If you follow me on Instagram you will have noticed our new floors have been installed, finally!
From the start, we knew what kind of floors we wanted (I wanted!). I wanted timber floors with a herringbone design. I just love that look! We knew getting this look wouldn’t be cheap. We accepted that we were going to spend considerable money on flooring.
Finding someone to do our floors was challenging, as not many vendors had the product or offered the service we were after. Eventually, we found a vendor who supplied the product and could also do the installation.
Fast forward four months and not only did we have our home, but our floors were installed.
I’m going to be honest, it was not smooth sailing. But, because I try to find the silver lining in every situation, let’s just say the experience taught me some valuable business lessons. I thought I’d reflect on them here.
Have a Contract
You’re not going to believe we did this, but we never signed a contract with our flooring vendor. Spending that amount of money, we really should have had a contract in place.
I did raise it after we paid the deposit, but the vendor claimed a contract wasn’t established until the product arrives and just before installation starts. A step that never happened.
So what did this mean? There was nothing in writing to hold them accountable for their work. Our flooring vendor installed our flooring at random days over a four-week period—not acceptable—and I ended up fighting with them over who should be responsible for levelling uneven surfaces
What I learnt from this was that, no matter the job, all business owners should have a service agreement between them and their client. This helps set the terms of your working arrangement so your clients know what they can expect (and what not to expect) from you. Business works better when everyone clearly knows where they stand.
Provide Examples of Work
I did a lot of research before selecting a vendor for our floors.
The business I went to has some reviews, which helped, and they had some examples of their work. However, I’ve noticed that, especially with businesses that have been around longer than the internet and social media, often they don’t have many customer reviews and don’t update their website with examples of their work.
Service based businesses should offer examples of their work to inquiring customers. You may say that you’re capable of taking on the task the customer is requesting; but offering evidence of your past work provides proof of your skills.
If you’re not constantly updating your website or social media with proof of your work, or you don’t have a lot of reviews of your business, offer to email customers examples of past work.
Communication is Key
Naturally, at the start of your business journey, you go around saying yes to everything because you want the job. I get it.
Then, as time goes on, you realise the task might be a little harder than you thought, or you may not be able to deliver what they want, when you said you would, or let’s face it, life happens. There’s no shame in this.
This flooring experience has reinforced how communicating and being transparent is not just a good way to conduct yourself, but good for business too.
In service-based businesses, keeping clients in the loop is so important and being honest builds their confidence in you. Clients will be more forgiving than you might think, as long as you communicate!
For us, the flooring was a massive investment, financially and emotionally. We wanted the floors to look as amazing as we had imagined them to be.
The result is beautiful, I will admit, but based on our interactions with the vendor I’m sure that, to them, we were just another job.
When a customer reaches out to a business to help them, there’s usually something at stake. If there wasn’t they would not have sought assistance.
I’ve come to realise business owners need to empathise with their customers more.
Put yourself in your customer’s shoes – how would you feel if you were receiving poor service or a bad product from a business like yours?
Customer Service is Everyone’s Job
Most of the points I have touched on in this post apply not just to you, the business owner, but to anyone who represents your business.
Representing the business in its best possible light isn’t just the responsibility of the owner, it is also the responsibility of every resource that represents your business, from the sales person, back office, trades people, to the person who does your social media. Even your service providers—yes, even the ones you pay—should be on board. They need to know and demonstrate your business values. Think of your business like an ecosystem – if any part is unhealthy, it affects every other part.
Unfortunately, all it takes is one poor experience to change a person’s mind about a business.
My flooring experience has really highlighted the importance of making your customers the centre of your business. Customers generate your sales and if you don’t learn to value them, deliver on their expectations and provide exceptional service, your business won’t grow.
A final thought: When was the last time you took the time to really put yourself in your customers’ shoes?
Have you ever mapped out your customers’ journey to see if their experience is a pleasant and easy one?
Go from start to finish – from their initial search, their first look at you through your website and social media, to their first and subsequent inquiries, through the booking and supply process, all the way to follow-up service.
Take that journey yourself and you will learn something—something that might change your business for the better.