Prevent Conflict, Save Money with Client Expectation Management

What do you do when a client has a service complaint, but your team has conducted the job exactly as they should have. Was the job a failure, or did the client have the wrong expectations. Very often, it can be the latter.

Trent Chapman, the co-owner of Local Pest Experts and former Rapid Solutions trainer, recently did a highly useful webinar with some Rapid clients. about the role of service calls and what a game-changer it can be to properly manage client expectations.

In the below article, we share Trent’s experience on customer service, why you should be careful around your advertising and promotional material, and the role of documentation in pre-engagement agreements and inspections.

rent Chapman, the co-owner of Local Pest Experts and former Rapid Solutions trainer, recently did a highly useful webinar about the role of service calls and managing client expectations with some Rapid clients.
Local Pest Experts co-owner and former Rapid Solutions trainer, Trent Chapman

Service call rates and client expectations

In his webinar, Trent asked business owners to estimate what percentage of the jobs their company does results in customer complaints. Less than 5%; 5-10%; 10 – 15%; or higher than 15%? And of those calls, how many did they think were due to legitimate failures on their team’s part.

He pointed out that knowing this can help you to quantify how much in dollar value you can save by improving client expectation management.

“If you can set the expectations and the client can understand them, and you can do it in a way that you can scale, you can save time and money,” says Trent.

Trent ran the numbers for his business and found that for every 1% service call rate that they can save from unnecessary service calls, they can save $200 a year.

“It’s a fairly easy thing to do, and the higher your service call rate the bigger the number you’d be able to save quite easily with very little effort,” he added.

As a general rule of thumb. Trent likes his business’ service call rate to be around 5-7%.

“Anything less than that and I start to get a little bit worried that we’re not setting expectations that clients can call us freely. And then, instead of calling us, they’re calling someone else.”

Setting the expectation at 5-7% gives you a base to work off of. Trent says that if you’re averaging 15% in service calls, you can easily cut down your service call rate by half if you set client expectations properly – and this equals money saved: “If you work on a business like ours, for instance, an 8% reduction in service calls would equate to around $28,000 saved a year.”

Here's how to manage service calls and manage client expectations.

How to manage client expectations

Let’s take the example of a pest control business with this scenario:

The customer has a cockroach infestation and calls in your team. They carry out the pest control treatment as they should. However, the next day the customer sees another cockroach and logs a call.

Does this mean the job has been a failure?

As pest control technicians know, it hasn’t – as certain treatments may take time to completely eradicate an infestation or work in cycles.

However, if this wasn’t communicated to the customer, they would think that it hadn’t worked.

“You need to make sure the customer is fully aware of what the outcome should look like so that they can fully understand it,” says Trent. “Give them some level of measurability around what they should be seeing.”

Remember: If you don’t set the client’s expectations, customers will set them for you. And when customers set expectations, there’s a good chance that they’ll be unreachable.

“The majority of clients are not crazy or unrealistic. There’s simply a gap between what you can achieve and what they think is possible. Use education to close and bridge that gap -don’t leave the space there where they can fill it in with their own expectations. When talking to a client, say ‘this is what I’ve done, why I’ve done it, and this is what you can expect,” says Trent.

There’s no such thing as winning an argument with a customer

Even if you’ve felt that you’ve proven your point or ‘won’ an argument with a customer, you walk away having damaged your reputation.

“You can win on all fronts, but you’re never going to walk away without a detractor. And detractors are poison to your business.” says Trent. “At best, it’s going to take your time, focus and attention. And these things are very rich commodities for business owners.”

It seems like conflicts arise when business owners are at their busiest, and you might not have the capacity to thoroughly deal with it when you’re under stress. That’s why it’s so important to be prepared for how you will deal with conflicts or service calls when they arise.

“If you can prevent conflict from arising in the first place, you can keep your time, focus and attention where it should be, which is on the next job.

Advertising and promotional tools

“As an industry, we’re already facing the hangover from a lot of advertisements that set unrealistic expectations,” says Trent. “Think of ads that show a force field around a house, or someone spraying a cockroach and it dies straight away or the pest runs to the neighbour’s house.”

This type of material makes a business owner’s job of setting expectation a lot harder.

“And if that ad comes from your business, you’re going have a really hard time trying to convince someone that the ad they’re seeing is not the expectation that they should have,”

Be thoughtful about your advertising so that you don’t set yourself up for failure.

Documentation to set client expectations

Simply put, documentation is a written way to formalise the information you’ve given a customer and what they can expect.

“It’s a way to say ‘see, I told you this information, and this is what I’m going to do,'” says Trent.

You can automate sending out documentation by using a customer relationship management platform like Formitize. We recommend more useful tradie software – here.

Documentation must be to inform and clarify, but it’s not a shield or a defensive tool, it is the foundation of mutual understanding. Throughout a job, explain what you’re doing as thoroughly as possible.

Explaining the process is something you can do as soon as a client phones your office to make a booking.

“We tell clients what the technician will do for that service, why they’re going to do that, and what they can expect out of that service. We then send out a booking confirmation that backs up the info we’ve provided.”

Once your technician gets to the client, have them introduce themselves, reiterate the company name and the address, go through the quote and confirm again that it’s been accepted.

“Reiterate what you’re doing throughout the inspection, and at the end go through what you’ve done. In our business we say it at least 4 or 5 times before we leave the property so that the customer has listened and absorbed the information.”

Learn from client feedback

“It’s unfortunate in business, and especially the more work you do, the more likely you are to come across situations where things go wrong,” says Trent. “One of the biggest impediments to growing a business is being able to manage this at a scale.”

Continuously iterate and improve based on ongoing feedback from clients. Use feedback as a loop to better your products, services, and customer experience.

“When things go right, figure out why they went right and do more of it. Where they went wrong, stem the bleeding and figure out why it happened and how to fix it, and where they went really wrong – stem the bleeding, resolve the problem, and turn that client into somebody who’s going to refer your business.”

Train your staff up

Another important aspect of reducing client callbacks is having highly proficient staff, and training is a way to ensure this. Whether you work in the pest control office or are a manager, Rapid’s Service and Scheduling Basics Courses can help you develop or improve skills in improving client satisfaction through effective and efficient communication and scheduling, Areas we cover include:

Client care and interaction

Responding to client enquiries

Investigating and documenting complaints

Responding to client complaints

Scheduling and allocating pest control work

Organising equipment and materials within budget and staffing constraints

Facilitating training and assessment opportunities for staff to address skill gaps and training needs. 

Follow this link to enrol or learn more.

    Insurance for your business

    Despite the best client expectation management, accidents can happen on site that can expose your business legally and financially. If a technician accidentally damages a customer’s property, such as furniture or flooring, for instance.

    This is why it’s so important to protect your business with general liability insurance and professional indemnity insurance. It can give you financial protection against legal claims, damages and more.

    Call us on 1300 309 169 or contact us online to start your quote.