Building or renovating a home can be stressful for your customers. That’s because having a contractor in is just another activity happening in an already busy household. Your customer may be juggling a stressful job, nightly little league practices, a sick pet, or a score of other issues. And now that they’ve decided to have work done to their home, they’ll have to add “inaccessible home” to their itinerary of things to deal with. It all can get very overwhelming for your customer.
Whether you’re a plumber, electrician, home builder or remodeler, it’s important to keep in mind that you do this kind of stuff everyday; for your customer, this may be a once-in-a-lifetime event. And they’re going to stress out about it. Here are five ways to show your customer a little TLC during a home renovation to keep them-and you-stress-free.
1. Educate them from the start
As a contractor, you’re used to the steps involved in a home renovation. They might include things like inspecting the home, pulling a permit, contacting the local code department, and ordering supplies from vendors. You have a system in place that allows you to get jobs done on time and within budget. Your homeowner customer, however, only knows that they want their bathroom remodeled. They may not know all the steps involved or how you get from A to B, so it’s important to educate them from the start. Advice? The minute they sign on the dotted line, hand them a checklist of all the steps you’ll be taking to renovate their home with a brief description of each step. Not only will it avoid confusion later, but allowing your customer to follow along and cross completed steps off the list will let them know that progress is being made. And of course, answer any and all questions they have.
2. Avoid industry lingo
As a contractor you’re used to throwing around words like “below grade,” “back nailing,” and “blind stop.” It’s easy to forget that the homeowner may have no idea what those terms mean. The best way to confuse them and make them stress out even more is to use industry lingo when describing their project without an explanation. Try to avoid slang around your customer, unless he is educated about your line of work. Describing each step and the parts needed for each step in a way they understand (without belittling their intelligence) goes a long way in maintaining a healthy working relationship with your customer.
3. Slow down and spend the time
When it comes to remodeling a home, things can move pretty quickly. You may have to wait for a permit to be accepted, for example, but once it is, it’s off to the races! As a contractor you’ll be ready to pick up the pace and get the project on its way. But slow down a minute. Now that you’re ready to move full-steam ahead, have you informed the homeowner? If not, take a step back and remember the checklist advice we gave in Tip #1. Before moving ahead, take the time to alert the homeowner about the next couple of steps, explain what’s going to be happening, and answer any questions they may have as you prepare to move forward. This will give the homeowners time to process what will be happening and allow them to prepare for the next phase of work. Continue to do this as the project progresses through the various stages. Which leads to the next piece of advice…
4. Keep in regular contact with your customer during the project
A lot of contractors make the mistake of communicating only twice with the customer during a home remodel: in the beginning when they start the work, and at the end when they expect payment. It’s understandable why this happens: contractors get busy, they have other customers and other jobs. But it’s a habit that can-and should-be broken if you want to offer your customer a stress-free experience. If not, your customer will be left holding a checklist of steps that you provided with no idea what step you’re on. The number of times you reach out to the customer will ultimately be determined by the length of the project, and is best determined by you. If it’s a weeks-long project, for example, stay in touch with your customer, say, at least once a week. The last thing you want is the homeowner calling you, saying he was wondering what was going on because he hasn’t heard from you in awhile.
5. Stay in touch after the project is complete
Another mistake contractors make once a home remodel is done is to cash the check and move on. Again, this is understandable because contractors have other contracts and other customers. But by failing to follow up with a customer or keep in contact with them once their project is done, you’re potentially missing out on a key thing that’ll keep you in business-more work. That’s because a contractor who asks to stay in touch with a customer-and then does-will be remembered by that customer, who in turn may have another project down the road, or will refer you to a friend of neighbor. So remember to always stay in front of your customers-past and present. That might mean a monthly newsletter full of home remodeling tips, requests for referrals, friendly emails, follow up phone calls to gauge their happiness with the project, an e-zine, holiday cards, mailers with current offers, etc. It doesn’t always matter how you stay in touch, just that you do.
These are only five ways to show a little TLC to your customers and ensure that they have a stress-free experience with you. They’re simple and easy to implement. Putting them into place will mean you’ll have a long list of happy customers who’ll be happy they signed on the dotted line-and who’ll refer more and spend more on your services in the future.