|Communication with your clients is vital|
There are a variety of ways you can do this. You can meet with them at the distributor’s warehouse to pick out a veneer flitch or specialty hardware item or invite them to your shop to discuss a detail or view the work. I have found by simply e-mailing progress photographs to clients they feel much more connected to the work they’re paying for. Consider things from their perspective. All do not grasp the full concept of how things are built, or even what you are building. Getting a glimpse of their work in your shop builds an excitement that spills into the day of delivery and final payment.
Finalization provides closure to the job with things other than just final billing. Satisfaction surveys, care and maintenance instructions, warranties and follow-up calls would be a few no-cost examples.
Small-cost ideas could include restaurant or spa gift certificates, handcrafted items, or a professional house cleaning after a dirty remodel. When final billing is the only thing you provide at the end of the job, you are basically communicating the relationship is over. For some jobs, this may be appropriate. If, however, you wish to continue the relationship with future work or referrals, consider implementing other forms of communication in the finalization stage.
Even when things have been clearly presented, some people still will not adhere to instructions. Therefore, you must do two things:
First, clearly outline to your client what you will be providing them and what their responsibilities are to you. This is why I recommend you implement all forms of communication available to you, and make it your standard practice.
Secondly, understand that everyone transmits and receives information differently (hence the importance of the first recommendation above). Knowing this beforehand will help you stay on top of the communication process. Look for a client’s telltale signs of when this breakdown occurs; ignoring your attempts to communicate, failure to make payments or sign approvals. When you see this happening, take the necessary steps to re-energize the communication.
Communication in the business world can be complex because contractual relationships are adversarial in nature. You cannot control how others will act. But you can minimize problems by learning to listen to your clients and presenting them with concise information they will be able to receive. But it doesn’t stop there. Communication also takes the form of being able to “read” your client’s tendencies when no words are spoken. Learning to decipher this unspoken form of communication will save you a lot of grief if you’re receptive enough to be aware of its presence.
In addition, some clients need more communication than others. As the saying goes, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease”. Squeaky clients need more thorough communication. Simply build that factor into the cost of the job as a component of the service you are providing. Your standard operating procedures should include using all forms of communication. You may not need to employ them for every job, but getting into the habit of good communication practice will always be a valuable asset to your business model.
David Getts is the owner of David Getts Designer Builder Inc. in Seattle.