What do Customers Want?


Customers want consistent responsiveness. They want you to pick up the phone and provide them with answers to their time-sensitive needs. A problem I’ve seen is that the DBE owner tends to forward all calls to his or her cell phone and attempts to serve them while out on a job. Another problem I’ve seen is that a part-time office person is in charge of answering the phone. But the phone goes unanswered before and after they leave the office

Customers are reasonable, don’t get me wrong.

They will leave a message, and when the returned call is urgent, they willingly wait an hour or two. 

But, if they have to wait longer than that, especially for a time-critical conversation, they get annoyed. 

Don’t have them call you two or more times before responding to their first call.  

Do you want to see someone get really annoyed? Business moves FAST. If you can’t respond within a reasonable period, they will move on, rightly so. 

They will contact your competitor. 

More importantly, they will remember how you didn’t respond to them in a timely fashion the first time around.

What can you do?

  1. Hire an answering service. An answering service is affordable and reliable.  
  1. Compare office hours to responsive needs. If your customers consistently call you before your part-time office person arrives or after they leave, make sure your answering services will pick up those calls for you. For example, if your office person is there between 10-2 PM, make sure the service covers 6-10 AM and 2-6 PM.

Stop forwarding direct calls to your cell phone. A successful business owner knows how to focus his/her time on the task at hand. 

  1. If the task at hand is to manage a job out on the field, your mind isn’t in a space to stop and respond to questions on the fly.  

Check-in every two to three hours. Time-chunk your job site, shop, build or bidding/quoting activities by taking breaks and check in with your answering service or office person every two to three hours. Leave the workspace and make uninterrupted, focused, fully-developed and helpful calls. 

  1. Do not end the day without getting back to your customers.
  1. Focus on quality responsiveness. When I say fully-developed and helpful calls, they listen closely to their questions and provide exacting or helpful feedback. If you do not know the answer, be honest and either tell them you’ll look into it or forward them to someone who can help.  

Build a system to support quality responsiveness. Think of your office as an extension of your customer’s office. 

  1. Reconstruct your space, time, and priorities to help you serve them in the most efficient way possible. I’ll share an example below.

In my family’s shop, I maintained the production schedule. I took approved contracts with quantities and due dates for the production schedule and put them into an excel sheet. There were two excel sheets. The first excel sheet was a breakdown of the entire year. It included all part numbers, purchase order numbers, due dates, quantities, statuses, prices, and sales figures. The second excel sheet was a monthly breakdown. 

I kept two sheets because I needed to protect my prices and sales figures. The monthly view was more straightforward to digest and helped me analyze my breakeven point on any given day.  

You need to develop your system. Don’t focus too much on which tech to go with. Instead, focus on the end result. How will your system provide consistent, high-quality service?  

Published by Janet Johnson | Financial Coach for Small Businesses

Janet Johnson is the author of My Money Pivot: An Entrepreneur's Guide to Finding & Making More Money. Before becoming a coach, Janet gained seventeen years of experience in a family-owned manufacturing company. She also trained small business owners in Financial Management and Lean Enterprise for seven years through contracts with the State of Connecticut and the Small Business Administration for seven years.

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