While technical skills are important, building relationships with customers is a vital part of any construction contracting business.
Good relationship management skills will help you every step of the way. You'll need those skills to close deals, get paid on time and bring in your next job.
The importance of building customer relationships goes beyond each customer. If you have a good rapport with customers, they will likely spread your name to their friends. Word-of-mouth is the most effective marketing method out there.
To help you develop good working relationships with clients, here are some tips for building customer loyalty before, during, and after you're done working.
1. Prove your experience
Put together a good portfolio showing off your talents. When done correctly, your portfolio can help prospective customers understand what it's like working with you.
Your portfolio should Include lots of before and after pictures with clear explanations that help viewers understand the work you did. This helps prove that you know what you're doing and makes people feel like the entire process is under control.
Many contractors create galleries and pages on their websites to showcase their strongest work. However, a platform like Instagram will work in a pinch if you're starting out.
Remember: Make sure you get your customer's permission before posting pictures of their property. Also, be sure there is no identifiable information in photos, regarding personal information or address.
2. Get your paperwork in order
You should easily be able to show your customers that you don't cut corners. The most fundamental way to do this is to show them appropriate official qualifications and documents.
This paperwork might include licensing, permits, certifications, contractor bonds and a certificate of insurance (COI).
Contractors' insurance is particularly important since you'll be working in other people's space, and there's a lot of room for accidents. Having a COI available to send to your customers demonstrates that you are a reliable, responsible professional, which is the foundation for building relationships with customers.
3. Listen to what your clients want
Even if you've been in your line of work for years, something new will always come along. People's homes and businesses are very personal spaces and can get tied up with self-expression and identity.
That's why people must know they're being heard. Your results need to be high-quality, but they also need to reflect the client's vision, and you can only do that by listening. Show that you practice active listening by asking questions or about their preferences.
If a client says not to touch a specific item, or go into a room, be sure to listen and abide by their rules. If you know of a better solution for the customer, go ahead and pitch it. But remember, in the end, it's their choice — even if you don't personally agree with it.
4. Ask for feedback
Whether customers have a good or bad opinion about your business, they will want to make their feelings known. Invite customer feedback to show you are listening, whether it's when you're talking with them or through a review on sites like Yelp or Thumbtack.
Customer feedback helps you hone your customers' specific needs so you can find the best solutions to their problems. The better your offering meets their needs, the more your business will grow.
Always listen carefully to feedback and respond promptly, whether it's a compliment or a complaint. The worst thing you can do is ask for feedback and then not address concerns. Even negative feedback is valuable and can give you an honest gauge of customer satisfaction.
5. Build relationships with customers by being honest
Of course, you want to close the deal, but not at any cost. Be upfront about the challenges of the job.
This could include timing, costs, materials, or skill-level challenges. For instance, say you're a general contractor with little experience removing mold or damaged floors after a flood. It's better to be upfront with the customer and steer them toward a restoration contractor (or offer to refer them to one if you know someone.)
Sometimes, being realistic about the budget and schedule will convince a customer not to proceed with the project. Other times, it will convince them that you're not trying the hard sell, and they can trust you with their time and money. Whatever the case, honesty helps build trust, which goes a long way toward building customer relationships.
6. Do a good job
This should go without saying, but it's worth reiterating since it should be the foundation of your customer relationships. It's probably the most important tip here.
Do a good job, and customers will keep coming back. Produce high-quality work, and customers will tell their friends. Work hard, and customers will show their appreciation. Building customer loyalty is easy when they know you have their best interests at heart and produce results they couldn't have imagined.
7. Make customers feel special
Clients want to feel valued, so think of ways to help make your customers feel like VIPs. There are many ways to do this, so get creative.
One way is to offer lower rates and special deals for returning clients or referrals. This gives people a financial incentive to continue working with you and makes them feel like part of an exclusive club.
Another option is to go a more personal route. Once you've gotten to know a client, watch for ways to offer added value. If you spot a light fixture that perfectly matches a kitchen you renovated last month, send the client a picture. If you have a few days free, get in touch and suggest that it's a good time to do a small project they might have mentioned in the past.
It could also be small, service-oriented things a customer might appreciate. For example, keeping a work site as tidy as possible or sending your client a text letting them know your estimated arrival time. Even a little bit goes a long way to maintaining customer relationships.
8. Get recommendations
Building relationships with clients is all about creating security and comfort. Recommendations offer a shortcut.
According to a marketing report, 83% of Americans say that a word-of-mouth recommendation from a friend or family member makes them more likely to purchase that product or service.
This is because recommendations help prospective clients feel that they can trust you and your work. With other people saying nice things about you, they don't have to just take your word for it, making your efforts at building relationships with customers that much easier.
When you've completed a job, ask your clients to recommend your work if they're happy.
9. Show your appreciation
Part of making customers feel important is showing them your gratitude. Simple things like answering calls or emails from them promptly or a handwritten note at the end of the project are appreciated. And if your customer is also a small business owner, you might consider becoming a customer yourself.
10. Follow up
A customer stays a customer after the transaction ends. Staying in touch with your clients after you finish a job is a great way to solidify your connection.
Send a customer evaluation or call directly and ask how they think the project went and if they're happy with the results. If something small bothered them, it would let them get it off their chest and clear the air. It also shows that you care about the quality of your work and haven't forgotten them.
11. Ask for what you want
Ask yourself what you want from strong customer relationships: is it an addition to your portfolio? Word-of-mouth marketing? Future work? Whatever it is, go ahead and ask for it.
You don't need to pressure your clients, but when you finish a job, feel free to say, "I hope you like the results. It would be great if you could pass my name on or give me a call next time you need anything."
People like to feel that they can help others; telling them exactly how they can help you takes out the guesswork.
Learning how to maintain good customer relationships is key to growing your business. Add some people skills to high-quality work, and you can take your business to new heights.
How NEXT strengthens customer relationships
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