Why do clients have to be so difficult? It doesn’t matter if you are in construction or give out free popsicles during the summer, there seems to always be some issues with customer satisfaction. You’ve been doing this for years and you not only know what you are doing, but you do it than others. You are upfront with your work, what’s going on and you keep the majority of your clients happy.
So, why is there still those one out of ten or twenty of fifty customers who seems to just lose their minds with you? They ignore all logic, start acting out of control and unprofessional, they believe that everyone is being dishonest with them, and the work isn’t getting done or done correctly. How can you handle these, and even the good clients better?
Why Clients Become Difficult
Before you understand how to improve customer service you have to understand why your customer may have become so difficult. Often times it comes down to four possibilities, buyers remorse, didn’t understand the agreement, they did not handle their end of the bargain but refuse to see it that way, and they have an actual personality issue. While it’s impossible to make every client happy, there are things you can do to improve your management of both them and the easier clients.
How To Manage Them
The key thing in customer management is to put it all in writing. It doesn’t matter if you spend five hours in person with the client going over every aspect of the job, if they do not understand something down the road and think that you are wrong, your only way to show you went over it is with email. Even if you do have a call or meet with them in person, follow up with a meeting recap so that you have the written information right there. When managing difficult construction clients, the best places to focus on are:
- Communication: The most important aspect of managing difficult customers is to have good communication. This means calling them, talking to them about updates, following up with emails and more. Make them almost avoid you because they are tired of you constantly giving them updates and going over things with them. Often, customers get upset because they are not aware of why the campaign is struggling or not where they expected it to be and being proactive can defuse a situation more than being reactive. Talking with them is a great way to keep them happy.
- Keep the site clean: One of the most valuable tips contractors learn after years is to keep the job site clean. This is not only smart for safety reasons, but when the client sees the job site it gives them a better perspective of the progress and calms any nerves they may have for the project.
- Talk to the neighbors: Construction projects create a lot of noise, dust, debris and traffic issues. If you are working in a residential area, this becomes, and even bigger inconvenience and neighbors can have a major impact on your progress. A happy neighbor can keep an eye on your materials for you, stay out of your way and even become a client themselves. An unhappy neighbor can call the city repeatedly, complain to your client and more.
- Build a calendar: A digital calendar is a great way to share information and build a schedule with your client. They do not have to wonder what’s going on if they can easily pull up a schedule and see what’s going on. It’s also a great way for you to share updates that may cause delays. For example, if you were pouring concrete today but the weather wouldn’t cooperate, you can leave a note on the calendar so that the client knows why the date got moved.
The simple fact is that the only way to prove that you gave an update or told the client something in advance is to have it in digital form and show that it was sent to the client within a reasonable time. If you cannot show that, it doesn’t matter how many times you said something because the client can just disagree with you and there’s no way to win that argument. Don’t be afraid to be a little forceful with demanding responses including getting signatures and so forth. This ensures your updates and communication is being received and understood.
Resources To Use
There are dozens of resources you can use to manage your clients. Perhaps considering a project management tool as well that will send them updates via email and allow them to communicate with your company as well. Ideally, you want to be able to show the client what you are doing, with details, when you expect to be done and when they can expect inspections to pass and so forth. This communication may be tiresome, but it greatly lowers the difficulties you could have if the client misunderstands or simply forgets something. Consider using these tools to start:
- Google or outlook: These are great resources because they can work with your email account, making it even easier to keep track of important information and meetings. Google gives you several additional tools and file sharing abilities that may make it easier to keep track of information and ensure everyone has access to what they need.
- Foreman inspections every day: Most contractors are going to say that they already have their foreman walk through and check the job site but usually that means they are just making sure things are somewhat clean and there aren’t any important tools or materials laying around. A real inspection means that they look over every aspect of the work that was completed that day to ensure that it was done correctly to avoid delays further down the project.
- Electronic signatures: When sending important digital information to a client, requiring electronic signatures is a good idea. This ensures that the client cannot claim they never got your email or didn’t approve anything that you started doing or requested for the project.
- Set reminders: A great way to make sure everyone is on schedule is to set reminders for both you and the customer. For example, of you schedule a subcontractor for next week, you set a reminder for yourself so that you remember they are coming, as well as the client. This way they are not thrown off and interfere with the tasks of that day.
Construction customers are some of the toughest to deal with because of the money and time that goes into each project. It’s a relationship that can take up months and hundreds of thousands of dollars. That’s going to be tough on anyone and your patience is going to be key. Remember to try to be communicative with them, telling them everything on the phone, in person and in writing so that they understand what’s going on. This will eliminate confusion that could lead to challenges with the customer.