By Jo Ellen Grzyb
My husband and I bought an old, traditional Greek house way down on the tip of the Southern Peloponnese. Rural, agricultural (olive trees as far as the eye can see) and a bit away from the beaten track.
Being old, the house needs work, which meant that we had to find a builder who would be sympathetic to our 'vision' without trying to impose the ultra-modern aesthetic much beloved by many Greeks onto our dream.
Our Greek not progressing too much beyond kalimera, kalispera, kalinikta, efharisto and parakalo (though my husband is getting good at all the words for his favourite Greek food), we were nervous about finding the right person.
Fortunately, we do have friends in the area and we got a list of builders and contractors and by the end of our first day had lined up a number of meetings.
Now as one of the Founding Directors of Impact Factory I tend to be on the giving end of Customer Service within the business and only occasionally on the receiving end.
Certainly, in my personal life, I do have a variety of good, bad and ugly customer service experiences, but this was our opportunity to see just how it's done in Greece.
Customer Facing Meetings
Contrary to what everyone said, every single person showed up bang on time for every single appointment we made throughout our entire visit. Good customer service so far from everyone.
One person brought her engineer along to the first meeting to look over the place, while others made second appointments to do so.
Everyone pointed out the difficulties that fixing up the place would present and some suggested tearing down the old and building new (we had been warned about this as well).
Everyone came highly recommended and all had excellent track records.
Most (though not all) spoke very good English.
Costings were pretty much the same give or take a few thousand Euros.
So how did we choose the builder we ended up with?
Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Let me tell you how.
Customer Service Experience of the very highest quality
Customer Service of the very highest quality, that's how.
Roula Gaitanis, who is the name of the woman we chose, did above and beyond and then some. After coming to see us at our home on Tuesday, she had us come to her office the next day. When we had to cut the meeting short to make it to another appointment, she made an appointment first thing the next day to carry on.
Not just wanting us to see photos of her work, she took us on a tour of all her building sites from one where her husband was digging a foundation, to ones half-way built to the finished product. She explained how she put crews together and how long she estimated for each job.
At one meeting at our place, we served her some very special biscuits we got from a shop an hour away from the town and the next time she met with us, she gave us a big box of the same biccies.
She explained the entire process from getting licences to shoring up damp, crumbling walls, to building a new set of steps to sourcing old tiles, wrought iron beds and wood-burning stoves. She explained how she takes photos every step of the way and keeps in continual email contact.
She was clear about costs and potential problems once the build was started.
She introduced us to her family and we went away laden with olives and olive oil from her trees and grapes from her mother-in-law's vines.
She wanted to know, down to the smallest detail, what we actually wanted and only on very rare occasions did she tell us something couldn't be done. If we presented her with something complicated and seemingly impossible she found a way to get around it or solve the problem.
We also really liked her as a person.
Customer Service Experience - The Ideal Experience
A week after meeting one of the contractors, who we also really liked and who seemed sympathetic to our taste, finally phoned us back to arrange another meeting. Since he knew we were only there for two weeks, we were surprised that he was surprised that we had already made our choice and were well into dealing with the small print.
Everything Roula did reinforce her professionalism, her thoroughness and her ability to listen instead of imposing. If she felt we were going down a dead-end path she got us back on track with straight-forward honesty but without making us feel wrong or stupid.
Roula got the job because she listened, she got back to us immediately and helped us make the most of our time in Greece; she explained things so we would understand and didn't talk in builder's jargon, she was proud of her work, she found common ground between us and talked about more than just work.
She gave us the ideal Customer Experience.
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