What’s the main way you get new jobs? The answer, invariably, is by referrals. Which begs the question, “How do I get more referrals?” Of course the answer is multi-faceted. You get more referrals by having happy customers. You get referred because you have a referral process in place that cultivates new clients. You get referred because you have excellent customer satisfaction, which is the subject of this week’s Wrap-up –Ten ways to excel in customer satisfaction.
I found the key to a successful business early in my business career, and that is to set expectations as soon as possible in my client relationships. It is very important to set the preliminary expectations during the first contact the prospective client has with you. Setting expectations makes the prospective client comfortable. They know what to expect next. Their questions are answered. And most importantly, you have set the stage for your sales and production procedures. A happy client is an informed client.
When a problem arises, fix it as soon as possible. There are few problems that will fix themselves, or improve, over a period of time. Almost all problems tend to “fester” if they are not promptly addressed. So why is it that many people tend to shy away from problems? Why wait? It’s not going to get better. And, as an added bonus for promptness, you will be viewed as a conscientious person who genuinely cares about your clients.
Set a time limit to respond to queries or other issues. You might state that they can expect a response within one business day, within 2 hours, or within 24 hours. Choose a time lapse that you can live with and make this regulation known to your prospective clients and clients. Make sure your staff, and especially your subcontractors, if you use them, know about this. If you use a lot of subs then it is essential that they buy into this agreement. Otherwise they should not be part of your team.
Talk is cheap. This phrase is usually used in a derogatory way, meaning that talk is not worth much – it’s easy to say something but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll do it. Another way to look at this is that not talking is expensive. And this couldn’t be more true. So much of a successful business is based on communication. “Talk is cheap” in this case means that if you communicate, you save money. If you don’t communicate, it’s going to cost you.
Make a point of setting up various ways to communicate with your clients. Once again, this will give them peace of mind. Being confused or uninformed merely creates a breeding ground for doubt and frustration.
One of my best sales tactics came from using collaboration programs, such as Teamwork Project Manager. I would tell my prospective clients that I would immediately set up a communication channel with them where we could exchange documents, photos, drawings, messages, and schedules – during the sales/design process, and during the project itself. This has a very positive effect on the client. They knew how to reach me, and that all the documentation and communication used during the job will be available in one handy place.
Consistency is a discipline. As far as this pertains to communication, it can be a fairly difficult one if you don’t set up communication standards and schedules. Talk to your clients on a regular basis. Set up weekly meetings at the job site. Process change orders quickly, and let them know how much the change will cost and when to expect it to be completed. Notify them of any changes in the scheduled phases. Give them a weekly report and schedule of what they should expect to happen next week.
A common excuse for failure to do something is that, “it fell through the cracks.” You were too busy to get to it. Which the client translates as, “Someone else is more important to you than me.” If you have refined your work ethics well, you make a point to fulfill every promise you make. A woman or man of their word is a person who can be trusted. And trust is the basis of every smooth running, profitable project.
When you make a promise, take the correct steps to see that it is done, and done correctly. This means assigning the task to someone, setting a deadline for its completion, and receiving confirmation that it has been accomplished. If it is up to you to take care of this task, make sure it is recorded in your calendar or to-do list, and set up reminders to prompt you to get this done. It is all too easy to get overloaded with tasks and push the earlier tasks further down the list, never to be seen again. Fulfilling promises keeps everyone happy and on schedule.
“… is next to Godliness” A very old phrase that is still quite true, especially in the client’s eye. Keeping a clean job site keeps a happy customer. Take the time to protect your client’s home. Keep it as dust-free as possible. Educate everyone who works on the job as to what you expect in terms of cleanliness. A broom should be one of the most important tools in your toolbox.
How should the project end? Should your workers just clean up and leave? They’re done, so why not. They did their job. Now consider it from the client’s point of view. You spent many days at their home, possibly months. They got to know some of the workers quite well. Now they have new spaces, new fixtures, more conveniences. They expect the end to be an occasion. They spent a lot of money. It’s up to you to make them feel that it was worth it.
This is where the closing process comes into play. Have a cleaning crew come in and clean up the place. Put some flowers on the counter. Maybe a fruit basket or a bottle of their favorite wine or champagne. Then you or someone on your staff should make an appointment with them to show them how to use the new appliances, how the plumbing fixtures work, where the light switches are, explain to them how to maintain the floors, tile, appliances, sinks, and counters. In short, give them a royal tour of their new space. Show them you care. Make sure they are satisfied. And the final act, of course, is a call to action – ask them for referrals!
Evaluate whether you should extend your warranty period. If you rarely have any call backs in 2 years, why not have a 2 year warranty? Or a five year warranty if your records show that this is a safe act. Extending your warranty will distance you from your competition. It will give your prospective clients confidence that you will stand behind your work.
This goes back to the beginning of this article – getting more referrals. One of the best ways is to take care of warranties – fast! I have heard many tales of builders and remodelers that drag out the warranty work. This can only work against them. There isn’t a positive aspect to delaying your warranty work.
Warranty work has many benefits. It gives you a chance to talk with your client and see how everything is working. Do they have feedback that will help you be a better contractor on future jobs? Visiting them on a callback gives you a chance to sell them a new project. If you have quick response, more than likely they will consider you for more work. If you are slow, don’t even bother to ask. And finally, you get a chance to once again ask for referrals.
Ten great tips on better customer service. Note that 9 out of 10 of these tips pertain to communicating with your clients. There’s food for thought. Put these tips to good use. Blend them into your existing processes. Keep refining your system. This is all it takes to become the best contractor in town. Your sales funnel will always be full, and referrals will continue to supply with the profits you need to grow a successful remodeling company.
Wishing you the best of fortune, Randall
This article was written by Randall Soules, remodeling coach, adviser, educator, and creator of the Scientific Remodeling System, showing you better ways to advance your business, raise your profits, and improve your life, through the use of superior remodeling processes. If you would like to discover better ways to run your business, click here. He also provides his uniquely customized one-on-one coaching to a select group of contractors. Feel free to contact Randall at Randall@scientificremodelingsystem.com.
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