Contractors deal with various challenges in their jobs, from materials procurement, project planning, crew management to the actual construction. This is why some contractors take critical steps to provide better services to their clients. One example is the contractor continuing education to help contractors renew their licenses.
Among all the usual responsibilities of a residential contractor, they have to work with diverse types of clients. To help you establish professional relationships with your clients, here are strategies when dealing with demanding clients.
Establish Clear Expectations
Here’s a fact: working with difficult clients is going to be a part of your job. But there are ways to avoid these instances by making sure you’re both on the same page from the beginning. This means laying down all your expectations since day one. Setting expectations from the very beginning of client relationships prevents complicated interactions in the long run. But you should also make sure you and your client clearly understand those expectations to avoid misunderstandings.
Before you get down to business with a new client, set an appointment to discuss and establish the details of the working relationship. You have to provide a clear walkthrough of what they should expect as the project progresses. This should include any relevant information or anything that can pave the way for potential misunderstandings in the future.
Although your client already has a brief background about your qualifications and services, it’s essential to discuss them personally. You don’t want your client to accuse you of misrepresenting your profession or your business. So before starting the budget, outline your professional background, types of project specialization, years of experience in the industry, services you’ll be performing, and your expertise with the project they’re hiring you for.
The project timeline is also an important subject to discuss. Most clients get disappointed when projects are left unaccomplished in a schedule they deem suitable. So make sure to establish project deadlines and a realistic time frame. To avoid confusion, be specific. Don’t simply give the date of the deadline. Provide them with a walkthrough of the estimated time frame for each project, including the demo, installation, painting, and other finishing touches.
The most critical area to establish clear expectations is the pricing structure. Discuss this with your client, including the payment terms, upfront fees, payment schedule, the due date of the final payment, terms for interest charges, an unpaid invoice, and late payments.
Once you’ve gone through all the information, put everything on paper. Make sure the client will read and sign the contract. This will serve as your protection for any future disputes.
Regular communication is vital in any client relationship. It serves as a preventative method against misunderstandings and potential disputes. When working with a client for the first time, you have to establish the communication style they prefer.
Address issues right away and provide immediate solutions instead of wasting time and money to look for a fix, which most bad contractors do. If done correctly, this will establish trust and your credibility as a reputable and transparent contractor. More importantly, don’t simply discuss the issues; inform them that you’re trying your best to meet or exceed their expectations to build their trust in you.
Allow Clients to Monitor the Books
Some clients simply want more control, which can be understandable depending on the situation. There are instances when the client wants to see the books, even in fixed-contract situations. This often happens if they’re too busy or make significant alternations during the construction, so the final cost ends up higher than what was stated on the contract. The increase usually ranges from five to 40%, with 15% as the average.
A great tip is to have a detailed cost-tracking system to allow the client to monitor how the changes will affect the final price. Remember, transparency is key when it comes to client relationships. It makes a big difference in building trust and making them feel treated fairly.
If the project involves a cost-plus contract, clients should have access to the contractor’s books. This way, they have up-to-date information about the budget upfront and the schedule of periodic reviews. During construction, give them a glimpse of the books so you won’t end up having a client criticizing your invoice.
Any contractor will have their fair share of experience with demanding customers, and the key is finding ways to reduce or eliminate these unfortunate customer experiences. This will improve the chances of improving your future client relationships, reputation, and credibility as a construction professional. Thus, make sure to follow the suggestions above to create more harmonious client relationships in the future.