Building relationships with customers is a key part of any contracting business. Good relationship management skills will help you at every step of the way. You’ll need those skills to close deals, get paid on time, and bring in your next job.
The importance of building customer relationships goes beyond each individual customer: if you have a good rapport with a customer, they’re likely to spread your name to their friends. Word-of-mouth is the most effective marketing method out there. To help you develop good working relationship with clients, here are some tips for building customer loyalty, before, during, and after you’re done working.
Prove Your Experience
A good portfolio shows off your talents. But if done correctly, it can also help prospective customers imagine what it’s like working with you. Include lots of before and after pictures with clear explanations that help viewers understand the work you did. This helps prove that you know what you’re doing and makes people feel like the entire process is under control. Once they’ve “experienced” the process with you through projects in your portfolio, they’ll feel more comfortable getting started.
Building relationships with clients is all about creating security and comfort. Recommendations offer a shortcut. They let prospective clients feel like there are more people they can put their trust in and that they’ll be in good company if they work with you. With other people saying nice things about you, they don’t have to just take your word for it, which makes your efforts at building relationships with customers that much easier.
Get Your Paperwork in Order
You should easily be able to show your customers that you don’t cut corners. The most fundamental way to do this is to show them licensing (when relevant) and a certificate of insurance. Insurance for independent contractors is particularly important since you’ll be working in other people’s space and there’s a lot of room for accidents. Being completely prepared to show this kind of paperwork demonstrates that you are a reliable professional, which is the foundation for building relationships with customers.
Building good customer relationships is first and foremost about relationships between people. Nonetheless, learning how to build strong relationships with customers is the hardest part of the business for many contractors. Don’t be afraid to get a little bit personal. Make small talk, ask about their family and hometown and tell your customers about your own background. This helps them feel appreciated, helps them feel closer to you, and may even help you provide added value later on, if you can suggest adjusting your project to better meet the customer’s needs.
Even if you’ve been doing this for years, something new will always come along. People’s homes and businesses are very personal spaces and can get tied up with self-expression and identity. That’s why it’s important that people know they’re being heard. Results need to be high-quality, but they also need to reflect the client’s personal vision and you can only do that by listening. If a client says not to touch a certain item, or go into a room, be sure to listen and abide by their rules.
Of course, you want to close the deal, but not at any cost. Be upfront about the challenges of the job. Sometimes, being realistic about the budget and schedule will convince a customer not to go ahead with the project. Other times, it will convince them that you’re not trying a hard-sell and they can trust you with their time and money.
Do a Good Job
This should be the foundation of your approach to building relationships with customers. It’s probably the most important tip on here and is hopefully second nature by now. Do a good job, and customers will keep coming back. Produce high-quality work, and customers will tell their friends. Work hard, and customers will show their appreciation. Building customer loyalty is easy when they know you have their best interests at heart and produce results they couldn’t have imagined.
Make Customers Feel Special
There are a lot of ways to do this. One way is to offer lower rates and special deals across the board for returning clients. This gives people a financial incentive to continue working with you and makes them feel like part of an exclusive club. Another option is to go a more personal route. Once you’ve gotten to know a client, keep an eye out for ways to offer added value. If you spot a light fixture that perfectly matches a kitchen you renovated last month, send the client a picture. If you have a few days free, get in touch and suggest that it’s a good time to do a small project that might have been mentioned in the past. A little bit goes a long way to maintain customer relationships.
Staying in touch with your clients after you finish a job is a great way to solidify your connection. There are a number of ways to do it. Send a customer evaluation or even call directly and ask how they think the project went and if they’re happy with the results. If there was something small that bothered them, this will let them get it off their chest and clear the air. It also shows that you care about the quality of your work and haven’t forgotten them.
Ask For What You Want
Ask yourself what you want to get out of a strong customer relationship: is it an addition to your portfolio? Word-of-mouth marketing? Future work? Whatever it is, go ahead and ask for it. You don’t need to pressure your clients but when you finish a job feel free to say “I hope you like the results. It would be great if you could pass my name on or give me a call next time you need anything.” People like to feel like they can help others and it’s the easiest way to get what you’re looking for.
Learning how to maintain good customer relationships is a key to growing your business. Add some people skills to high-quality work and you can take your business to new heights.