Every contractor has had a bad experience with a difficult customer. Knowing how to deal calmly and effectively with complaints and questions will help reduce conflict, ease communication and reduce the amount of time you spend on admin so you can get back on the jobsite.
Communicate in Person
While COVID-19 places limitations on personal meetings, speaking face to face will reduce misunderstandings and miscommunications that can result from text or email messages. Have a written policy on how to deal with work crews in houses and personal meetings so that you abide by pandemic safety measures. Practice social distancing, provide PPE and hand sanitizer and meet outside whenever possible.
Get it in Writing
Many smaller contractors rely on verbal contracts. When disputes arise, there is nothing to protect you and you could be in for a long fight or a big loss. Always get things in writing. Offer detailed estimates (always charge for the time you spend on these) which the clients must sign.
If clients ask for additional work, or makes changes to the original plan, make it clear that these changes will cost extra. Offer to get them an estimate for new work or revise your existing estimate to reflect the changes. Always get clients to sign off on changes or revised estimates before proceeding with the work.
This kind of admin work is time consuming and you may be tempted to skip it and just get on with the job, but it will save you money and time in the long run.
Make Time for Communication
Set aside time each day to communicate with your customers and crew. You can explain to your clients that you may be busy on the jobsite during the day, but that you will get back to them during office hours. Set aside a couple of hours every day to sit down and return calls, schedule trades, update invoices and send clients update on progress. Taking calls on the jobsite or while you are busy with your day may result in miscommunication, forgotten promises and lost opportunities.
If your clients know they can get hold of you during certain hours, they will cause fewer interruptions to your day and will feel that you are available to them which reduces frustration.
Consider adding digital renderings to your estimate process. It is often very difficult for clients to visualize completed renovations or construction projects. Offering a 3D rendering helps them to see the finished product so there are no surprises and they are less likely want to make changes to the original plans.
If you feel yourself getting angry at a difficult customer, walk away. Ask them for a little time to think about the issues. This will give you a moment to regain your composure and look at the situations. Instead of disagreeing, offer solutions. Give them options for a way forward that is agreeable to your both.
Use these nine steps to resolve conflicts:
- Acknowledge the client’s anger.
- Show that you’re concerned and that you take the situation seriously.
- Let them explain the problem without hurrying them or interrupting.
- Keep calm even when the client says things you find objectionable. Focus on the issues.
- Ask questions. This shows you take it seriously and helps you to get all the information you need.
- Start talking about solutions. Suggest your own and ask them what solutions they can offer.
- Agree on a solution. Focus on the big picture and getting the job done quickly, don’t get tripped up by the small things.
- Agree on a schedule.
- Meet your schedule and then report back to ensure the issue is resolved.