Repeat customers and client referrals drive new business for contractors more than any form of paid marketing or advertising. Prospects derived from past work typically are more familiar with a company’s services, fees and expectations, reducing the stress on price and increasing the likelihood of a signed contract. How can contractors improve their bottom line in 2015 through repeat and referral business?
The ability to make a customer feel like the most important client regardless of job size strengthens the possibility of future endorsements. Contractors who heed the words of buyers and act on their needs, desires and misgivings exhibit a level of professionalism that fuels positive reviews and enthusiastic recommendations.
“You have no clue where new referrals will come from, so you need to treat each client with respect and give them your full attention,” says Chuck B. Edwards, PLA, landscape architect for Breckon Land Design in Garden City, Idaho. “If you treat a client like ‘just another sale,’ that is how they will feel when the job is done.”
A concerted effort to engage customers and address their conflicts with the job schedule often distinguishes a contractor. The capacity to regard each home as if they lived there also helps foster substantial relationships between contractors and their clients, who appreciate the empathy and consideration.
“We see and speak with the customer daily so that we form a bond,” says Bill Einhorn, landscape architect and owner of Landscape Design Associates of Westchester, based in Carmel, New York. “We also try to treat their home like it was our own — we keep the property very neat and organized every day and don’t leave a mess.”
Follow up routinely
Regular communication with past clients ensures a contractor remains accessible if they want to explore another renovation. Contractors who make sure to answer questions from previous customers and decline to charge design fees for subsequent work earn a greater chance of securing additional jobs.
“We try to treat customers the way they want to be treated,” says Courtney Little, owner and president of ACE Glass Construction in Little Rock, Arkansas. “We also make sure to follow up on any warranty issues immediately.”
Encouraging clients to submit a sincere assessment of their job to popular websites such as Houzz enables a company to receive publicity and feedback without the cost of a third-party survey or similar service. In fact, many contractors discover that providing direct incentives to patrons for job leads often fails to generate more customers.
“I’ve tried offering gift certificates, but it never increases the amount of referrals,” says Edwards, who estimates more than 75 percent of Breckon’s residential business comes from repeat customers and client referrals. “I encourage my clients to write an honest review of their experience with me on the website Houzz, and to keep me in the loop if they ever have any questions or concerns.”
Partnerships with other construction professionals create even more opportunities to gain additional jobs. Contractors who contribute to the work of another company when called upon and perform well alongside other professionals tend to be recommended for future employment when a particular job calls for their specific kind of labor.
“When we build residential communities, we employ engineers, excavators, carpenters, electricians, pool builders, masons and others to work with us collectively,” says Loring Evans, landscape architect and president of Montgomery Inc., based in Meridian, Idaho. “Companies that choose to keep all work under one roof limit their possibilities.”
Participation in community activities also allows contractors to maintain their presence among potential customers. This interaction gives a company the chance to promote its goods and services to numerous homeowners without the pressure of discussing a price or determining a timetable for possible jobs.
“Our goal is to begin a customer communication system this year where we stay in front of our clients more frequently,” says Little, who characterizes ACE’s consumer strategy as the “Platinum Rule” as opposed to the Golden Rule. “None of our competitors seem to be taking that approach.”
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