The revenue contractors generate annually often determines the success of a construction business. Higher income gives contractors the capital necessary to expand operations and market their company to more potential clients. Earning additional sales, however, comes down to job quality and customer service.
Quality depends on the proficiency and craftsmanship exhibited by employees as well as trade contractors. Communication dictates the degree of service afforded to both current and former clients. The relationship a contractor develops with employees and customers, therefore, shapes the success of a construction business.
An ability to articulate the next steps of a project and adhere to a comprehensive schedule establishes integrity with clients. Contractors who listen attentively when interacting with customers become more equipped to address their primary needs and remaining concerns as the job advances toward completion.
“It boils down to just doing what you say you’re going to do,” says Shawn McCadden, a remodeling industry consultant and the founder of Remodel My Business, Inc. “Be proactive. Instead of waiting for your client to call you about something, why not take the initiative and give them a passing call?”
The assortment of communication channels available today enables a contractor to select the most practical and effective medium; for example, if a client paid $30,000 for kitchen cabinets, but the contractor did not have time to install the new interior doors as well and had to lean them against the wall, sending an explanatory text message before leaving the jobsite can prevent a possible misunderstanding.
“Let them know the next step. Let them know the night before that you’re going to have to shut off the water at 9 o’clock in the morning,” McCadden says. “Those things really show that you’re looking for a customer for life. You’re showing that extra effort. A lot of contractors are afraid to do that.”
Adopting the same approach with employees and treating them as valued contributors can cultivate a sense of purpose within the company. Contractors who try to learn more about their workers and consider all extenuating factors before making key personnel decisions improve the odds that they will become invested in the job.
“A lot of them being happy doesn’t hinge on money,” says Andy Lindus, owner and COO of Lindus Construction in Baldwin, Wisconsin. “As we get into a different generation of kids coming into this industry, it’s going to be even less and less about money. It’s about work-life balance and being able to enjoy the work.”
A company with content employees who take pride in their craftsmanship stands a much better chance at building a reputable business. Contractors must strive to understand their workers’ motivations and actively seek to resolve issues as they arise so the company can continue to provide clients with exceptional service.
“It’s listening to one specific question: What frustrates you most about your job?” Lindus says. “When they answer that question, you do everything in your power to make it less frustrating for them. It can be as simple as a new tool they needed, a different way we do the scheduling, how the materials get delivered or even how things get communicated.”
The best way to assess job satisfaction among employees as well as customers typically involves some form of surveying. Lindus says he has hired a third-party company to conduct a survey among his workers to make sure all of the responses stay anonymous so he can accurately gauge their temperament.
“I want to find out what they really think about me,” Lindus says. “Anything that an employee says is going to be a clue on how to make them happy.”
Encouraging employees to share their perspective allows a contractor to compile critical information about the business. The capability to take those insights and apply them in a manner that helps workers realize their untapped potential and also advance their careers will promote loyalty and longevity within the company.
“How does somebody go from floor sweeper, to apprentice, to carpenter, to maybe a lead carpenter in the future?” McCadden says. “How can that person go through the business? They’re not just going to take it for granted that if they stick it out there, they’ll advance and get more money, and it’ll be a better job for them five years from now.”
When receiving feedback from clients, contractors should acknowledge mistakes instead of trying to make excuses. A willingness to call customers months after finishing the job and rectify any outstanding issues can position the company for more work in the future with those same clients.
“Too many contractors want to defend why something happened—it’s human nature,” McCadden says. “You don’t defend what happened, you just simply accept it and say there shouldn’t have been any reason that [it] happened.”
Picking unique opportunities to follow up with customers can differentiate a contractor from competitors who opt for a more traditional route. Many businesses send greeting cards to their clients during major holidays, for example, but a contractor who sends a “birthday” card to customers on the anniversary of their project completion immediately raises the profile of that company.
“A Christmas card from the contractor just gets mixed in with all the other Christmas cards,” McCadden says.
Lindus says he pushes his employees to take initiative during the job and identify an unrelated task they can undertake for clients free of charge. In one particular instance, a crew even mowed the yard of a customer who was struggling with his lawnmower.
“I want my guys to find something they can do around that house that’s going to be extra, something that the customer didn’t pay for, i.e. getting some debris off their roof or washing the upper-story windows for them if we have ladders set up in that area,” Lindus says.
An expression of gratitude toward employees usually works best when the recognition occurs before a group of peers. McCadden says his former remodeling business would post client testimonials of individual workers on the storefront of the showroom so that both consumers and employees could read them.
“I don’t think enough business owners are thinking about the people; they think about building stuff, [and] they think about the numbers in their business,” McCadden says. “[But] employees don’t leave businesses—employees leave their bosses.”
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