Your reputation – it’s your single best asset. It’s what keeps your phone ringing with requests for new business. Anything that questions your reputation or the integrity of your business can be devastating.
In days gone by, a complaint to the Contractor’s Board, a licensing agency, or the Better Business Bureau were the primary resources that consumers had to share a grievance about a contractor.
Boy how times have changed! Today, an angry consumer armed with a smartphone, tablet or computer, can maim a contractor’s reputation in a matter of moments with a negative post to one or more social networking sites.
Technology can be a great thing. By the same token, negative posts by an angry consumer can be a reckless form of cyber bullying when deployed as a first step, rather than first dialoguing with the contractor. The key word is dialogue. It means that you need to be as interested in hearing about your client’s concerns as they are in sharing them with you. Avoiding conflict and shutting down communication are sure ways of propelling the matter into cyberspace, which, as you unfortunately may have already learned, can be almost impossible to undue.
Instead of spending tons of energy and resources trying to undue or “bury” an angry social post, consider spending a fraction of the energy communicating with your customer trying to resolve the matter before things go ballistic. If you can’t solve the problem together, consider bringing in an independent third party who can offer objective analysis and suggest ways to resolve the problem.
Avoid getting into trouble in the first place by employing the following steps:
- Planning – spend plenty of time making sure that plans, specifications and contract documents are clear and that everyone is on the same page before you begin a project.
- Manage Expectations – under commit and over produce. If you promise the moon and the stars, you better be ready to deliver them.
- Changes – there are the invariable “while you are at it” requests for changes. They are to be expected and can be favorable to you and your client when handled professionally. When the client requests a change, create a shop drawing, if necessary, a cost estimate and a written change order for their approval. Make them aware of any possible delays to the project.
- Communication – communication doesn’t just happen. You need to work at it. Reach out to your customer often for feedback on how things are going and to see if there is anything that you can do to make their experience more manageable.
- Quality Control – point out a mistake or problem to your client before he or she notices. Then fix it! That will build their trust in you, and ADD to your glowing and growing reputation…and bottom line!
Written by James Carey