Have you ever looked at your balance sheet and wondered why you’re not profitable that month? Usually one or two jobs went bad — people didn’t pay or didn’t pay on time, or something on the job went awry.
There are ways to prevent that. Sometimes, for fear of saying no, a company takes on a job completely beyond its expertise, or it doesn’t put the money into the job that it should. For example, we do a lot of roofing jobs. The only way to get up that high is by scaffolding. And if the scaffolding isn’t done the right way, it’s a red flag for an OSHA inspection. The resulting fine could be three times the cost of the job. So we scaffold the way we should, and we charge for that.
Jobs Gone Sideways
Of course customers don’t just halt payment out of the blue. There’s always an inkling. Sometimes, at some point in the job, the customer becomes unreasonable. The next thing you know, you’re no longer speaking. That makes the situation much worse.
Should you take every job a salesperson can sell? No. That said, I’m willing to take on most clients, and to do difficult or complicated jobs within our area of expertise. We get a lot of jobs nobody else wants. Making money is all about pricing them correctly.
I’m also willing to take on a job even if the customer shows him or herself to be unreasonable. Not because I think that person will stop being unreasonable — someone who’s difficult to begin with doesn’t get any easier to deal with — but because we manage those situations.
Every neighborhood has a pain-in-the-neck homeowner. You simply have to recognize who those people are and have a system for dealing with them. No matter how they behave, proactively communicating with the homeowner prevents most problems from becoming disputes. If the problem does become a dispute, a written process for resolving it — ours is Certified Contractors Network’s 10-step dispute resolution process — lays the matter to rest.
Our goal is 100% client satisfaction. With that promise in place, there’s no such thing as communication overkill. However homeowners want to communicate — phone, text, email, notes left on the job — we update them regularly (using a contractor messaging service) and immediately make them aware of any issues that arise.
Those pain-in-the-neck customers often become the best referrals because people know that if you can make that difficult customer happy, then you can make anybody happy.
—Scott Siegal owns Maggio Roofing, in Takoma Park, Md., and is president of Certified Contractors Network, a membership organization promoting best practices. contractors.net
More REMODELING articles about customer service and dealing with demanding clients:
Client Point-of-View: Set at Ease: How one remodeler’s top-notch customer service turned an apprehensive couple into clients for life
Living the Nightmare: Some Customer Service Reminders for Remodelers
Solutions: Customer Care — How do you deal with difficult clients?