As I sit here writing this column, the holiday season is in full swing. Where I come from, that means not only celebrating the holidays, but also six family birthdays — including my own. That’s right, we have six December birthdays in the family. Understandably, the holiday season always brings a little craziness to my life. 

Wanting to get an early start on gift shopping, I recently found myself in a Bed Bath & Beyond, armed with my 20% off coupon. We have about three of them in surrounding cities from where I live. I took the time to go online and find out which stores had the item I was looking for in stock. However, once we got to the store, my husband and I walked around twice and could not find the item I wanted.

The store was busy and the checkout lines were long. The employees on the floor were hard to find, but I finally found one talking to another customer. I patiently waited my turn. Finally, she looked at me and asked, “Can I help you?”

“Yes,” I replied. “I’m looking for this item, but can’t seem to find it. Your website shows you have it here in this store.”

She looked the product on my phone screen for all of two seconds.

“Well, it would be up front if we had it, but I don’t remember seeing that in the store.”

That was it, she turned and walked away. No offer to help me look or to check their computers. I was astonished and beyond mad as I went searching for my husband in the store — ready to just leave at this point.

As I was telling him what happened and that I was ready to leave, another employee must have overheard — shocking really, since I’m such a quiet person. He approached and asked if he could help us find the item.

He took us over to a computer, wrote down the product SKU and searched their inventory. Sure enough, it showed six in stock. So he walked us over to the area it should have been and we all started hunting. He even grabbed another employee to aid in our search. After a few minutes, we finally spotted it, tucked away on a shelf, behind a pillar. I was happy to get the item and happy I didn’t need to waste time driving to another store, but still annoyed at that first interaction with the other employee.

Customer service is a key component in every business, including plumbing and heating contracting companies. In fact, customer service is more important in a service business because, most of the time, customers are calling because they have some problem with their plumbing or heating systems. They are already predisposed to be in foul moods.

Add in the simple fact that it’s so much easier to anger a customer than it is to please them. They called you to per-form a service, so they already expect you to show up on time, do the job correctly and in a timely manner, and charge a reasonable price. However, if the technician tracks dirt all over the house and fails to clean up afterwards — that’s what the customer will remember.

People are much more likely to share their bad experiences with companies over the good ones. And they have a much larger platform to do so thanks to the abundance of online review sites. So your company has to truly offer excep-tional customer service at every point of interacting with the customer.

Make customer service a priority with your team. Train, train and then train some more. Just about every contracting organization offers some type of customer service training, including PHCC, Nexstar Network and Service Roundtable, to name a few. Many of them also offer online learning and webinars on the topic, so you won’t break the bank sending your employees to expensive out of state trainings and seminars. Make sure your employees know the importance of having exceptional customer service and the skills to offer it. The success of your business depends on it.