You’ve already done the hard work by landing the client. Between the countless meetings, the proposal, and the estimate, you’ve got a lot invested. This customer could easily become a repeat customer or a customer who refers others, so don’t let your gains fall aside as the project unfolds. Try these customer service strategies to keep happy customers through all the construction phases.
Cover the basics
Managing customer relationships in construction requires the right tools for client interactions. Those tools begin with the contract and the communications protocols. When you adhere to the contract’s reporting and notifications requirements, you get communications off to the right start. Both you and the client will benefit from having standards to follow so you can reduce disputes and protect your interests.
Your other tools include telephone, email, messaging, website, and project management software with its integrations to the schedule and budget. If your tools aren’t accurate and up to speed, your customer service is impaired right from the start.
Have a system
A customer service system puts the customer front and center. Without one, your efforts to manage customer relationships become hit and miss at best.
Start by keeping accurate customer information that can be easily called up to populate forms and customer communications. By using contact tracing to track client communications according to topic, you always have a record of interactions and know the status of each.
During construction, you have key customer aspects you need to track. For example, you want to know whenever you have an event that displeases the customer. You also want to know whenever your performance goes beyond the customer’s expectations.
You might use periodic surveys to capture your customer’s impressions. Alternatively, you could ask for feedback during regularly scheduled meetings. Once clients know you are looking for their input, they are more likely to offer insights to help you track issues and their resolutions.
Another option is using a reporting tool. If clients have a customer service report form with checkboxes that can be easily and quickly filled out, you can receive feedback more timely. Any of the survey tools available online might also do the job.
No matter what system you use for customer feedback, be sure to include all the customer touchpoints. For instance, you and your people likely interact with people from several different departments of a corporate customer. When working with homeowners, you often interact with at least two people. Getting impressions from the total client population offers the most accurate assessment of client satisfaction.
Define customer relationship risks
All construction phases of a project have customer service risks. If you identify those at the project’s start, you can avoid them by preventing them or not causing them. Some project types have more customer service risks during demolition and closeout. Others threaten your customer relationships more during the building envelope phases or during the foundation phases. Think about the “triggers” for customer complaints at each step of construction.
As construction begins, the increased noise, traffic, and other construction irritants will affect your clients and their neighbors. What can you do to reduce these irritants, or how can you help people prepare for them? As you near the closeout of each phase, what will make the client anxious? Do you have ample proof for percentage completion? Is there a budget line item you need to justify? What extra reassurance can you provide to the client to prove you are meeting their new scope changes? Near the end, have all the third-party systems checks met their goals?
Identifying the customer service risks before each phase allows you to predict customer pain points instead of reacting to them. Here’s where you can also build in safeguards custom-tailored to your client’s construction knowledge. A homeowner who has never built a home before will likely be more prone to misunderstand the process than a corporate client that does 10 builds a year.
Staff training is key
Your customer service efforts depend on everyone who interacts with your clients. You could always hope your gruff carpenter won’t get snappish when a customer asks an obvious question, but why take the chance. When your employees know what you expect in customer interactions, you set the tone of your customer service.
Think about the energetic message your company sends in the spaces between words. Do you seem accommodating? Or, do you seem standoffish and secretive? The tone of your customer service can affect the outcome of your customer interactions long before you even start talking.
Meanwhile, everyone on your team should know how to get the most accurate answers for different types of customer inquiries. You don’t need incomplete replies or misinformation adding to customer service issues.
Finally, keep response times top of mind. Ideally, you respond immediately or within an hour or two. However, the nature of the client inquiry will determine how much time it might take to gather the information needed for an accurate response. Tell the customer when they can expect an answer and follow through.
Improving your customer service takes some extra time and effort, but it’s well worth it in the end.