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Being a Guest in a Customer's Office

June 21, 2000
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People who work on-site at the customer's office are in a delicate position. They must provide high quality service to the customer and maintain a professional image at all times. Whatever they do reflects not only on them but on the company that employs them.

Field representatives, repair technicians and sometimes consultants are often the only contact the customer has with the organization. Companies often forget to stress the importance of the "other half" of competence, personal interactive skills. Technical competence can be easily overshadowed by poor manners.

Before Arrival

Although some of this may sound basic, it is surprising the number of times field service staff unintentionally offend clients. It is important to take care with your appearance. Just because you are away from the home office doesn't give you license to dress in any manner. Dirty uniforms are often more problematic and more common than "wild" attire.

A common mistake field reps make is when they take big companies in downtown offices more seriously than smaller businesses. Do not be less attentive to a home office. California has a huge home-based population and more corporations are allowing telecommuting. That person working in a spare bedroom just might be a vice president.

If you are running late, call and let your client know when you plan to arrive. The client will be less angry if you initiate the call. When you don't do this he or she is left wondering if you will arrive and is forced to place another call to dispatch. For small businesses that traditionally run lean the person having to place the call might be the owner who is now even more irritated.

Do not liberally use equipment that belongs to the customer. Ask before using the phone to respond to a page or call the home office. If the call is likely to be long, let your client know and certainly do so if it is long distance. It is not unusual for employers to hold employees responsible for calls made from their phone.

At the Client Site

As a field representative, you have to watch carefully what you say or do to avoid giving offense. This can occur when you do not keep a promise, arrive late or make assumptions about what is best for the client. Any type of offense can cause the customer to cancel the account. Be courteous, punctual and professional.

Casual conversation is a great ice breaker but can be disruptive if carried on too long. If the equipment under repair is close to another work station a long conversation is distracting. It pulls the person away from his or her job and delays you in completing yours. Greet the client, listen to the problems about the equipment, and then do your job.

Speaking out loud to yourself while you work is also disruptive, particularly in close quarters. Worse yet is using profanity. Swearing makes you look unprofessional.

In plain language be sure to explain what you did to the customer's equipment and the expected results. Too much technical speak can be alienating.

Be sure to let your client know the status of the job and in those instances where you can not complete it explain the circumstances. Let him or her know whether you are waiting for authorization or a spare part. If you do not do so, silence can easily be interpreted as disinterest or casual disregard. It takes less than 30 seconds to leave a voice mail message saying, "Hello Marilyn. I want to let you know that I am still waiting for the cpu to come in from the vendor. I expect it by Thursday and will let you know of any changes as they occur."

Never forget to thank them for their business and express your pleasure at the opportunity to work with them. A little courtesy goes a long way.

 

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