THE BLOG
09/29/2015 07:37 pm ET Updated Sep 29, 2016

Surviving Poor Customer Service: 10 Lessons Learned

A recent renovation in our home due to a water leak became almost a 4-month, full-time job for my husband. Sharing some of the customer-service snafus with friends and colleagues, we've discovered that these happenings are all too common for the construction industry.

Reflecting on our experiences and hearing the tales of woe from others, I've put together "10 Lessons Learned" to help you survive your next customer-service nightmare.

On the other hand, if you own a business in ANY industry, changing even one or two of these service delivery dynamics could make a dramatic difference in distinguishing you in the marketplace as an outstanding organization:

Lesson 1: Expect no communication between the departments or people who work for the same organization. They will not know what their colleagues have agreed, scheduled, done, or planned to do. You, as customer, will become their main source of information.

Lesson 2: If the vendor says that they will arrive at 8:00 a.m., expect 10:00 a.m. If they give you a 10:00 a.m. arrival time, expect them at your door at 8:00 a.m.

Lesson 3: If they promise to get a quote or proposal to you within a certain time period, double it.

Lesson 4: If they set a firm time for a meeting or phone call, to minimize frustration, get a watch that doesn't work.

Lesson 5: Vendor A will mess up the work of Vendor B. Vendor B will mess up the work of Vendor C. No vendor will own responsibility for any of the foul-ups and will continue to blame the others.

Lesson 6: If vendors give you a completion date of 30 days, expect 60 days. Whatever the estimated project time, double it.

Lesson 7: Whatever the estimated cost, increase it by at least 50 percent. If you agree on the cost upfront in writing, expect the vendor to run into an unknown problem and the total project to require additional "scope" and fee.

Lesson 8: If paperwork is involved in the transaction (order form, invoice, receipt), expect errors and several iterations of the same.

Lesson 9: If you're assigned a liaison or project manager, expect to have to manage the project manager because he or she will be overwhelmed with far too many jobs for one person to handle.

Lesson 10: When finished, expect the vendor to ask for a referral for their work.