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Customer Service Done Right

By: Conrad Neuf , Contributing Writer
In: Old Houses, Old House Construction, Home Improvement Tips, Old House Musings, In The News

I’ve been working on prepping the exterior of my old house for paint and while I’ve had colors in mind, I still wasn’t sure of what brand of paint to use. I’ve been a Duron person for many years, but I had read some good things about Benjamin Moore’s high end exterior paint, saw that a local hardware store carried it, and have been trying various samples. The lady at the paint counter has been exceptional to work with and has gone out of her way to be helpful. I have no doubt that I will purchase all of my exterior paint at the store and probably start shopping there on a regular basis due to her customer service.

Progress!

Progress!

It seems like practicing good customer service should be standard operating procedure for any company, but for some reason it doesn’t always happen that way. One of the reasons I’ve shopped at Amazon and L.L.Bean for many years is because of their excellent customer service, and evidently other people think they’re pretty good as well; Amazon was voted #1 in online retailing customer satisfaction by a Businessweek survey in 2009 and L.L Bean made #1 this year. I just read today that Amazon’s third quarter profits were up 16 percent, which is pretty good for any retailer in what is still a difficult economy. I contrast these companies to my cell phone provider: I recently spent over an hour on the phone to them, just trying to reach a live person .

Good Customer Service Equals Repeat Customers

While working in construction management I often had new customers ask for me by name due to the customer service I provided their to their friends for whom I’d built new homes or managed remodeling projects. It always made me feel like I was doing my job right and representing my company well, especially when there were customers who were pretty difficult or tried to take advantage of my efforts. I also tried to hire sub-contractors who believed in going above and beyond for customers, even if knew I could find someone else who would do the work for less.

Performing Like a Champ

Performing Like a Champ

If you’re hiring a general contractor to handle the restoration of your old house, or you’re just hiring a hardwood flooring contractor to refinish your floors, remember that price isn’t everything and how well the job turns out may depend on how much the company believes in good customer service.

Good Old House Sander

Speaking of good companies I wanted to recommend Porter Cable’s 333VS orbital sander; it has performed without a hitch while doing my old house exterior paint prep. I’ve had it for a number of years, but it’s really gotten a workout over the last couple of weeks. I believe the newer model is the 343VS.

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  1. 8 Responses  to “Customer Service Done Right”

  2. Mae
    Aug 29, 2011
    Good customer service breeds confidence in any company. During recent renovations I worked with electricians, floor installers, plumbers, room remodelers, and several retailers. I received great customer service from all except for one independent contractor. Although the job was the least expensive out of the group, it nearly doubled in time and will eventually cost more to correct some flaws. In this case less does mean more…just not in a good way.
  3. Aug 29, 2011
    I imagine that a lot of customers are trying to take advantage of the fact that times are tough in the construction industries and they know that many contractors are looking for work. There's a fine line between keeping the customer happy and giving the store away, but I think the only way to be successful, especially in this economic climate, is to figure out a way to walk that line.
  4. Aug 29, 2011
    Hi Rebecca, Installing vinyl siding on a large old house can definitely be an expensive proposition. I think vinyl siding is a great product and have installed it on many, many houses, but when it comes to my house I'm old fashioned; I like the look of painted clapboard siding and the option of changing colors the next time I paint.
  5. Aug 29, 2011
    I couldn't agree more. Home remodeling, in my view, boils down to a service industry (with codes), service I'm dedicated to and believe in. Cincy below also raises a good point. I'm noticing more and more toxic customers entering the mix than ever before in my area. I can almost see the look in their eyes change when they think they can get a leg up and a low price. It's a shame, because someone will give it to them, do a bad job because their margins are shattered, and give the rest of us a black eye. And a as iron does sharpen iron, these are the kinds of times when new opportunities emerge...somehow...
  6. Frank
    Aug 29, 2011
    I use Benjamin Moore paints as well, not only for the great colors, but because our local store is very well run and helpful. Although it is a franchise, the owner is very personal and the store has an old paint store feel to it. I can call them anytime with a paint question and they are happy to help out!
  7. Aug 29, 2011
    I agree that customer service in the home repair and improvement industry is sub-par. But the trend right now seems to be a growing number of "bad customers" who want to steal, manipulate and extort as much for free from a "good" contractor as possible. And then there are the growing number of clients who fail to pay their bill or challenge a credit card charge simply because they can get away with it. Companies like Amazon are rated so well because their customer service strategy is simply to give them whatever they want, regardless of cost. That is fine when you are an industry pioneer, with the excellent profit margins as Amazon has. But for struggling small business owners in a cut-throat commodity market, the quickest way to lose your business now is to try and keep everyone happy.
  8. Aug 29, 2011
    Ah, true capitalism. I love competition between businesses because, like iron sharpens iron, it really makes service better for the customer. I've had some bad experiences with customer service this year. It must be difficult for companies to ALWAYS be sweet and nice, but the competition is SO fierce in some industries that they cannot afford to be nasty or consistently poor with service. Nice color for the siding! After getting a quote for vinyl siding for my home ($26,000!), I'm considering just repainting the original 1855 clapboard siding that hides behind the asbestos-cement siding. Painting every 5-7 years seems less painful than taking out a second mortgage to pay for plastic siding...
  9. Tony
    Aug 29, 2011
    Customer service is key in any type of business - but very necessary in terms of construction and housing. The employees at home depots are usually well educated on the store and specifics of products. Good training programs I am guessing.