When a homeowner hires a contractor, it’s not just a business transaction. Rather, it can be the start of a long and mutually beneficial relationship. The challenge is that some homeowners have been burned, or they know someone who has. It can take effort to build up trust and establish a synergistic relationship, but these guidelines will help you get started.
The first thing to recognize if you want to know how to develop trust with clients is that trust is earned, not demanded. Keeping things transparent is a good way to start earning trust in business. Then, implementing best practices will create an atmosphere that fosters trust for years to come.
A starting principle is that you are more than just a builder—you are a business person. Why is this an important acknowledgment? Many contractors find their comfort zone in the work itself. It’s a way to express skill and creativity, and it’s a visible manifestation of accomplishment. However, the people skills and customer service strategies that build a business may be a little outside of that comfort zone. Remember, construction is the service you provide, but people are your business. So, it’s important to know how to build trust with your customers.
One of the key issues that causes friction between contractors and customers is transparency. Sometimes even the slightest impression that something underhanded is taking place is enough to weaken an otherwise strong relationship, but transparency can be a powerful trust-building tool. Transparency is needed in at least four areas:
An experienced and skilled contractor can always get hired at least once, but it is trust that will lead to repeat customers and referrals. No matter how skilled you are, people will hire you based on a “gut feeling” of whether or not you’re trustworthy. And if you have a team, the umbrella of trust extends to them as well. Even if a customer feels comfortable with you, if they’re put off by your foreman or employees, the trust umbrella fails.
Just as building a structure starts with a good foundation and the proper installation of the various components, building trust starts with good customer service and the implementation of best practices. How do you build trust with customers?
View yourself as a representative of your customer for the duration of the project. That means that you will use your knowledge and influence to protect them from harm and absorb any pressures in order to improve their customer experience.
For example, suppose a supplier tries to tempt you to make a “deal” that will benefit you but puts the homeowner at a disadvantage, putting your reputation on the line? The really business-saavy decision is to act on the client's behalf, because a satisfied customer who knows you are looking out for their best interests will hire you again and again.
People appreciate honesty. If you're forthcoming, even if something goes wrong, a client you've been forthright with is more likely to forgive, allowing you to make amends and keep trust at the foundation of your relationships with your customers.
Some homeowners try to secure specific promises from their contractor, whether about schedule, budget, or other aspects of the project. But it can be a mistake to make too many promises. A better strategy is to only make the promises that you know you can keep. Don't make promises about things that are out of your control.
It's also crucial to set the right expectations. You can do this by providing the customer with the right context when setting expectations. Otherwise, you could accidentally set yourself up to over-promise and under-deliver. Setting accurate expectations is also a key element in maintaining strong communication.
A contractor cannot be at the job site all day—or even every day. The day-to-day running of your business will occupy much of your time, and hopefully, you have more than one job going on at any given time. So how do you build and maintain trust with a homeowner? Easy—through good communication.
Set the right expectations in general around timeframe, pricing, collecting payment, financing options, and anything else that could potentially become a point of contention. Most communication breakdowns are a result of poorly set expectations. For example, a customer may have been under the impression they could make their final payment in four chunks over two months, but you're asking for the full payment at once.
Also, you can communicate how scope changes may affect the project. For example, you may find additional damage once you're removed shingles or siding, which can lead to additional costs. This should be addressed before you and the customer sign a contract. Clear communication around these and other issues can go a long way towards earning homeowners' trust.
Regular communication with your client accomplishes at least two things. First, it assures them that you are fully involved in their project, and second, that they are important to your business. In addition to staying in touch yourself, if you have a foreman or supervisor on-site, make sure that you maintain regular communication with them and that they know what you want to communicate (or not communicate) to the homeowner, so they can represent you well.
Many homeowners want to be involved. They want to know how things are done and how things work. So, don’t view their questions as a nuisance but rather as interest. Satisfy their curiosity, and when they need more work done, they’ll naturally turn to you.
One of the most effective ways to earn customer's trust is by making accurate measurements. This gives the homeowner more trust and confidence in your ability to accurately quote their job. Accurate measurements also prevent over-ordering, which saves the homeowner money and shows you're being transparent with your costs.
Another way to earn trust with homeowners is to use a model to help them visualize the project. Many people have trouble visualizing what their contractor is explaining to them. Using a 3D model allows you the opportunity to explain methods and solutions in a way the average client can fully understand. With HOVER, you can create an interactive 3D model of your project that can be used for accurate measuring, designing, estimating, and planning - and thus, building homeowner trust. Homeowners and contractors can schedule an appointment to consult with one of our representatives or sign up to create an account.