Communications Plays a Critical Role
In our company’s experience, we have found that some of our customers have gotten emotional because they just didn’t “click” or feel comfortable with a particular trade contractor ― but couldn’t explain why.
Through the years, we have learned that one of the top reasons customers pick a company to do a project in the first place is because the customer has developed a personal bond with the company personnel during pre-construction. But when the job actually begins, trade contractors are onsite doing the work, and that doesn’t quite fit the expectation the customer formed in his or her mind about the company.
When this happens, clear communication between the customer and the trade contractors plays a crucial role. Before the job is started, the customer must have a clear understanding of the communication chain of the contracting company and contact person responsible for their project. The trade contractor, too, must have a clear understanding of the scope of work and the job site policies of the contractor in charge.
Above all, we must always remember that we are guests in our customers’ homes and we should act as polite and courteous as possible. To have a successful relationship, everyone must have a clear understanding of the rules.
Dust and Dirt Can Kick Up a Storm
Another “hot button” for most clients is dust and dirt.
Before every job, we emphasize to the customer that we have several dust and dirt containment procedures and daily clean-up procedures that will be followed. We also emphasize that no matter what procedures we follow, remodeling is messy and some dust will escape our containment procedures.
To help prevent some of the more common issues that upset customers during a project, we feel it necessary to discuss — in detail — all expectations for both parties.
We usually spend a couple of hours or more, before each project begins, going over these common points in our pre-construction meeting. We explain in detail what our customers can expect during the weeks or months ahead.
But we all know that even the best laid plans, schedules and intentions change daily in the construction industry. We forget to write down an appointment; we don’t get back to the customer with an answer at the exact time we said we would; or that change order that the customer asked us to price last week just added two weeks to the already delayed — because of weather — schedule and the customer is irate that we are charging full markup on a “while you are here, can you do this” item. You get my point.
Every Crisis Is an Opportunity
We are all human. Stuff happens, tempers flare and people get upset.
Instead of getting angry when things fall apart, we need to view these situations as opportunities to show our customers our commitment to professionalism and customer service.
Every situation, when it arises, is unique. But the final outcome of each crisis, at least in our company, is hopefully the same ― a satisfied customer who will refer our company to others.
We pride ourselves on doing exactly what we said we would do each and every time. When a complaint or problem arises that irritates the customer, we call this an “opportunity.” It is a chance for us to react to the situation and show the customer our exceptional customer service skills.
The first order of business is to react quickly. We call this “damage control.”
When customers are irritated, they want action immediately — even if that action is as simple as just listening to them vent frustrations. When these “opportunities” arise, you can take a few steps to diffuse the situation:
- React quickly.
- Look at the problem from the customers’ point of view, try to see the situation through their eyes and understand what upset them.
- Ask how you can help solve the problem.
- Sympathize and apologize for the mess up.
- Don’t take it personally ― the customer is usually upset at the situation, not at you.
- Did I mention listen? Most people just want to vent when they are upset.
A Little Kindness…
When issues arise, this is a good chance to do some inexpensive marketing. If the problem can be corrected for a couple of hundred dollars or less — it’s a no-brainer — do it and don’t charge them. It is the cheapest PR you can buy, so just consider it a part of your marketing budget.
We also keep a few local restaurant gift certificates in our office. It’s amazing how much a relatively inexpensive gift and an apology will enhance your company’s goodwill, especially if you strike while the iron is hot.
Tracy Moore, CGR, CGB, GMB, is president of Anderson-Moore Builders, Inc. He is also the vice president of the Winston-Salem Remodelors™ Council and previously was the council’s secretary, vice president and president. For more information, e-mail Moore.
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The NAHB University of Housing offers CAPS, CGR, CGB and a variety of other professional designation programs and business management courses that set builders and remodelers apart from the competition. To learn more about NAHB’s designation programs, visit www.nahb.org/designations. For a complete list of all current education offerings, click here.
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