How well are you serving your customers? This question pertains to both internal and external customers. The internal customers are the people inside your company with which you work and interact. For example, the foremanís internal customer is the superintendent, the project manager, office staff personnel such as the payroll administrator and the crew. Everyone has one or more internal customers, and the key for internal customers is to interact positively with them and satisfy their needs. The same would be true of external customers, such as the general contractorís superintendent, the architect, the owner and the other trades on the job.
A key concept of customer satisfaction is this: The level of service an employee brings to a customer is a reflection of how well that employee feels served, or how his needs are being met by the organization. You can only serve the external customer satisfactorily to the extent that internal customers serve each other (developing an internal needs orientation). To the extent that internal customers feel supported, encouraged, nurtured and served, they will then help their external customers.
What is a customer?
C Someone who has concerns and needs to be communicated with.
U Someone who requires understanding.
S Someone who expects top-notch service.
T Someone who wants tangible results.
O Someone who wants an organizational commitment that his needs will be satisfied.
M Someone who wants his deadlines met.
E Someone who expects high energy and enthusiasm from those with whom he does business.
R Someone who expects reliability and responsiveness.
To provide a high level of customer satisfaction, you must meet the following requirements:
Create W.O.W. "Work on Winning.Ē Establish win/win relationships. Be action-oriented. By giving the customer what he wants first, you will probably get what you want. Have a genuine customer focus.
Act as if you are the company. No matter who you are or what you do, the behavior you transmit to the customer creates a perception that leads to an evaluation of the total company. If the foreman is argumentative and surly with the GCís superintendent, and gets into the blame game with him, then the superintendent will generalize and tell the people in his company that your company is nothing but trouble and refuses to satisfy the needs of the GC. This is a good way to get removed from the bid list.
Be competent and care. This requires people who know what they are talking about and know how to solve problems, meet schedules and produce quality results. They are proactive rather than reactive. They also project a "whole jobĒ focus. They also care about the GCís problems and help to solve them.
Honesty is the only policy. When there is a problem or an obstacle that prevents you from being effective and efficiently, you present your case to the GC without emotion and offer a solution to the problems or remove the obstacle. Be candid without attacking the person, but have the facts and display a willingness to help.
Listen. It creates trust and respect. Hear people out. Let them finish what they are saying. Donít interrupt them while they are talkingógain an understanding of the issue, problem or need, and let them know you are there to move forward and make things better.
Provide exceptional service. Impress your customers. Do more than what is expected. Go that "extra mile.Ē Provide value, which is in the eyes of the beholder. Find out what is really important to your customer, and then deliver it.
Be a fantastic fixer. There is a solution for every problem. Let the customer know that you will do whatever it takes to solve the problem. Even if you donít have the answer, you will go to other people in your company who have the knowledge and expertise to solve the customerís problems. Utilize a team concept; you donít have all the answers, so find and use those who do.
Master the art of calm. Always control your emotions. Yelling, screaming and letting your emotions take over communicates immaturity and ends up with a lot of arguing and animosity. It creates problems instead of solving them. By controlling your emotions and expressing dissatisfaction in a straightforward, assertive way opens the door to mutual respect and problem resolution.
Now that we have defined what a customer is, next month we will focus on some action the foreman can take on the job site to create a higher level of customer satisfaction with the GCís superintendent.
Norb Slowikowski is president of Slowikowski & Associates, Inc., Darien, Ill.