Happy customers tell 3 friends – Unhappy customers tell GOOGLE.
With the growth of the internet and social media, your business information is now on tap all the time along with its reviews and feedback from your customers.
Online ratings are slowly replacing word of mouth recommendations. For that reason customer service has never been more important as it is today. Coupled with the backing of a standards-based bodies (such as Onlinetradesmen.ie!) to validate your skills and qualifications, these should be a necessity for every serious tradesman.
While your skills may be first class, it's how you treat your customers before, during and after a job, that will set you apart and allow you to prosper.
But there is no need to fear these developments. In this blog we outline some basic tips on how tradesmen can embrace them and improve their general customer service, their online reputation and deliver a satisfied customer. No matter how high your opinion is of your services, we're pretty sure that there is something in here for everyone (no matter how good!). Read on...
On every project, how you start sets the foundation for how the rest of the project will progress. For starters it is essential that you arrive at the agreed time. We know - that's seems like basic advice, but its very much key and some tradesmen still don't practice it!
By now every customer has heard the same old worn-out excuses 'the dog ate my homework', ' My granny died' etc.', and they just don't wash. Not only that , they will sour the relationship from the very start and kill any goodwill or trust. So make it easy on yourself.
If you are genuinely delayed for a job, make sure you call the customer and explain the situation honestly. In the main people are reasonable. If you got held back on another job explain that you don't want to leave that customer in a bind and apologise to your customer. In most cases they will appreciate your dedication to customer service as it will also apply to them.
If you have agreed a project timeline and duration with a customer, they have every right to expect that you will dedicate yourself to them for that timeframe. However, most will also understand that you might need to visit a prospective client during their project to try to close your next job or might need to revisit an issue with a previous customer. Let them know well in advance. Most will see that it is normal business practice, so just be honest!
If you’re available on social media or by email, the customer may resort to contacting you via these channels if you aren't answering your phone. And guess what ? These communications are in the public domain - so make sure to reply in a timely and professional manner.
Whether it is through the OnlineTradesmen.ie quotation system or direct with the customer, how you handle the quotation process can win or lose you the job.
When you are quoting for a home improvement job, make sure you include the following:
Professional letterhead and logos,
Estimate of timelines,
Cost breakdowns (where possible on bigger jobs),
Details of any scheme rebates or equivalent,
Information on your standard warranty.
Where required, include a link to the portfolio of your work on your Onlinetradesmen.ie member website with your customer ratings or include a printed version. These ratings are an extremely powerful way to promote your business and differentiate you from your competition.
When finalizing the details of a job to be done we always advise that you enter a final contract with the customer for larger projects. Many tradesmen shy away from this, but a contract just documents the quotation process and provides both sides with peace of mind should things go wrong. You can download our home improvement contract template here.
If you want a personalised copy please just drop us a line here.
For all jobs regardless of size, give the customer a professional invoice with a clear breakdown of all labour and material costs.
Communication with the customer is key for a happy customer. Give them a daily summary before you leave the site of your progress, issues and any ideas you have that might improve the final outcome. Educating the client about what you are doing is an extremely effective way of keeping them engaged and on-side.
It's also important to listen to your instincts and tell the customer honestly if you think something is not going to look right. It will nip issues in the bud and prevents disputes down the line.
This is a tough one but most tradesman has come across that tricky situation at some stage. Whether it is something you have done to spark a dispute or an 'issue' that has come out of the blue, you need to deal with it early and decisively.
Bear in mind that only few clients are truly difficult, others are just frustrated or confused about the project at hand. So it's important to distinguish between the two.
Here are some steps to deal with it.
Communication is king! As above this really is key and you should liaise with your customer on a regular basis to ensure a smooth project and a happy customer.
Start the job by outlining a clear picture on how their home will look after the project. This helps get them on the same page as you with a clear end goal in sight. It's is a simple but hugely successful strategy.
Walk them through the process of how the project will be delivered on a step by step basis. This way they will get an idea of the scope, the likely disruption it will cause in their homes and the timelines involved. It helps prevent any uneducated criticism part way through the project (see the below).
Review the progress regularly with them to address any concerns or niggling issues. It also allows you to gauge how you are doing and if there are any change requests to the project scope. This is the best policy for all involved.
For many projects it is a given that there will be mess, dust or worse generated within the house for the duration of the project. You should explain this to the home owner in advance. Even still, it can often be a source of frustration for them so it is up to you to minimise it. To do that you should:
Advise the customer to move precious items
Use dust sheets to cover furniture
Always run the vacuum around the site at the end of each day
Remove any waste at the end of each day
Arrange for a cleaner (at their cost) to do a through clean at the end of the job
These are small things, but they are important. We also advise that if you are using their facilities to respect them as you would your own.
If things do start going wrong, its important to hear the customers version thoroughly (even if they are just venting) before you intervene. Unfortunately sometimes a customer complaint can be for external reasons (relationships, life etc.), so once the complaint has been heard it's often easier to deal with on a reasoned basis. Once you have ascertained the reason and validity of the complaint, you can handle it properly. And maybe it should never have arisen in the first place (see the above communication tips).
If the complaint is genuine and something that was contracted for but has not been delivered to the customers expectations, then you are normally better off in getting to an agreement to revise your work. Not doing so can result in an ongoing dispute, damage to your reputation and potential legal costs. We are certainly not saying you need to lie down here where you are in the right, but in our experience there are a few scenarios and best practices you can take:
If it is obvious that you are at fault, you should fix the work as soon as possible at your own cost.
If there a dispute as to cause with the customer and tradesman both pointing fingers, you should remain calm and ask the customer for a written detail of the complaint. If there is a contract in place you can refer to it to compare the complaint against the agreed deliverable. In the absence of a contract you will need to refer to any other documentation that you have in place. Reply back to the complaint in writing (email or letter) in a courteous and professional manner with the detail of your findings.
Heat of the moment comments / accusations are your enemy in these situations. We advise that you walk away, review the comments objectively and ask for input from a colleague or from us here at Onlinetradesmen.ie (if you are a member). Ignoring a complaint or walking away from the project is not an option - the resultant feedback has the potential to follow you for a long time and may result in further action. In the worst case scenario mediation may be required, but often the issues can be resolved over a cup of tea and by focusing on the facts.
As before getting good online ratings are now essential. On the Onlinetradesmen.ie system the customer be validated before they can leave a rating - so always remind them to do this for you. It is best to do this while you are all basking in the glory of their new kitchen or home extension etc. You can check your Ratings and send a reminder to a customer via your Ratings Dashboard
We also recommend that you leave a business card with them with your OnlineTradesmen website details so that their friends can review your work and hire you.
A simple courtesy call a week or even a month after you've finished a job works wonders. Even if it means returning onsite to finish up few snags, you'll delight the customer and generate great referrals for your business.