Client communication is always an important part of any business, and this is especially true within construction. No matter the work being done, the relationship between contractors and clients can easily be sullied by poor communication. Good communication results in a satisfied customer and success for your business, so it is crucial to consider the way you communicate with your clients. In this blog, we’re going to go over 5 areas to consider in establishing a relationship of trust with your clients.
- Establishing trust upfront
First impressions matter! When you first meet with a potential client, you are building a foundation of trust before you even take on their project. Be sure to showcase other projects you have that are similar to theirs. Show them your digital portfolio and explain to them how your past projects will lend you expertise to their project.
In addition, be sure to consider the words you use when you speak to your clients. While you may live and breathe construction, they do not! When you use industry lingo, clarity goes out the window. Your clients are less likely to understand what you mean, and they may not ask any questions, which can set the project up to be confused from the beginning.
- Consider your communication methods
When you analyze the way you communicate with your clients, consider the way you communicate. While texting and emailing may be the most convenient method to reach your clients, they can commonly lead to miscommunication and misunderstanding. The best way to speak to your clients is a phone call. In a phone conversation, you are able to share progress, give updates, ask them questions, and most importantly, explain things that they don’t clearly understand. Once the relationship is established and you feel confident in your client’s understanding of the project, an email or a text to give a quick update can be used. A general rule of thumb is if you can’t clearly communicate your written message in a couple short paragraphs, or if it results in a lot of back and forth messaging, a phone call or face-to-face meeting would be best.
- Use construction softwares and technologies
Working as a contractor means spending a lot of time in the field and away from your office. Having tools and technologies in place can be incredibly helpful to help keep you organized, as well as best showcasing your work to existing and potential clients.
Sometimes it can be hard to stay organized in tracking calls, texts, emails, client requests, or change orders. Using to-do lists on your phone or calendar apps can help you keep track of your administrative tasks and can remind you to send messages or make calls as needed.
Another way to utilize technology is construction softwares. Clients expect to be able to fully visualize a building that doesn’t exist, and to be able to analyze every detail. There are softwares out there that can help you do just about anything in construction. Software can produce 3D renderings of the project, which can help you showcase your ideas and designs better than sketches or blueprints, which can in turn impress your clients and secure projects. They can help you make accurate estimations and keep customers informed with the progress of their projects.
- Actively listen
Many of us think we’re good listeners, but in reality, research shows that we only actually remember between 25-50% of what we’re told. That said, it’s essential to practice active listening.
Active listening means that you seek to understand what the other person is trying to say, and that you are actively considering their point of view, not just what you think they mean. Try not to just sit there and absorb the information, interrupt the conversation, or speak over the other person. Focus on what they are saying, and try not to form a response in your head before they are done talking. When they are finished talking, ask questions or get clarification on things that are unclear. One of the best things you can do is rephrase to them what you’ve heard and understood. This will either confirm that you understand, or will give them the chance to correct you and further clarify any misunderstandings.
- Set clear expectations
All clients have different expectations when it comes to how they expect communication to be or how often they expect to have updates sent. Some customers are on the detached side and would rather keep communication to a minimum. They may expect nothing more than a written progress report of a monthly phone call. On the other hand, some clients expect updates multiple times a day and panic at every minor decision.
No matter the type of customer, it’s essential to clearly define communication expectations from the start. Clearly define how often the client can expect updates and reports, and define what channels of communication they can expect to hear from (like an email or phone call, as earlier discussed). Let them know what information you need from them, and when you need to receive it. This is also a good time to establish if there are any times of day that either you or your customer doesn’t want to be contacted.
Lastly, always clearly communicate when they can expect to hear from you, and always follow-through with that time frame! Many clients grow anxious waiting to hear from their contractor– contacting them when you say you will will help to ease that anxiety and create a greater sense of trust in the relationship.
Nothing can make or break a client-contractor relationship faster than communication. Always be sure to clearly set expectations from the front end and follow through with what you say you will do. Utilize tools and softwares to help keep you organized, and practice listening well and setting clear expectations to best set your relationships with your clients up for success.