Miscommunicating with a client is a common problem for contractors that can lead to disputes and lost profits. Communication is a learned skill that you will develop over time. But if you're a beginning contractor just earning your license and entering the workforce, the following tips can help you get off to the right start with your new clients.
1. Get It in Writing
California requires contractors to get a contract for purchases over $500. This means that you will be writing a lot of contracts from the very start of your career. Develop a standard contract template that's easy to fill out and includes all of the information that your clients need to understand the scope of the job.
A standard contract should include information like the address of the work site, your contact information, start date and time, the cost of labor, materials used, payment schedule, and information about how change orders are handled. Keep blank contracts handy either electronically or on paper so you can fill out a contract on the spot if needed.
Remember, contracts protect you and your client. Expectations put in writing can put a quick end to arguments. Use a contract even for small jobs. This helps ensure that you and your client will always be on the same page.
2. Start Relationships With Face-to-Face Communication
Meet face-to-face with new clients. Talking in person can help you and your client develop an understanding that can be valuable. When talking to a client, be personable. Look the client in the eye, and be truthful and honest. Don't say you can do a job that you're not sure you can do. Talk through misgivings with clients. This straightforward method of communication will develop client trust and make your job easier.
Down the road, you may need to use less direct methods to communicate with clients, like email. Do this only after you and the client have established a relationship and you both feel comfortable with one another.
3. Block Out Time to Answer Email and Return Phone Calls
Clients will email and call throughout the day while you're working on the job site. Those who don't hear back from you for a long time may become frustrated or lose faith in your abilities.
Block out time every day to answer email and return phone calls. If your time to return client communication is after the end of the business day, answer phone calls first. But never call a client late at night; wait until the next morning. If you simply don't have time to answer emails and phone calls, hire an assistant to help you.
4. Avoid Long Conversations Via Text
Text messages are rarely a good way to communicate with clients. Text messages lack all nuance and expression. What sounds harmless from your end can seem rude, angry or indifferent to your clients. Anything that requires more than a one-word answer should be addressed over the phone or face-to-face. Keep in mind that even simple communications can become complicated when discussed over text.
5. Use Technology
Set up a website for your services. On your website, post a page that discusses what clients can expect from you throughout the job, or write an FAQ that answers common questions you have to answer over and over again. Refer clients to your website to give everyone the same message.
The harder you work at being a contractor, the better you'll be. If you have more questions about how to best communicate with clients, contact us at Golden State Contractors School to further your business management skills. We'll be happy to answer your questions.