Fast, friendly service sounds more like a proclamation from your local cafe than a general contractor. Customer service is sort of on the decline—I’m not talking about within the home construction industry, but across the board. When asked to describe our last great customer service experience, we might struggle to recall an instance. However, when it comes to bad customer service, let the floodgates open.
When we talk about a customer-focused contractor, we’re talking about a method of managing a construction project in which the contractor places a strong emphasis on meeting the needs and expectations of the customer. This can include regular communication and updates, clear project timelines and budgets, and a willingness to make changes and adjustments as needed to ensure customer satisfaction. Additionally, a customer-focused contractor may take steps to minimize disruptions and inconvenience for the customer during the construction process.
So, where does customer service rank as a core value for general contractors? Well, it depends on who you ask. Some believe a customer-centric approach costs too much. And in a bid first, ask questions later environment, it’s less important than say, efficiency or safety.
The best source of customer satisfaction is great communication and top-notch project planning. Simply put, it’s always better to avoid masking the real reason for poor customer service when evidence indicates there may be an internal operations breakdown somewhere in the process.
Creating a customer-centric business is hardly neuroscience—in fact, contractors simply need to get back to the basics.
Develop a concise, proactive and centralized plan to communicate with a customer. Disjointed emails, scribbled change orders and patchwork RFIs do not help a customer coordinate and they make a contractor look incompetent.
When a customer complains about a particular vendor, contractors can often sympathize, but a true partner would consider the vendors or trade partners he knows and share any information about customer dissatisfaction as a possible solution.
There may be no solution, but an apparent lack of feeling does nothing to develop solid rapport with a customer. Simply put, people like working with people they like and with whom they get along.
Take time when meeting with your customers. When together at the worksite, view it as a chance for a customer contact point rather than a distraction.
Returning calls and emails promptly, responding to a customer’s request and simply finishing a project on time are basics that are the foundation of superior customer service. You can’t make empty promises and expect to create raving fans.
A contractor must embed or entrench themselves with customers, so that they realize they would not be better off without that contractor. Keep them informed. Meet deadlines. Solve problems that no one else wants to deal with. Become less of a commodity and more of a necessity.
The reality is, not every customer allows this level of intimacy. Some customers expect great customer service but hold little respect for their contractors. Filtering out the bad customers is an important choice. From a contractor’s perspective, it’s vital to realize that lumping all customers in the same bucket is wrong. Often, contractors think they can change a customer and still operate under the same business model of providing mediocre service. This simply perpetuates the idea that contractors are a commodity. Having a customer-first business requires both commitment and discrimination. A contractor has the responsibility to select projects and customers that are the right fit for their skills and strengths. Conversely, customers have on obligation to themselves to work with contractors that provide a healthy working partnership.