Dive Deep into the Customer Experience

“People like doing business with people they like.” The quote is anonymous, but the best salespeople in every industry make millions with this advice. 

Estimated read time: 5 minutes

As a contractor, you may not think of yourself as a salesperson, but you are. Whether you run a one-person backhoe service or a multimillion-dollar heavy/civil company, you are a salesperson. 

And one of the keys to creating a positive impression of your company in the minds of your customers is to understand how they feel about your company. Then you must find ways to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative. 

If spending time analyzing how your customers feel seems unnatural, a bit too warm and fuzzy, you’re not alone. Contractors tend to be task oriented. Itching to get the job started, moving machines to the site, cranking it up and getting it done. But sometimes in the pursuit of victory we favor action over strategy, doing instead of thinking. 

Caterpillar offers these suggestions to help you improve your business: 

Make Time to Think

Surveys show that almost all company owners and chief executive officers (CEOs) complain about the lack of time to think about the big picture. But if you want to succeed, carve out the time to do this. Be sure to think about how your customers perceive your company and the service they receive. 

A positive customer experience is becoming more important than price in all industries. It is one of the most important competitive differentiators. Improving the customer experience doesn’t mean caving into unreasonable demands or whims. It means understanding your customers’ needs as well or better than they do and then having a plan to satisfy that need.

Clean jobsites, an environmental program that uses best available emissions technology, machine automation for efficiency and a proven safety record. These may not affect a bid price, but they play a big role today in the decisions made by many customers, including government agencies. And they’re essential if you are to overcome a client’s price resistance and build loyalty.

Define the Customer Experience

Customer experience is how your customers feel about your company, brand, product or service. It is affected by everything the customer sees, hears, touches, smells and thinks in their interaction with your company. It is the sum of all interactions they have with every employee from the site to the field, and every phone call, every email, every invoice. 

The customer experience IS: 

  • Based on the customer’s perceptions

  • Considerate of the customer’s feelings

  • All aspects of the customer’s journey

  • The responsibility of all employees

  • Both good and bad experiences

  • Dependent on communications that focus on customer needs, and not just products

  • Important to how customers form feelings and beliefs

The customer experience is NOT:

  • Touchy-feely

  • The same as customer service

  • Limited to direct interactions or transactions

  • A snapshot in time or just focused on the here and now

Learn the Truth

If a potential customer were to call your previous customers and ask for a reference, how would that conversation go? How would they rate their experience of your company? Below expectations? Meets expectations? Exceeds expectations? 

Or would they give your potential clients a long, detailed conversation about how awesome you and your employees are; how you knocked it out of the park for them; how you went above and beyond the call of duty to perfect every detail of a job?

Listen to Learn 

Often, it’s the little things that make or break a customer’s evaluation. Some project owners like to see a clean, buttoned up worksite at the end of the day. This doesn’t make a difference in how fast or how well you complete the work, but it matters to some people.

If you know this is important, take care of it so your customer has a good experience. If you know the customer doesn’t care, forget about it. Different customers bring different expectations. It’s your job to know. 

Ask the customer point blank how they like doing business with you, the good and the bad, and how you might improve. This may be awkward at first, but the information gleaned is gold. 

Listen not only to the customer, but to suppliers and your supervisors and managers who know the customer. Also pay attention to conversations and presentations at industry meetings to get information about what peers have noticed about their customers’ needs. 

Value All Interactions

Training employees to be customer-focused isn’t difficult. Often all it takes is a smile and prompt answers to questions, emails and phone calls. If everybody in the office or field returns every customer email or voicemail before the end of the day that can be a huge win.  

Even if your employees don’t have an answer, letting the customer know they’re working on the answer is important. Every call, every voicemail, every email, every day. Make it a rule.

Good customer experience is not one big thing. It’s dozens of little things that build up over time, whether the job lasts three days or three years.  


Think About What You Like

Think about what it is you enjoy about companies you do business with. Why do you feel that way? What specifically do they do for you that gives you a positive customer experience? It’s probably not price alone. 

Now think about a company you don’t like. What did they do that disappointed you? Jot down your observations and then consider how your company is performing in this regard. Your own experiences, good and bad, will give you a good feeling for what you need to do in your business. 

Master the Intangibles 

Sports writers often talk about a player’s or a team’s “intangibles.” These are hard to define and don’t show up in the statistics but make a huge difference in winning games. By initiating a good customer experience program, you are doing exactly that: boosting your company’s intangibles.

Dedicate an uninterrupted hour or two on a regular basis to thinking about ways to improve your customers’ experience. Then take action. Don’t be surprised if the customers who used to beat you up on price become less focused on the bottom line. Even better, if you create a dynamite customer experience program, you’ll increasingly be able to walk away from low margin jobs and reap the rewards of doing high-value work for high-value customers. 


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