The best businesses are responsive to customer questions.  It’s important if you want to keep customers, because it’s frustrating to ask a simple question and wait days for an answer when you’re in a hurry.  But even if it takes a business a while to answer, they might keep the customer – if their answer matters.

The most frustrating businesses to deal with are the ones whose answers don’t matter at all.  Consider cable companies, who are legendary for their bad service.  You call with a problem.  After answering a half dozen questions asked by a robot and waiting for a few minutes, you tell the service rep why you’re calling.  The rep identifies a solution, and tells you a technician will be by between 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm the next day to fix the problem.

But based on previous experience, their answer almost doesn’t matter.

If the rep shows up tomorrow at all, it may or not be between 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm.  There’s a good chance that the actual problem won’t be the one that the person on the phone thought it was, so the solution will be wrong. The technician may not have the equipment to fix whatever the problem turns out to be.  With many cable companies, you can’t even rely on knowing what the monthly bill will be – it seems to change every month.  It’s no surprise that people are leaving cable services in droves.  Who needs that in their lives?

There’s so much in life right now that’s unreliable.  People really value reliability, and they’re looking for signs that businesses they hire can deliver it.

The thing about reliability is that you can’t just state it – you have to demonstrate it.  If a painting contractor tells a customer what type of paint they use, or says that they have free estimates, customers will take it as fact.  But if you want them to think you’re reliable, you’ve got to give them proof.

Here are three things that help to demonstrate reliability.

Have a Process, and Use It

When customers call, it’s important to listen to their needs and answer their specific questions.  But it’s also valuable to tell them your process for each job – how you go about business.  How do you determine prices?  When can you provide a firm date for their job?  When workers arrive, what will they be wearing?  How will they take care of the furniture in the room before painting?

There’s a reason that customers like to hear about a process.  Businesses that consistently use processes are less likely to be making decisions on the fly.   That means that when you tell a customer how something will be done, that’s how it will be done – not because you have a perfect memory, but because that’s how things are always done.

Use the Information You’re Given

Have you ever called a company that asked you to input your account number into their automated phone system, and then routed you to a customer service rep who asked for your account number in the first sentence?  It’s annoying!

If a customer bothers to give you details, make sure you don’t ask for them again.  In fact, mention that they’ve already told you about that detail when you would ask about it normally.  It’s a great way to demonstrate that you’re actually listening to your customers when they’re talking to you.  Once they know you’re listening to them, they’ll worry much less about your follow-through.

Be Personable

The customer will decide how important they are to you in the first ten seconds of the phone call.  This is problematic for many painting contractors, because they’re forced to take sales calls while on the job.  If they sound distracted on the phone, it might be because they’re on a ladder with a paint brush in the other hand.

But if a painting contractor seems too busy to give a potential customer their full attention during the first phone call, the potential customer will instinctively worry that their job will never get the complete attention it needs.  And while it’s not great to sound desperate when you’re on the phone with a potential customer, it’s also bad to sound like you’re not really interested in their business.

If you can’t give the person your full attention, it’s best to let the call go to voicemail and call them back a few minutes later.  Don’t let too much time elapse, though – if several other painting contractors call them back before you do, they might decide they’ve got enough painters quoting the job already by the time you get back to them.

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