Guest Blogger: Ruth Ann Monti is the founder of TimeStorm Communications, which provides original content, copywriting, social media and marketing services for entrepreneurs and small business. She lives with her son and two dogs in sunny Scottsdale, AZ.
3 Ways Contractors Can Become a Trusted Customer Resource
A recent survey by Planese found the home improvement and remodeling industry earned a customer service score of 4.5 out of 7 in 2013. Not bad, but it could be better. More worrying is our industry's score for meeting expectations, which is just 36 percent. Comparatively, banking scored 61 percent, which is pretty good for an industry that isn't exactly the most popular.
A little bit of work to understand what your customers or potential customers want and offering yourself as a good resource can help you improve your customer service outlook and give yourself a competitive advantage.
First, Understand Customer Expectations
Many customers turn to online resources to find out the things they should anticipate during their remodel; usually these sites warn about delays and unexpected problems during the remodel like unusual plumbing and wiring. Dust and noise are hard to control, but this is a great opportunity to exceed expectations by taking an extra step or two and providing a little what-to-expect education beforehand.
Exceeding customer expectations is a strategy entrepreneurs should embrace, whether they run an auto repair, medical practice or remodeling business. Richard Branson, found of Virgin Group, says this is why his business stands out from the competition. If you are about to bid on a project, he says, "deliberately move your customers' expectations up a few notches and consistently over-deliver on your promises"
Use Your Proposal to Provide Customer Education
Begin offering customer education right from the start in your written proposal or estimate. Here are a few ideas about what to discuss that demonstrates your knowledge and experience and can help you shine:
- Timeframe. It's difficult to nail this down but if you're considering a project similar to ones you've tackled in the past, provide a sample schedule. Note items that can slow things down or build in time to address them. There's nothing wrong with over-delivering by completing a project ahead of schedule because you foresaw potential problems that did not materialize.
- Access to Specialized Equipment. Let customers know you have access to equipment that isn't part of the standard remodel kit. Provide links to specialized tools like lifts for second-story projects or insulation removal and installation. Explain why they will or might be needed.
- Discuss materials options. Customers want energy-efficient and environmentally friendly materials. Explain the differences between standard drywall and plaster, for example, and the different grades of insulation. Tell them about green materials you've worked with.
Don't Be Shy: Advertise Your Work
Remodeling magazine urges contractors to advertise and enlist past customers for testimonials. Start by sending thank you notes for trusting you with their remodel and ask if they would send a review you can post on your website.
Speaking of: don't shy away from online review sites. Register with Google, Yahoo, Yelp and Angie's List, which is highly recommended for its popularity with consumers. In addition, by registering with these sites, you can respond to reviews and ensure that the information out there is accurate and complete.