Negative Perceptions of the Industry
A successful construction company is dependent upon professional, authentic and sincere customer service. The words authentic and sincere are extremely important due to the fact that similar to a used car salesman, we have a reputation in the construction industry.
If someone were to start a conversation at a social gathering regarding their current construction project, I guarantee that the majority of comments and associated conversation will incorporate disastrous stories and negative situations that have occurred to other individuals during their construction project management.
It is very uncommon to hear a positive or evenly balanced conversation regarding the construction industry.
An Opportunity to Stand Out from the Pack
This negative reputation regarding our construction industry is something that can be used to stimulate an alternate scenario in which your reputation, as well as your working relationship with clients, is positive and comfortable. The comparison of this positive scenario, as opposed to the universal negatives of the industry, will allow your company to soar above and beyond all other competitors.
I have been involved in the industry, both commercial and residential for over 45 years. In addition to this extensive length of time, I have been blessed to have interacted with over 30 companies offering different construction services or building venues within various construction niches, such as academic, large single-family residential, multi-housing complexes, industrial applications, medical facilities, etc.
In other words, my resume encompasses a very diversified career that has provided me with an intimate appreciation of customer service on all levels of the construction industry.
Four Critical Factors to Understand
There are several aspects of customer service that are important to understand in an effort to stimulate and create a positive and successful customer service reputation within your own business.
- Understand the Industry’s Reputation
The construction industry has a generally accepted negative reputation. This must be understood and accepted by the owner of the construction business prior to any attempt at promoting a successful customer service policy. The industry has an uphill battle when it comes to customer service due to its past unfavorable reputation.
- Confront Your Own Biases
In general, members of our industry are either self-made successes or have matured within the industry by exhibiting both confidence and in many cases arrogant behavior. This natural tendency to be self-appreciative and phenomenally sure of oneself, are normally not positive traits, supporting a positive customer service presentation.
- The Customer is Intimidated
The majority of individuals that will call, email or contact a construction company are somewhat intimidated by the entire process. They have been instructed by seminars, webinars, podcasts, Facebook, and all other social media that it is necessary to assemble several prices, speak to several contractors, etc. etc.
- The Customer Needs to Be Educated
There is an artificially created expectation, stimulated by the popular “Do It Yourself” culture that has caused an overall festive, almost animated allure to be associated with construction and renovation. In most cases, this is not based upon the individual’s reality but supported by Hollywood ‘s type of acting and directorship creating these DIY programs.
Based upon these four fundamental aspects of construction within the American culture, the industry is confronted by a serious challenge when it comes to proper and consistent customer service, as well as the creation of a positive natural business environment and marketing strategy.
8 Steps to Customer Service Success
This fundamental understanding of the reputation that we are forced to launch our customer service strategy from, is necessary to create a positive and successful customer service attitude as well as reputation.
If you follow the eight fundamentals listed below you will successfully create a positive and inviting customer service policy, that will allow you to grow your business and promote a goodwill strategy. This creation of a successful customer service program will generate an overall positive and successful environment for both you and your resultant clients.
- Don’t Be Arrogant
Trust me, there is nothing about what you do or perform, that is of such high esteem that your attitude should promote such a fundamental appreciation of yourself. If you are in the construction business, the pyramids, as well as the structures in Rome, are only some of the examples of what you cannot ever achieve. We are a basic, blue-collar industry, nothing else. If you maintain this attitude, it will serve you extremely well and will allow your customers to appreciate your honesty as well as integrity.
- Make Time for Everyone
No matter who calls stops to discuss an item or job or simply starts a conversation that involves construction. The time spent on what you feel could be a wasted endeavor is never lost, it is forever in the mind of the person you are interacting with. You have all the time in the world for that person, no matter who it is!
- Acknowledge the Customer’s Anxiety
You understand that people are hesitant to discuss the construction and are intimidated by the entire situation and would rather have a root canal than discuss their construction issue with you. They are afraid, making them feel good about the process and comfortable, similar to a doctor with a great bedside manner will result in a positive impression.
- Don’t Denigrate the Competition
Never make fun of or talk negatively about a competitor. This could be the most difficult goal of the entire process. Negative interaction of any type is never good for positive customer service. The negative effect that speaking poorly about another contractor only identifies your insecurity as well as your classlessness. Do not do it!
- Counsel Free of Charge
Offer free estimates, free consultation, free advice and it will pay back dividends. The balance between being taken advantage of, and not reacting to a client’s needs is difficult. It is important that you place a customer ahead of yourself and react positively at all times.
- Provide Accurate Pricing
Do not exaggerate the fundamentals. It is important to be sincere about the price as well as the schedule and any other fundamental marketing objectives that you set forth. Do not promise the world, yet do not be negative. Again, this is a balancing act, however, be sincere and genuine when presenting both price and schedule. This sincerity will become a very positive characteristic of your business and will quickly spread as your reputation, throughout the industry.
- Always Meet with the Customer in Person
When presenting your quote and schedule for the project, present the proposal in person. It is very important to get in front of the client and to show that you care enough to personally interact with the client to secure the project.
- Maintain Communication from Start to Finish
The most important aspect of customer service is exactly that, service the customer once you have the job. Communicate by weekly job meetings, constantly returning the email or phone calls and consistently showing concern and sincerity as the project is completed.
- Follow Up After Job Completion
One of the most impressive techniques that I have experienced is the engagement of the owner after one year has gone by from project completion. One of my past employers would always engage the client a full year after the project was completed. A questionnaire was introduced and the client was allowed a year-old punch list, that upon review would be taken care of by the contractor. This always promoted good-will and generated future clients.
The best foundation for a good customer service philosophy is to treat everyone exactly like you would want them to treat your mother! No, not yourself, your Mom! The ability to identify what your client is feeling and experiencing, and sincerely caring for these feelings will allow you to create a reputation for incredible customer service.
It is a rare time when the saving of money or time on behalf of the contractor will not cause negative customer relations and will reduce that great reputation that you have worked so hard to promote. Think before you nickel and dime a client and always remember, “the customer is always right!”
If you remember to treat your customers in a manner consistent with how you would want your own Mom treated, you will succeed in creating a wonderful customer service reputation, and once that is established, the rest is a piece of cake!