Are your customers telling you the whole truth?
Problem resolution: How do you handle the unexpected?July 31st, 2019 by
For home service and residential construction professionals, hard data is a great way to understand what customers expect and value when it comes to their homes. That’s why GuildQuality and Qualified Remodeler partner each year to analyze real feedback from over 100,000 homeowners.
The valuable insight we receive from our survey respondents helps us present timely recommendations for home service pros, builders, and remodelers to use to advance their businesses.
This year, the top three customer priorities were trust, value, and problem resolution. Check out our recommendations for ensuring consumer trust in your business, and then keep reading here for our take on problem resolution.
The top three reasons a construction job can go awry
If there’s one area where Murphy’s Law seems to come into play a little more often than we’d all prefer, it’s residential construction. You can work out a schedule with a homeowner, but the unexpected almost always pops up in some form or fashion.
Most homeowners recognize that you don’t have control over every single variable. But delays and unforeseen expenses are frustrating and can have a negative impact on your customers’ experience if they aren’t handled appropriately.
Even if you can’t anticipate every hiccup, one of the first steps toward developing a problem resolution plan is knowing which issues are the most common:
- Scheduling errors with suppliers and subcontractors
- Inclement weather
- Truly unforeseen circumstances (e.g., hidden structural issues, jobsite vandalism)
As we discussed in our blog article on fostering consumer trust, transparency is an essential building block of a solid client relationship. Emphasize transparency from the very beginning, before work starts.
Make sure that your customers understand the issues that might arise over the course of their project. If possible, pull from your knowledge of other, similar jobs you’ve completed in the same area to give your clients some concrete examples of problems they might encounter.
Customer communication tips for when things go wrong
A truly seamless, uneventful construction job is a rarity. What matters (and what makes a significant difference in your company’s customer experience) is how you resolve problems. Ultimately, you know your business and your clients the best, so tailor your responses accordingly. Our list, however, will give you a good starting point.
1. Under-promise and over-deliver.
You’ve probably heard this maxim before—it’s a common refrain any time customer service or customer experience comes up. Fortunately, it’s good advice.
When something unexpected happens during a job, give your client the absolutely worst-case scenario time frame for resolution. That gives you and your team plenty of breathing room to develop a fix or a new plan without rushing, which so often leads to mistakes. If the project gets back on track before the estimated time, your customer will be thrilled.
2. Be up front about the impact of change orders.
Homeowners do occasionally request changes once a renovation is underway, but what many people don’t realize is how significantly these change orders can alter a project’s timeline (and its cost).
Your work contract should include a clause that details how project changes are handled; be sure that you very clearly explain the specifics of that clause before a client signs any paperwork. If the customer moves forward with a change order during a project, make sure they understand exactly how their requested changes will impact the project’s overall scope and timeline.
3. Focus on a solution, not blame.
When things go wrong, it’s tempting to sort out who’s at fault, especially if the blame doesn’t lay with you. But the reality is that your client probably doesn’t care who messed up—if you’re their primary point of contact for the job, you’re going to receive the brunt of their frustration.
Try to empathize and let them know that their frustration is completely warranted, but keep the conversation moving forward in a positive direction. Explain the details of the solution you’ll implement, and give frequent updates to keep your customer in the loop.
Communication: the key to problem resolution
Even with advance planning, a problem or two (or possibly more) will almost inevitably arise over the course of a home improvement or renovation project. We always hope that these issues are small and don’t throw off the entire job, but regardless of the severity of the problem, you need to have a plan for resolution.
Check out our tips below for ways to maximize positive communication and prevent your customers’ great experience from turning negative. Always remember that each customer and project is different, so use your best judgment in every scenario.
- Stay in close communication with your suppliers and subcontractors.
- When scheduling issues arise, alert your customers immediately and let them know how (or if) the job timeline has been impacted.
- Discuss the possibility of inclement weather with your customer before work begins.
- If the project is scheduled for a time of year that often brings storms or other weather events that will disrupt the job, include extra days in the schedule.
- If delays occur, communicate with your clients to let them know when they can expect work to resume.
- Do your best to mitigate security breaches and safety issues:
- Ensure that the jobsite is secured at the end of every workday
- Hold regular safety training sessions for your team
- Communicate, communicate, communicate.
Of the above scenarios, problems that you simply can’t anticipate are the most difficult to handle. Sure, you can keep a secure and safe jobsite, but in most cases, for example, there’s no way to foresee structural problems.
Situations like these are when your communication skills need to be top-notch. Be available to your clients as much as possible, and give honest answers to their questions and concerns. If you don’t know the answer, be up front about that—and then work to find a solution.
The bottom line
Open communication between you, your clients, and your suppliers and/or subcontractors is the key to navigating problem resolution. Home improvements and renovations can be stressful, but clear, frequent conversations, emails, and text messages ensure that potentially negative experiences don’t wreck your clients’ overall experience with your company.