8 Tips to Improve Your Contractor-Client Communication Habits

Busy contractors spend most of their day out in the field where they work more with tools than with people. In a busy day, customer communications can easily fall by the wayside, leading
to poor client relationships and customer disputes. These tips will help you avoid disputes with customers and develop productive relationships with your clients.

Talk First, Email Second

Email and text may be fast and convenient, but unfortunately, these electronic modes of communication lack the tone and nuance that people rely on to convey meaning. Conduct initial communications with clients in person or over the phone to avoid misunderstandings. Once a client relationship has been established and the project is underway, email and text can be used to convey short messages as needed.

Use Technology Wisely

Many contractors, especially those who work solo without employees, have a hard time tracking callbacks, email messages, change orders and client requests. This is how handheld devices like smartphones and PDAs can come in handy. Use calendar apps and to-do lists to streamline your administrative tasks and remind yourself to make call backs as needed.

Set Aside Time to Check Messages, Return Phone Calls

Set aside time every single day to call back customers and read and return email. Doing this helps prevent misunderstandings and disputes, and also signals to customers that you are well-organized. This instills confidence in your abilities and can prevent customer anxiety.

Tell People When They’ll Hear Back From You

Many customers can grow impatient waiting to hear back from their contractor. Telling a customer when to expect a call back or a reply about a question can encourage customer patience and understanding. If possible, set up an auto-response on your email account that tells customers what times of day you check email and when you can respond to customer questions. This stops customers from pestering when you haven’t answered a question.

Responding to customers at the promised time is very important. Following through with your commitments helps to reassure customers that you are trustworthy, capable and organized.

Hire A Part-Time Office Assistant

Many small business owners struggle to return phone calls and answer emails more than anything else. Finding the time to call clients or answer customer questions at the end of a long day can be too exhausting. For this reason, many contractors choose to hire a part-time assistant to track customer interactions and ensure that customer needs are managed. While hiring an
employee can be costly to the business, ignoring customer inquiries may be far more costly.

Write Descriptive Contracts

The state of California requires a contract to be signed for any project over $500. Contracts protect contractors and consumers by putting expectations in writing. Writing descriptive contracts that contain specific information about materials and labor costs, location, time frames, payment expectations and other details can help ensure that you will be on the same page with your customers. Contracts also give you protection when a customer disagrees with you about the project, your payment agreement and other important details.

Manage Customer Expectations

If possible, write a form letter that describes a typical construction project in detail. Use the form letter to answer frequently asked questions like:

Some of this information may already be included in the contract, but recording it in one spot can give your customers a useful resource that may cut back on phone calls and keep them informed.

Don’t Forget Change Orders

Change orders ensure that everyone is on the same page when the parameters of a project have changed. Develop a system for tracking changes and write change orders as soon as a change is proposed. Do not rely on verbal changes to the contract. Written change orders prevent miscommunications with customers.
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