Customer communication can be a very nuanced aspect of your strategy to grow your business. If done well, it leads to a positive experience. But if it’s considered lower priority than other aspects of the job, it could prove disastrous.
You’ve heard the horror stories about contractors who experienced major setbacks or failed jobs because they didn’t provide clients advance warning about delays in the timeline, discuss the right requirements upfron, or use compatible installation methods. These instances result in huge losses of time, delays in getting paid, or not getting paid at all. Plus, word travels fast; projects like that almost certainly lead to a negative customer review that could wreck a company's reputation.
Most contractors work hard to get leads, complete incredible work and create a loyal customer base, but many often forget that a little TLC—tender loving communication, in this case—is essential to the mix.
Here are ways to strengthen communications while actively working with a customer on their project.
1. Clearly state your intention in every communication.
Every customer interaction—whether it be in person, over the phone or by email—should be done with clear intent. You should have a well-established goal for what each desired outcome is, and it should be aligned with your company values and sales process.
By creating an open line of communication during the job process, you help your business:
- Appear more professional and create a positive image
- Create additional value for the homeowner based on pleasant experiences
- Provide insight and set expectations for the project's evolution
- Avoid miscommunication and customer complaints
- Establish a relationship with the customer that allows for issues to be resolved in a more personable and timely manner
Keeping these benefits in mind during every customer interaction helps ensure that you prioritize clear communication and create a mutually beneficial experience during the project.
2. Utilize each step of the construction process as a communications touchpoint.
We've observed that there are three types of communication that occur during the course of a project. They relate to job progress, transactions and general check-ins.
- Job progress communication relates to the status of the job and laying out the timing of each segment for the customer. In this stage, you can set expectations for how the project will go and discuss what issues could potentially arise. For example, this would be where creating and submitting change orders comes into use for announcing substantial completion. This helps you avoid complaints and unhappy customers because you’ve informed them of the job expectations ahead of time.
- Transactional communication, or the administrative items of the job process, provides an opportunity for you to inform customers about the small yet important details that may get lost in conversation. This includes exchanging contact information, creating allowances, submitting punch lists, discussing warranty work, announcing schedules for arrival times and departure times, and more. Here, you must exercise great attention to detail so your customer isn’t blindsided by potential costs that may occur. By being effective with transactional communication, you avoid angry phone calls down the road.
- General check-ins with homeowners about their level of satisfaction should be regularly completed while the project is open and get further commitment to processes. Make sure the homeowner understands the next steps of a job and what may be needed by the crew (access to power outlets, space in the driveway, etc.). By checking in with customers frequently, you avoid putting the customer in uncomfortable situations that might include neighbor complaints and help to ensure less friction if a project experiences delays.
3. Communicate in the way that is best for your customer, not just the easiest for you.
At the beginning of every new job, ask your customer how they like to receive updates—whether it be phone, text email or a combination. You can also get a sense of the level of detail and frequency that they would like. Be sure to ask for all contacts who need to stay in the loop, as there may be multiple decision-makers for each project.
4. Craft an internal process and assign a primary company contact.
Create a regular process for your sales cycle. Then, ask yourself a series of questions, including:
- How do you hand off customers from your sales team to your project manager?
- Do you provide an introduction prior to the first day of the project?
Ensure that your project manager or foreman is front and center as the face of the company and is the primary contact for homeowners during the entirety of the project. If there are other team members who need to interact with your customer, be sure to introduce them and describe what they do in writing so homeowners can reference these notes later in the process.
5. Use the right tools to provide accurate information and set expectations.
Always make sure there is a common documented record of all updates for each project. This should include change orders and other customer-facing documents supporting the project. With current industry software systems, it doesn’t have to be difficult to provide these updates in a timely manner. You can send automated messages via email or text to make the process easier. Here are some recommended platforms to help you in every step of the process:
- Building professional quotes
- Managing the sales process
- Connecting your team for updates
- Boosting online visibility with more customer reviews
By understanding how your customer communicates and then providing a consistent line of communication, you’ll make a deeper connection and impact on your customer’s perception of your company, the processes throughout the job, and the overall experience. It’s worth exploring tools that help boost your professionalism and win future business.
Stay on the lookout for the next article in this series that explores what kind of communication is needed after the job has been completed. (Hint: it helps you attract more leads!)