Communication advice for tradespeople
Reading time: 5 minutes
We all know about how important good communication is - but what does good communication with customers really look like?
Communication skills are vital for a tradesperson, but don’t worry - that doesn’t mean knowing exactly how to use apostrophes or when to use “me” instead of “I”.
What your customers really want is:
- All the information they need, when they want it, via the method they want it
- For you to take the initiative, so they don’t have to constantly chase you up
- To know that you will be available to them when they need you
Communicating like this can win you more work, avoid common problems - and probably help you get paid on time. And we all like to get paid on time.
Here’s a fun fact: 95% of customer complaints received at MyBuilder are settled through mediation - just by getting both sides to communicate. Communicating from the off would have prevented those complaints - and may even have nipped some of the other 5% in the bud, too.
The first thing you want to do is win the job, and responding quickly can go a long way to making that happen. As soon as you get a lead - a referral from a friend, a message on your Facebook, or from a job site like MyBuilder - stop what you are doing and call the potential customer.
Even if you’re up on a roof, or knee-deep in wet concrete, a quick call to let them know you are interested, but can’t talk just now, will keep you in the running. Set a time when convenient to call back and discuss the details.
The phone is king at this stage - if you don’t get an answer, leave a voicemail and send a text. Don’t wait for the customer to call you back, though - give a time in your message when you will be calling them again, and make sure you do that.
Keep this up throughout the job. Something that might seem trivial to you might feel urgent to them.
Lay good groundwork
Tell the customer how you intend to communicate at the quotation stage. They will likely be impressed, which can help you land the job.
For bigger jobs, a daily update on progress made that day, followed by what you intend to do the following day, is recommended. No need to go into any great detail, just the key facts.
Everyone is different, so agree with your customer how they want this information supplied - by phone, SMS, WhatsApp, email, etc. WhatsApp seems most popular these days, as it is quick and reliable, you can send pictures and see if your message has been read.
Separate to your update, report on any problems encountered as they happen. Even something small like running a few minutes late - a call will go a long way to buy you some brownie points. Being proactive is key - if you know the customer will raise it later, why not get ahead of it? It all helps to build trust.
Don’t proceed with anything not already agreed until you have received the go-ahead from the customer. If you’re agreeing to something on a phone call that will change the final invoice amount, put this in writing when the call is over.
For quick in-and-out jobs, a quick message the night before to confirm the job is still on, followed by another an hour or so before arrival should be enough.
Don’t leave things unsaid
What you say is important, but it is often what you don’t say that comes back to bite you. This starts with your quote; if you are not disposing of waste, for example, state that on the quote itself.
The same goes with payment; you might be expecting staged payments, whereas the customer might assume they pay a lump sum when the job is done. Agree before accepting the job when and how you are to be paid.
If you have any concerns or encounter any problems, raise them immediately. Honesty is always the best policy - lots of customers are sadly predisposed not to trust tradespeople, so do your best to prove them wrong.
The longer you sit on any issues, the harder they become to resolve. This also adds to your risk; you don’t want to keep working if there is a chance you might not get paid.
Making it happen
Once you have sorted when and how you are going to communicate, you need to follow through. Keeping track of who you have to communicate with, why and how can be a nightmare if you don’t have a system.
This is where your smartphone can come to the rescue. While tools like Siri and Google Assisstant may be annoying, they are very handy for setting yourself quick reminders. Take some time to familiarise yourself with how they work and get into the habit of reminding yourself to follow through with any promises made.
- Be proactive. Never wait for a call back; always do the chasing up yourself.
- Agree how often to communicate, using what channel, before starting work.
- Raise issues immediately, no matter how painful.
- Develop a system to help you keep track.
Get all these things done and you’ll be winning more work, have happier customers and less stress to deal with.