By Siobhan Ashleigh
How many horror stories have you heard about home contractors who didn’t do their job well? Invoice2go, a mobile app that allows small business owners to track work and get paid, recently conducted a study of 803 US homeowners that revealed more than 75% of people have had a negative experience working with contractors for home projects. Such terrible experiences have inspired consumer watchdog websites like Contractors From Hell.
According to the homeowners’ survey, a job badly done was the top reason for dissatisfaction, but not the only concern. For plumbing contractors, even if you do a job well, there’s a lot more to giving your client a positive experience, including communication, accurate billing, and convenient payment methods. Every plumber must establish trust with their clients. How? Ranking 2nd in the survey, a full 30% of homeowners cited lack of communication as a reason for their negative experience. To build trust, good communication is essential. Here are 5 tips to help you stay connected to your clients every step of the way:
Be upfront about the job’s timeline and any potential hurdles
Plumbing contractors aren’t traditional employees, so your client won’t be privy to every aspect of your business. Make sure you have more than a verbal contract and handshake. Prepare a contract that specifies deadlines and contingency plans in case something goes wrong. You can hire a lawyer to do this for you, or use an online template to help you build one, like this on Rocket Lawyer.com.
Be professional, but be yourself
From “How to Build Customer Trust” on Inc.com: Jerry Acuff, author of The Relationship Edge: The Key to Strategic Influence and Selling Success says “Every meeting should be a conversation, not a sales pitch. Spend at least half of every customer meeting listening. And make certain the conversation is substantive and about real business issues, not just office patter or sports chit-chat.” However, do get to know your clients. Be curious (to a point) about their lives outside of your business relationship. Don’t be afraid to ask, “How are the wife and kids?”
Provide a professional estimate before agreeing to take on the project
When clients are hit with unexpected expenses, chances are they won’t be calling on you again. This means you need to do your homework and be prepared well ahead of time with all expenses. Look beyond your own business – make sure any subcontractors you work with are also upfront about costs so you’re not having to pass on those surprise expenses to your client.
Most clients are tech savvy nowadays, so attach photos to emails to show your progress on the project. Use a receipts capture app to attach photos to all receipts. Be ready to break down all costs (materials, time, overhead, etc.) to clearly show what your client’s money is going toward.
Love what you do Former MLB player and manager Tommy Lasorda said, “If you love your job, you haven’t worked a day in your life.” If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing as a plumbing contractor, then why are you doing it? Sure, you’re going to have bad days. But overall, you should feel good about what you’re offering. When you value what you do, clients will pick up on your commitment and passion. It will further open your mind to meeting exactly what they need.
As a plumbing contractor, you must work at establishing trust right off the bat with each client you serve. Good communication is vital for this to happen. When you’re honest and open about every step of the project, clients won’t be left in the dark, wondering if you were their best option. Leave them with no doubts and no reason to not contact you again!
Do sweat the small stuff
Plumbing contractors don’t have a well-known company name behind them to help gain a client’s trust. When you work for yourself, you are the face and brand behind the company. So it’s all on you to ensure clients that you have what it takes to get the job done right.
We’ve all heard the phrase, “The devil is in the details.” That’s especially true for a plumbing contractor. Even the smallest of details can mean the difference between gaining or losing a loyal customer. According to a recent survey of 803 US homeowners, the top behaviors that positively reflect the credibility of a service provider are small things we might take for granted:
- Cleaning up after a job – 85%
- Showing up on time – 84%
- Presenting a professional estimate – 78%
- Collecting and providing receipts – 61%
You might be thinking this should be common sense, but when your schedule is full and you’re juggling family, budgeting, recordkeeping, and all the other nuances of your work/life balance, it’s easy to let some of these things slide. How can you ensure these simple things are rarely (if never) overlooked? Here are some tips.
- Clean up (and work) smarter, not harder – Before you begin a job, designate a specific place for all your tools and equipment so they’re not scattered all over the job site. This goes for tech-based jobs too. Laptops, headsets, thumb drives, CDs, etc. – keep them within reach so you don’t have to be up and down looking for them, which wastes time and adds needless frustration. For more physical jobs, clean up as you go if at all possible. Also, make sure you have the proper equipment to clean with. Think ergonomic, dependable equipment that doesn’t require a lot of fuss. This article from Dan MacLeod shares ten important principles when it comes to ergonomics on the job.
- Being prompt is not old-school – There’s no such thing as being fashionably late when it comes to a small business owner’s work. Woody Allen is credited with saying, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” Make it a point to always be on time. Be careful with scheduling jobs in the first place so you’re not overbooking yourself. It’s better to have a little down time between jobs than to have so much work you can’t make the client’s deadline. Use calendar apps on your mobile devices to set alerts ahead of start time so you’re not caught off guard and have plenty of time to prepare and travel if necessary.
- The power of a good-looking estimate – In the old days, handwritten estimates on carbon-copy paper were adequate. Not so much anymore. In the digital age, you need to be prepared to send estimates that are not only accurate, but look professional. Apps like Invoice2go allow you to do just that. You can add your company’s logo and email (or print) your estimate and send it to your client. Even better, this video shows how you can easily convert estimates to invoices with the same app so you don’t have to do everything twice.
- Don’t toss the receipts – For most of us, our first impulse is to toss receipts into a purse or wallet, where we plan to fetch them later, but lo and behold, they’re often lost to the ages. Designate a spot to store paper receipts for your job, like a zip pouch or other secure container and put in your receipts the moment you get them. If you just hate dealing with paper, use receipt capturing apps on your mobile devices to take digital photos of them. Either way, you’ll always know where they are so you can easily show the client where their money is going. Remember, transparency with billing is crucial to gaining a client’s trust.
- Don’t forget the legal stuff – In a perfect world, we could work and handle everything in our own bubble, but that doesn’t provide you any legal protection should you need it. Make absolutely certain your business is legit on paper – your business name is registered with the state, you’ve got a tax ID number and any necessary licenses and permits. That way, you’ve got some security should you ever come to a legal dispute with a client. The Small Business Administration has some great advice about these legal necessities.
While a job well done is the most important goal, don’t neglect the little details. Just one lost receipt or late deadline can keep you from securing more work. So, pay attention to the small stuff to establish more credibility, and the big stuff will be that much easier.
- Invoice2go is a mobile app that makes it easy for small business owners to track work and get paid.
- It’s the number one grossing business app in more than 50 countries
- Used by more than 200,000 customers to send $1 billion in invoicing every month
- Customers: Used by every type of business owner. (Contractors from landscapers, plumbers, electricians, and construction workers, to independent businesses like dog walkers, makeup artists, DJs and caterers, etc.)
- Available in 11 languages
- Website: https://invoice.2go.com