Trust, Communication Help Drain Cleaners Handle Emotional Customers

Training dispatchers and technicians in the art of customer service is the key to working with homeowners dogged by major drainline issues.
Trust, Communication Help Drain Cleaners Handle Emotional Customers
The team at Hi-Tech Plumbing & Leak Detect in Edmond, Oklahoma.

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How a company deals with a distraught homeowner over the sudden and unexpected costs of a major drainline issue is something that can make or break an otherwise exceptional drain cleaning operation.

Emotions can run the gamut, from the customer who becomes belligerent about the suggested repair cost to the homeowner who has had a family emergency along with the news that major repairs are needed to their property. There is also the customer who wants to second-guess every step taken by the technician, to the person who says he simply cannot afford to spend anything on solving the problem.

Jamey Mullin, owner of Hi-Tech Plumbing & Leak Detect in Edmond, Oklahoma, says dealing with emotional homeowners is an issue that everyone in the industry will have to deal with.

“This is an emergency and costs they have not budgeted for in most cases, and they are scared to death what it is going to cost and what you are going to find,” Mullin says.

“Every one of our technicians has to be trained to expect that the customer is not happy to see them. Our guys on a service call have to be overly nice and understanding, and realize that the customer did not expect to have this expenditure. We have to be careful to be professional and not add fuel to the fire by tracking mud into the house. We have to show up on time and address the problem, and let them know the price they will be expected to pay so they are not surprised when the job is completed.”

At Hi-Tech Plumbing & Leak Detect, the initial call can help determine the attitude of a customer and if there seems to be a situation of concern. The dispatcher taking the initial call is the first point of contact, and that will set the tone.

“This can be very delicate,” Mullin says. “We want to make this customer happy, but if we have someone who becomes argumentative and debating the costs, or just not understanding the requirements to get the job done, we have several people we can transfer the call to. Our general manager can talk with a customer if necessary. We want to be the company that provides the needed service.”

Dave Lesure is project manager for Fletcher Sewer & Drain in Ludlow, Massachusetts. He says dealing with customers who are concerned about an expenditure that was not anticipated can be in issue, but one the company is prepared to address.

Lesure says that in 95 percent of the calls he is the first point of contact, and he talks to the customer at length to get their information and to diagnose the call for unique situations. However, anyone at Fletcher Sewer & Drain who takes a call will be fully trained to deal with any circumstance that arises. The same goes for the technicians who will be responding to a service call.

“Our technicians are fully trained and mechanically able to do the work, and they have different skill sets they bring to the job,” Lesure says. “They have different personalities and background assets. If we have a customer who seems to have special needs — someone having a difficult time — we would try to match that person with a technician who would possibly fit the situation.”

Lesure says their technicians are trained how to speak to customers, to show the homeowners what they are doing and how to answer tough questions that may come up.

“We want the person we are working for to be on the site and to have questions answered,” Lesure says. “Customers don’t always understand the need for some procedures. Our technicians have been trained that they are there to perform a service, and not to argue with a customer or to have to deal with a combative customer. If things get out of hand, we will have them call the office, and I will handle any problems directly.”


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