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The Value of Service: What We’ve Learned Over the Last 40 Years

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According to the American Small Business Association, only about ⅓ of all small businesses survive more than 10 years.

At the risk of sounding full of ourselves, Lee’s Air has smashed that glass ceiling.

Obviously, like any successful business, we’ve hit some snags along the way. We’ve learned a lot over the last 40 years, and almost every lesson we’ve picked up along the way has come down to this: service is everything.

Cost efficiency and good products are all important, of course. But absolutely nothing can fortify a business like exceptional service. 

We live in an era of fake views, fake news, and fake reviews. Consumers are always looking for something real and trustworthy. If you can deliver a high standard of service, consumers will work with a business over and over again. 

In the interest of transparency, we want to share how we provide exceptional service, so consumers know what to look for, and businesses know how to serve their customers more effectively than ever.

Our Definition of Service

“Good service” is one of those phrases every business uses. It’s right up there with “knowledgeable staff” and “convenient parking.” The words get thrown around so often, they practically lose all meaning.

That’s why it’s so important that a business can define “good service.” Every organization should be able to list their markers or standards of good service. 

If I’m being honest, I could go on for pages and pages about our definition of good service. But for the sake of your sanity, I’ve narrowed it down to a single Japanese business philosophy: Kaizen.

What Exactly Is Kaizen?

Kaizen is a Japanese word meaning continuous improvement. The business philosophy focuses on the idea that businesses should constantly look for ways to improve for both the customer and the employee. 

However, Kaizen doesn’t call for making big changes in hopes of providing a better standard of service. It’s about methodically introducing relatively small measures to incrementally improve efficiency and service. After 40 years of operations, we’ve had the opportunity to see significant changes, allowing us to serve our customers and our colleagues better.

Our Ongoing Efforts to Improve Our Service

So if Kaizen is about introducing sustainable strategies to evolve our company and better serve people, what kind of small improvements have we made that have had an impact?

Again, there are virtually endless examples that I could fixate on. But for the sake of this article, I’ll focus on 3 general concepts that have allowed us to grow as a service provider.

Communication

Man speaking to a customer on the phone with a headset.

As an HVAC company, we get a fair number of urgent calls. Whether it’s a matter of comfort or safety, our customers typically need to get a hold of us quickly. 

We wish we could catch every phone call on the first ring. Unfortunately, things get hectic, and sometimes it isn’t possible. However, we have made it a policy to respond to calls, texts, and emails as soon as we can.

Clients appreciate the follow-through and our team is better equipped to give every message the time and attention it deserves.

Transparency

Unmet expectations are the biggest source of frustration, and a frustrated customer is definitely not a happy customer.

We have found that by giving the client all of the information they need upfront, we can build trust, prevent miscommunications, and avoid frustration caused by unmet expectations.

We provide all of the proper information on the job, including permits, insurances, and flat-rate pricing. We even use follow-up calls and emails to ensure our clients have all the details they could possibly need.

Being transparent with your clients helps them feel more involved in the process and ultimately, in control of the end results. 

Year-Round Training

One unique principle of Kaizen is that it’s ongoing – your team never reaches “good enough” because there are always ways to improve. If you’re going to properly implement Kaizen and, by extension, provide the best possible service, you need to find opportunities to grow.

Many organizations train their employees to do the job, then leave them to it. Personally, I think that method is a huge waste of potential.

All of our staff have access to ongoing, year-round training. By continuing to learn and grow in their professional lives, our team can identify areas they would like to improve and focus on becoming all-around more effective and efficient employees.

Service Is the Secret to Longevity

I’ll be the first to tell you that Lee’s hasn’t always done things perfectly, but we’ve always been committed to doing the right thing. I honestly believe that our dedication to unparalleled service has kept us going for over 40 years. 

If your business always puts customer service and satisfaction first, you’ll have far more opportunities to grow and thrive.

Written by Thomas Howard

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