Customer Service in Construction-Smashing the Stereotype
Contractors and the construction industry get a bad rep when it comes to customer service. You’ve heard it before; contractors don’t communicate, they drag out the project and they cost a fortune. Well, for some contractors this might be the norm. For those of us in the customer centric commercial construction sector, we’re anything BUT the norm. So why is customer service so important to us and what do we do to deliver on service?
It’s about building relationships
Stats tell us that 51% of customers who’ve had a bad experience won’t come back. Sounds like a pretty scary number; because it is. For our commercial customers that would mean in a year of 10 projects to roll out, they would need to hire a new contractor for at least 5 of those projects. When time is of the essence and the projects need to get done, and fast, finding a new contractor for half of the projects becomes an unwanted hassle. The goal should be to win a customer once, deliver on their expectations and become a trusted resource for a great quality project, consistently. This isn’t only good business practice for a contractor, it leaves the customer happy and wanting to work together again. Isn’t that what customer service is about?
Deliver on expectation
So what do we do to make sure our construction customers are happy? Understand what they need, provide a service to help with their need, and deliver on what is promised. It’s really as simple as it sounds, but in so many cases, the construction industry get’s it wrong. Delivering a project to a customer, on time, within their budget, and at their expected quality shouldn’t be a congratulatory feat. It should be the minimum standard delivered to every customer. Sure, things come up here and there on a project; change orders, weather delays or material delivery issues. But our job as a commercial GC is to manage the expectation of the customer throughout the project.
Offer creative solutions to make up lost time and keep overrunning costs down. Work with your team to put in some extra hours on site or increase manpower to shave some time off the schedule.
Provide value engineering opportunities to try to keep those extra costs at a minimum and make sure you have all your bases covered in your proposal.
Work with suppliers and vendors on material lead times. Make sure you know when you need material on site and how long it’ll take to arrive so you can keep your schedule in line with installations and deliveries.
Possibly the most notorious stereotype of a contractor is their lack of communication. “They’re not responding to my questions, they’re not getting back to me on time, why am I being ignored?” Some customers will need more assistance and communication than others, but every customer deserves clear, concise, and consistent communication throughout their entire project to manage their expectations.
Find out how your customer want to communicate with you. Not every customer likes to pick up their phone when you call, or texting feels too personal and emails can get buried in inboxes. Ask your customer how they would prefer to get in touch and adapt your communication avenue accordingly. You also need willing to change up your communication tactics when you’re working with several customers at once.
Transparency, especially when an issue arises is crucial in your working relationship with your customer. Hiding from a problem won’t lead to a resolution and your customer will appreciate that you were up front and honest about a bump in the road. Like we mentioned earlier, be prepared to come to the table with a solution.
Be responsive in a timely manner. Just like you don’t want to be kept waiting when you have a question that needs answers, your customer doesn’t either. Even if it’s going to take some time to get all your ducks in a row to provide a well thought out, detailed response, let them know you’re working on it and will get back to them when you have all the information you need. A simple “I got your message, I’m working on getting you an answer and I’ll be sure to send everything over to you when I hear back on it.” will let them know you’re not ignoring them.
The tips and tricks we’ve discussed seem simple enough. For the most part, they are. Treat each customer with respect, honesty, integrity and you’re more likely to receive not only respect in return but also a loyal customer and a great reputation in the industry. An industry with such high stakes and stress deserves a high level of service. While our take on service might seem out of the norm, we’re working every day to change the stereotype of the contractor’s customer service skills.