How customer service is changing for paint pros amid COVID-19
With the economy gaining steam, painting professionals are forced to approach customer service a little differently in the post-lockdown world. Customers probably have the same old expectations from pros when it comes to quality, but executing bids and work itself is now filled with lingering pandemic uncertainties about personal contact and safety. Here, a few pros talk about how customer service has changed for them in a reopening world.
THE PERSONAL CONTACT DILEMMA
inPAINT conducted a survey of pros in May and found that 30% of respondents had moved to a mix of virtual and in-person appointments and bidding. Some customers may simply prefer less face time in order to stay safe, especially when it comes to estimates. So, pros have learned to use Zoom, Facetime and online public record sites to get the details they need for a bid.
Eric Regan, owner of Mission Painting & Home Improvements in Kansas City, who services primarily affluent neighborhoods, is comfortable with leaning on technology a little more today. It has been a customer service tool of theirs for a long time, as his teams have always relied on email, texts and phone calls for prompt, timely communications with customers who demand perfection.
Regan also believes many customers still appreciate face time with project managers to get updates on job progress and to discuss other details. Some managers may now connect by phone if they sense customers are apprehensive about an in-person meeting but, good communication, he adds—whether by phone, email, text, video conference or in person—is still key.
“Service has always been what sets us apart from lowballers and others. … Now, even if belts tighten, we still believe the cream rises to the top, and that’s what will separate us,” he said.
A FOCUS ON CLEANLINESS, DISTANCING
Cleanliness is also a growing part of some painting professionals’ image now. Charles Silveria, owner of Silveria Painting & Waterproofing Inc., in Fort Lauderdale, for example, has provisioned his crews with masks and antibacterial cleaners for when they work inside homes. He expects these practices to be the new normal going forward. The pro also stopped using reusable drop cloths for interiors.
“With drop cloths, you basically take other people’s dirt and germs into the next house; now, with the disposable coverings, the customer sees us open a fresh package right in front of them and they can see we’re using something clean,” he said.
Some also say customer service today involves a fair amount of intuition and reading how a customer feels about social distancing and certain jobsite situations.
“We tell our crews it’s OK to just ask. Go ahead and start the conversation and find out what they expect from you,” added Matt Kunz, president of Five Star Painting, a Neighborly company.
CHANGING HOW CREWS WORK
Brian Yaussy, owner of Creations by Brian in Michigan, endured a state-mandated closure from March 23rd to May 7th. Upon reopening, in addition to making sure crews wore masks and gloves, he also shrank crew sizes from four- or five-person units to one- and two-man crews.
“We had to think about how the customers might feel about it. The max we’ll ever really have on an interior now is three guys,” he said.
Silveria said he has also fine-tuned some processes on interior jobs. Instead of having crews spread out and prep an entire home or area, now they focus on one area or room, complete it, then move to the next.
“It’s the idea that we want to keep ourselves quarantined to one area of the home at a time,” he added.
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