Things I Learned About the Importance of Words
I turned to him and said “Good enough” but quickly retracted my words and added “I mean, perfect!”
I owned a security alarm company with my father. I began as the company’s first and only alarm system installer/service technician. I had NO experience, nor did I have any training the day we opened the doors. I was forced to learn how to install an alarm system, not to mention the monumental task of programming it!
It was 1999 and alarm systems were mostly hardwired, at least the ones we sold were. Wireless technology wasn’t extremely reliable so our sales person sold primarily hardwired alarm systems. Our sales person could sell “Ice to an eskimo and a fridge to keep it in.” He was good, but would always promise the world… and guess who had to follow through? Yup, me.
I was young in business, a 22 year old with no business experience, but a father who had been an entrepreneur as long as I could remember. I always wanted to be an entrepreneur and create something of value, something I could look at and be proud of.
Installing alarm systems became easier as time went on and my knowledge increased. Hiding the alarm wires became a challenge I was ready to take on with every new installation. Avoiding wireless equipment at almost every installation, I became a master of “wire-hiding”.
In time, the company grew and it was time to hire. Within a few years, I had four other technicians to train and manage. I never hired for experience, but rather looked for good character and invested my time and experience to develop their skills.
Being in the customer’s home for the majority of a day, I had to learn customer service skills that were never taught to me. I never read books on customer service or listened to CDs on personal growth—it was the school of hard knocks for me.
The importance of words.
Being in customers’ homes and often within earshot, I learned the importance of choosing the right words. During an installation one day, I was training a new installer. I commented on the installers reattachment of the customer’s baseboard trim, saying “Good enough.” I realized that the customer may have overhead and I quickly caught myself and said “Perfect!”
There’s nothing like being at the hairdresser and hearing them say “Oops!”, but that’s what I just did. It’s like I was saying “Good enough, it’s ok if you cut corners.” or “Good enough, this customer isn’t worth our best.”
That day, I understood the importance of words.
Sometimes appointments ran late and we needed to shift our service schedule. We quickly learned to book appointments in a “time window” of a couple hours. I trained my technicians to always communicate with customers.
If I was running late to an appointment, or needed to swing by the office for more parts, I would call the client and say “Hi, it’s Ryan from CSS. We are scheduled for an appointment to install your alarm system. I’m just letting you know that we are on our way and will be there shortly.” Or I might say, “After a quick stop at the office for more alarm equipment, we will be on our way to your house. You can expect us in 20 minutes.”
If I were to approach the call using words like “Sorry, we’re late…” or specify a time that has already passed, the first thing they will remember about our service, is that we were LATE. Not the best first impression.
Being young and learning customer service by trial and error, I remember a time when I slipped my foot into my mouth. I arrived at a service call and the client was having trouble with their alarm system. They explained what was happening, and just like taking your car to the mechanic, everything seemed to worked fine when they showed it to me.
I learned that informing the customer “It’s probably user error”, was probably not the best thing to say, even when I knew it was. I learned to use phrases like “That’s weird” or “I haven’t seen that before” and assuring them that we’ll come back if it happens again.
Importance of Words Lessons I Learned
- Make sure the customer knows you care—that you are always giving your very best. Use words that invoke a feeling of trust. They want the best, not average.
- Don’t ever blame the customer. It’s not about being right or wrong, it’s about finding a solution to the problem. Focus on the solution.
- You have one shot with your first impression. Negative words will leave a bad impression that’s hard to recover from. Find better words and ways to phrase your customer communication.