Whether eating out at a restaurant or checking out at a local store, many of us can agree that customer service at all businesses is not created equally. If most builders are honest, customer service intentionality in their own businesses often takes a backseat to emphasis on building project logistics. Yet most satisfied clients agree it is the combination of expert building skill and positive builder-client rapport that makes them happy at the end of the building venture.

Why is good customer service important for a builder?
A: Quite simply, good customer service leads to customer satisfaction, which will generate good word of mouth and good referrals. The opposite is also true. There is nothing more damaging to a business than a negative social media rant by a disgruntled client. When clients are happy, your business will grow. Although the completion of a quality building project is important, building a relationship with your client is equally crucial to your success.

What are some of the areas of frustration that customers experience?
A: Clients lament that their primary pet peeve is a lack of consistent, clear communication from the builder. Clients want to be informed of price changes and scheduling delays. They are also frustrated when a builder simply delays in answering their email or phone call. In today’s age of instant communication, it’s important to reply immediately to a business call and set up the expectation as to when a meaningful conversation can occur. In an upcoming issue, we’ll be introducing some great apps that can help you in stay in better contact with your clients. Letting the client know you’re working on the answer will go a long way in keeping their opinion of your business favorable. When in doubt, communicate. Err on the side of more communication than you feel is necessary. Remember, most clients are not familiar with the building process. Your assurance as the professional on the job that everything is going okay will build client confidence in you and your work. Clients are also concerned that builders may not follow through on instructions or requests they make. Avoiding or ignoring client requests (even their unreasonable ones) is a bad business practice. Explain to a client why something they suggest won’t work or strive to make the client’s request a reality when possible. Proper communication and planning on the front end of a project will often minimize these mid-job hassles as well. Clients who are frustrated with the lack of progress or time frame the job is taking may not understand the time involved in aspects of building like inspections, electrical and mechanical work, or plumbing. Communicating the smaller time frames within the greater scope of the entire project will minimize client frustration and allow you to focus on getting the job done instead of putting out fires from client misunderstandings.

What gets in the way of builders providing good service?
A: Many builders do not realize they aren’t offering quality customer service because most builders are focused on the literal quality of the building project. As a builder, it is important to see the building experience from the client’s perspective and to realize that both the quality of the project and the quality of the collaboration experience are equally important to the client.

What can you do to improve customer service?
A: Answer all texts, emails, and phone calls as soon as possible. A full response within 24 hours is crucial.

  • Face-to-face or phone call communication is preferable to texts and emails (unless the client requests otherwise). Yes, it takes more time to talk. Yes, it is sometimes inconvenient. Most relationships worth pursuing take time. The added investment has the potential to forge a lifelong builder-client relationship that will yield even more work for you down the road.
  • Keep your cool. Losing your temper with any client is never good. Think through your conversation before making the call. If an unreasonable request has been made, think of solutions or possible choices to empower the client rather than ignoring requests or flatly denying their request without a reasonable explanation.
  • Consider giving a weekly update to every client regarding their project—big or small. Your current clients’ satisfaction will impact potential referral business you receive. When job changes occur per a client’s request, always follow up in writing with an amended change order so there are no financial surprises at the end of the project.
  • Send a survey with your final billing statement. Let the client rate you. Study the feedback you receive and look for trends in your areas of weakness and strength. Ask permission to use positive reviews in your marketing.
  • Consider a small thank you gift for each client at the conclusion of the project. A company coffee mug, home improvement gift card, or new home door mat will speak volumes to your customer that you value their business.
  • Invest in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. There are many options that we’ll discuss in a future issue.