One of the biggest mistakes we see new contractors make is trying to be everything to everyone. They want to keep ALL the customers and to never say “no.” After 15 years in business, I PROMISE, this belief will bring more harm than good. Don’t waste energy trying to make an unhappy person happy. Legal battles loom with unhappy people. Employees dislike working with unhappy customers. Define your business and put your energy towards your best customers.
What kind of company are you – and who are your ideal clients? Answering this takes work. (Hint: “people who need roofs” isn’t the right answer.) Drill deeper – what does your ideal client do? How much do they make? Where do they live? What do they care about? How have they struggled in the past? Consider what other clients besides homeowners might you be interested in? Realtors? Property owners? Property managers? Boards of homeowner associations? These are just a few defined customers of our company, and each has their own unique needs.
Now that you know WHO your ideal customer is – what traits do they have that make your life easier? Do they trust you? Do they ask a lot of questions? Do they show concern for their home and want to be sure your work is good? In our experience, when a customer apparently “doesn’t care” they’re more likely to complain behind closed doors than let you know there was something wrong with your work. We always want the opportunity to correct mistakes.
For example, our ideal customers are good communicators, they have pride in their homes, and they’re willing to spend more to experience the outstanding customer service our company brings to the table. They can be a bit overprotective of their home, but patience is easier remembering all the bad contractor stories we’ve heard over the years. They typically have very little experience with roofing and lack in-depth knowledge. Therefore, they need information from us like what we’re going to do, what we’re doing and what we did. Ignoring this need can damage their trust. Regaining that trust is difficult.
Ok, now we know what a good customer is – what does a difficult one look like? That depends on your business. My potentially unhappy customers are people looking for the cheapest option. Yours may be the ones looking for a lot of “hand-holding” from their contractor. The variety is endless. When a relationship suffers with a customer, always try to repair it. Attempt to clarify needs and answer questions. However, after tons of work, sometimes customers need to be set free.
Ok, you know the customer needs to go. Remember please, that letting go of a customer that isn’t a good fit, is a delicate matter. Since the outcome is that you will no longer work with them, try to release them in a manner that keeps you on the high road. Embrace the fact that you do not want to garner a poor review from this person.
Strive for a win-win delivery. “You know, Mrs. X, I can see that you care a lot about this roof and your home. After our time together, it’s apparent to me that my company is not a good fit for you. Nothing against either of us, sometimes people just don’t fit. I’ve included a few recommendations of good local folks that may be more to your liking (never leave them without resources). We wish you the best in your search and thank you for the opportunity to bid your project.” Most likely this will push your customer to WANT to work with you, (it’s happened) and you must remain firm, remembering the reasons that made you feel concerned. Worst case, if they won’t leave, then you bid their project in a manner that makes then not want to work with you. Be aware however, I’ve had people accept these bids.
Defining who you are and what you offer can be time-consuming, but it will pay off in ALL aspects of your business.
Saying no is better than trying to be all things to all customers.
Employees are happier knowing who they work for and what the company values.
Customers may not be happy, but if you gracefully decline, usually they leave respecting your company. At worst, they can only say that you refused to give them a bid. Whoever they’re talking to will most likely know why...lol.
Finding your raving thrilled customers will be the best form of advertising for your business.
Take pride in who you are and why you’re in business. Show up in unexpected ways for your ideal customers and in your community. Reach out if you need someone to bounce ideas off.
We’re all in this together!
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