Well-established general contractors know that the keys to long-term success are found not only in their team’s craftsmanship but also in the reputations they build through positive relationships with their customers and communities. With more people working remotely than ever before, your customers are now more likely to be at home throughout the process of a repair or renovation, which means you and your employees have more opportunities to engage and build stronger relationships with them. And better connections with customers help to build a stronger reputation for you, as well as a higher likelihood of word-of-mouth recommendations to their friends and neighbors.
But a solid reputation isn’t limited to customer interactions alone. It’s also directly related to best practices in customer service, being present in your community and more. Here are 10 tips from the field to help keep your reputation as sharp as your work:
- Be mindful of how you communicate with customers.
Maintaining clear and frequent communication with your customers from first contact to final walkthrough instills trust and demonstrates your professionalism. You or your project managers should start by listening to your customer’s needs for the project and presenting an estimate or quote that is detailed but easy to understand. Then, sit down with your customer to review the project plan and adjust scope or costs before getting started—and be responsive to any questions or concerns. Doing this will put your customer at ease and establish clear expectations.
- Share your product and material expertise.
Material decisions in a construction or renovation project are often some of the most consequential to the finished look—but they can also greatly affect the budget. Discuss these decisions with your customer and offer your professional expertise to help guide them to suitable alternatives if the first choice is out of budget. It will invite their trust in your professional knowledge and experience. It will also help create a dynamic of collaboration, providing you with an opportunity to guide decision-making while ultimately leaving choices up to them.
- Maintain an orderly worksite.
A messy worksite is not just unsafe. It can also suggest to your customer that your team is unprofessional and instill doubt about your craftsmanship. Construction and renovation work is often hugely disruptive to your customer’s family life—especially kitchen and bathroom work. Keeping the worksite organized lessens the impact the jobsite has on your customers and directly affects the perception of the quality of your work.
- Acknowledge your customer’s pain points.
As mentioned above, the disruption caused by home construction and renovation can be a real pain to your customers, particularly if they’re a family with young children. If their kitchen is out of commission, treat them to a gift card for dinner at a local restaurant or an evening out at a local movie theater to ease the inconvenience. Simple gestures like this can be a real customer service differentiator from your local competition.
- Hire new recruits for their soft skills.
The labor market in the trades has been tight for quite some time and that means business owners have had to rethink how they recruit and hire. Many leaders have discovered that hiring apprentices with the right soft skills gives them a head start when training for all aspects of the profession. A positive attitude, strong work ethic and trustworthiness set a good foundation for trade skills training, and these same attributes are essential for above-average customer service.
- Turn your star players into coaches.
One of the best ways to teach any new skill is by providing a good example. Choose members of your team that exemplify both the trade skills and soft skills that have made your business a success, then position them as mentors to your new recruits. Using this strategy will create a consistent and reliable customer experience and give your trainers a sense of value and a stake in the success of your business. You can also engage exemplary trainers in your recruiting efforts, as they will likely identify candidates who have a similar work ethic.
- Stay current on design trends.
Customers are frequently inspired by the latest design trends in materials, textures and finishes. As a value-added service, keep your team up to date on the new products and installation techniques to speak knowledgeably about them and offer your customers guidance in their decision-making process. This can help bolster your company’s reputation not only for its solid craftsmanship, but also its knowledgeable and helpful professionalism.
- Partner with your local trade schools.
Connecting with local trade schools on course development, curriculum and hands-on training experiences helps guarantee that both the hard skills and soft skills taught in the classroom meet the needs of your company and other trades businesses. Plus, when students graduate, they are primed for success, and you’ve already established yourself as an attractive local employer that is invested in their community.
- Get involved in your community.
Work with your team to identify a local charity or two to support and reserve time for fundraising or special events. Supporting local charities is good for the health and well-being of the community you live and work in, and it increases your visibility, fosters team building and creates opportunities for connecting with new customers.
- Show your community connections.
Using your social media channels and advertising to promote your community connections helps draw attention to causes near and dear to you and your employees. It also helps establish you as a supportive partner who is invested in the well-being of your community. Still another benefit is recruiting and hiring, as your affiliation with each charity makes you a more attractive potential employer, especially among Gen Z prospects who place high value on company culture.
The final takeaway
Every interaction you and your team have with a customer or community member is an opportunity to make a good impression that will strengthen your company’s reputation. Teaching your team how to connect with customers and encouraging community involvement allows you to take a proactive role in building your reputation. It also leads to a business that is driven by customer recommendations and word-of-mouth, which are the greatest indicators of success.
HOW-TO SERIES: STRENGTHENING YOUR REPUTATION
By Ashley Luke, Senior Product Manager, Shurtape Technologies, LLC, parent company of T-Rex® Brand