they would admit that they forgot to call and apologize. Instead, some customers just love to blame me. Here’s the really funny thing: we do not even charge a lock-out fee like most cleaning businesses. It doesn’t cost them anything to admit that they did not call in or that they made a mistake.
For some reason, it just seems to be the nature of some customers to not want to admit that they made a mistake. Why? Well, it comes down to two assumptions about the owner of a business:
- The owner cannot get into trouble.
- The staff can’t argue with the customer if “the owner said it was OK.
I am not sure there is too much I can do to change customers’ behavior, but it is an interesting trend and something I thought I’d warn other business owners about.
So what do you do?
- Fix the immediate problem – right at that moment; it doesn’t matter who’s right.
- Record every available detail of the situation, highlighting discrepancies for further investigation
- Check your daily, weekly, monthly job schedule for patterns that are costing you money and compare that to the value of the customer.
We are very polite with customers, but note what actually happened in our files – any conflicts with the reported data. If we discover that a customer has lied too many times, we may have to speak with them and find out more about what’s really going on. But for the most part, we politely fix the immediate problem and take ownership of the “error” for the sake of good customer service.
That doesn’t mean it doesn’t drive me nuts.
Derek Christian is the owner of My Maid Service with locations in Cincinnati, OH and Dallas, TX, as well as a business coach through Cleaning Business Builders and publisher of CleaningBusinessToday.com. Derek is now an investor in several cleaning companies including My Maid Service Dayton and Real World Services Columbus. Derek is also a consultant for industry leaders Blue Skies Services and Castle Keepers.