We recently remodeled our house in Seattle. It was quite a large job which included replacing the roof, furnace, windows, doors, floors, and adding a new kitchen and bathroom.
In all we needed 8 specialist contractors to do the work and we needed it done quickly. While early summer is not the best time to request bids as it’s a busy time in the lives of contractors, I was amazed by some of these businesses lack of communication and marketing skills.
Channeling my frustration into some lessons learned, here are 4 of my takeaways from an experience that EVENTUALLY has helped us renovate a home we love living in.
Establish a Response Protocol
When emailing in requests for bids I’d like to think I was pretty thorough with the ask. I’d detail what we needed doing and within what timeframe, and wait patiently for an answer. Sometimes there would be none, sometimes it would take days and sometimes someone called or emailed within 24 hours.
Every business should have some kind of response protocol that ensures leads are dealt with in a timely manner. Every effort should be made to answer any questions thoroughly and use the opportunity to ask questions of the prospect to better understand their needs.
When being approached by a prospect, treat them with respect and know every action you take in early stage communication will be building blocks to a perception (positive or negative) they will use to decide whether they want to give you their business.
Don’t Treat All Customers the Same
For some reason many of the contractors we talked to seemed to be treating every customer the same and almost over-servicing them. By that I mean they didn’t seem to understand that some customers might require a lot of handholding and some (like us) didn’t and just wanted to know what, how much and when. We had a kitchen company and a roofing company insist on coming out and spending an hour with us to really understand our needs, “get to know us” etc etc etc. I understand that approach might work for some in establishing trust, but we were in a hurry and needed to streamline the process and get on with the project. Needless to say their approach also came at a premium so we didn’t use them as their customer service layer was adding more fat to their bottom line.
My point here is to have some kind of segmentation of your prospects. Ascertain early on if they need to be high-touch or low-drag. Not every customer will be the same but by personalizing your communication with them just a little bit, you’re more likely to establish trust early on and have a better chance of closing the deal.
Make Managing Expectations a Priority
You might be busy but you have to put your customer first and have empathy with their situation. As these businesses were contractors dealing with customers undergoing the upheaval of home renovations, making sure the managed their clients expectations should have been top of the list, but for many of them they didn’t give us the full picture of what their particular project process entailed and there were many surprises and fire drills to deal with because we had not been made aware of things we needed to consider.
A lack of planning and expectation management at the start of a relationship can lead to delays and frustration so making sure as part of the marketing process the process is outlined and clear to all parties can help mitigate issues arising further down the line.
Follow Up and Be Delightful
Most of the people we ended up hiring we found through cross-referencing reviews and information on sites like Angie’s List and Yelp. Not one. NOT ONE followed up to ask us how they did and asked us to write them a review or give them honest feedback.
How can you know if you have done a good job if you don’t ask? How can you compete in a digital world where 80% of purchase decisions start with a search on Google or Bing if you don’t take care of your web presence?
Word of mouth and social media drive so much consumption these days as people believe marketing less and less and turn to their peers for help and advice online.
Just one company, the guys who replaced our roof, followed up with a card saying thanks and a little gift basket as a token of their appreciation. That nice touch might have cost them 10 dollars but it meant a million to me and will repay itself over the years as I have already recommended them to several friends.
Everything I’ve talked about in this post is simply common sense in my mind. Making sure your marketing and business processes align to the situation your customer is in breaks down barriers of communication and expectation and instills trust from the get-go.
And it is trust you’re seeking to earn as a business. Trust that you can do the work, trust the work will be of sufficient quality and trust that earns dividends as your happy customers become advocates for your brand.
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@MelCarson – Founder of Delightful