Opportunity calls

Features - L&L Snow and Ice Report

It’s not always a complaint when the phone rings.

April 8, 2013
John Allin

Every winter, a major issue is what to do about customer complaints. While we can’t eliminate complaints, the pursuit of this goal is important. In fact, snow fighters are too quick to label a customer call as a complaint. Often, these calls are simple inquiries or even opportunities. Your call center receives three kinds of calls during or after an event.

The inquiry. This call comes in around 6 a.m. or earlier. The customer – typically in good spirits – wants to know what time you are scheduled to arrive. Chances are this customer just arrived to their commercial or retail property, noticed you had not been there yet and wants to satisfy his curiosity. This call is not a complaint and should not be treated as such. Rather, reassure your crew will be there by X time and to contact you if additional questions arise.

The request.
This is a typical scenario. Your crews have serviced the site and the customer needs you to return to clear an apron or address an area. This visit is considered “extra work” or “additional service” and the client understands you’ll need to bill him for this return visit. Do not classify this as a “complaint.”

The complaint. Your crew missed an area you’re contractually obligated to service. Maybe the plow didn’t clear the handicap-parking spaces sufficiently, snow was piled in the wrong area or a sidewalk crew overlooked a walkway. This call is a complaint.

 John says...

Train your staff to differentiate between routine client calls and true customer complaints.

Frequent communication, especially during a snow event, is extremely key to reducing, or possibly even eliminating, customer service complaints.

In additional to phone calls, consider emails, texts and even social media feeds as avenues to better communicate with clients.

All too often recurring “complaints” paint a client as difficult or demanding. This is unfair, especially under the high-pressure conditions we find ourselves in during a major snow event.

I recommend regular communication to remedy complaint frequency and to keep discriminating clients satisfied. Emails or texts during the event, updating customers on storm data, site progress and completion times all go a long way to keep calls at a minimum and to cut complaint frequency. Usually, customers just need to be kept apprised of what is happening, and more often than not they appreciate the ongoing communication.

I had a client who sent an email to his workforce stating: “We want NO calls into our office this event, so pay close attention to detail.” Unfortunately, one account manager had a client who regularly called to have “extras” done – fully expecting to pay for the additional services. But the account manager took the memo to heart. He made sure those “extras” were included as part of the standard visit. This logic worked, but the overeager account manager lost out on the additional revenue the extras generated.

Communication goes a long way toward avoiding confrontation with customers, and it goes even further in cementing lasting client relationships.


The author is an industry veteran, a Snow Magazine columnist and frequent contributor.