Sheet metal & Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association

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Handling customer complaints so the customer likes you

Novak_DMO_7127Taking a negative comment and turning it into a positive is an art that Novak Heating & Air Conditioning in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, has mastered.

Randy Novak, company president and former SMACNA National president, wasn’t afraid to publicly air the complaint.

The company’s website post: Not long ago a customer posted a nice letter on Novak Heating & Air Conditioning’s Facebook page from a customer, which we greatly appreciate. Unfortunately, today we have one from an unhappy customer. This one came through our website and the customer did not leave a name, phone number, address or email, making it hard for us to reply.

Here is what he/she had to say.

“You told me a month ago you would call and come out to tune up my air conditioner, I keep getting one excuse after another. Sad thing is, I a bought new furnace from you last year and it cost me over $2,500. This is how you treat your return customers I will gladly go somewhere else and make sure to tell everyone I come across. All you care about are the big dollar accounts, not ordinary people who work hard and want to come home to a cool house not an 82-degree house.”

Company’s Facebook answer: “This remark greatly disappoints us at Novak Heating & Air Conditioning. We work hard to treat our customers with respect, be professional and be timely. As we had noted in a previous post, the weather has not been cooperative to properly work on central air this spring/early summer. As I write this on June 1st the outdoor temp is 53 degrees. In addition to being unseasonably cool, it has been very stormy and wet. Certainly not ideal conditions to properly work on AC.

“With that said, I would love to talk to this customer, personally. I hate letting down someone who trusts us enough to invite us into their home. Randy Novak (319) 364-4626.”

Moral of the story. Don’t be afraid to address a problem publicly. Follow Randy’s lead. First, state a positive. He mentions that his company gets customer compliments. Then he dives right in and posts the negative customer comment. He then follows up with a calm, rational answer and closes with how much he loves his customers and how he appreciates their trust by allowing his employees to come into their homes. 

Randy’s statement addresses the dissatisfied customer’s problem, while providing a rational explanation for other customers who might have experienced the same problem, but were afraid to speak up. The goal for any customer communication is you want the customer to like you. Novak’s Heating & Cooling has done just that.

Mr. Novak is a former chair of SMACNA's National Residential Contractors Council Steering Committee.