Dealing with customers and clients presents its share of challenges. How you manage these challenges can set you apart from your competitors. But, before we get further into this discussion, let’s differentiate between customers and clients. Customers are usually homeowners, and clients are normally commercial property owners or managers. Both groups want to feel their service providers have their best interests in mind.

But, unfortunately, disagreements are a part of doing business, and every contractor must, from time to time, respond to a customer or client unhappy with their service. The unhappy client may even make demands on the contractor. As we all know, there’s a time to say, “Yes, we can do that.” And there’s a time to say, “No, we can’t, or won’t, do that.”

A29701_1Generally, customers and clients are reasonable and understand how the business arrangement works. Occasionally, something comes up that causes stress and leads to disagreements.

Build relationships on trust

Contractors who establish trusting relationships with property owners can always resolve disputes without affecting the relationship. Trust is the key. If you’re not trusted, everything else is difficult to manage and the account is in jeopardy of being lost.

Regular communication builds good business relations and reduces the potential of disagreements or disputes. Most disputes start with misunderstandings and can escalate if not quickly addressed and resolved. When an issue does come up, the best approach is let the complaining party know you understand their concern and that you will resolve it fast.

Many times listening to an upset property owner or property manager goes a long way toward easing tensions. Work to improve the confidence level of customers and clients. It is one of the most important things you can do to grow your business.

Successful contractors excel at customer service. The better you are at customer service, the better your business becomes. Take a serious look at how your company handles customer service and, if you don’t like what you see, put a plan in place to improve your processes.

Listen first

When faced with an unreasonable request or unjustified complaint, successful contractors act immediately. Then meet with the owner or manager and carefully listen to them. You cannot correct a problem if you don’t know what the problem is. Once you feel you understand what is bothering your customer or client, then you can respond. Explaining the facts honestly often resolves the issue right then and there.

Remember, perception becomes reality if you ignore a complaint from a customer or client. If the complaint is for poor performance, be honest with yourself. If you determine your company’s performance was not up to speed, correct it fast. This will show the owner you care about quality service. It also improves the owner’s confidence in your company, and that’s also good at renewal time.

If you decide the owner is being unreasonable, build your rebuttal carefully. Think out your response and be better prepared than the person making the complaint. Be respectful, but have your facts at hand and give a response explaining your position in a professional manner.

When, in your opinion, the complainant is flat out wrong and unreasonable, you have a decision to make. Consider it carefully. Is this account one you want to continue to do business with? Some customers and clients are more bother than they are worth.

Contractors worried about losing accounts that make unreasonable requests should evaluate their business plan and focus on improving their operations and marketing strategy. The best business relationships are based on trust, providing quality results and understanding each customer’s perspective.

Some Insight from LawnSite.com

You know that customer — the one who always complains, never pays on time and nit-picks every service you complete? And what about the one who fires you, but then changes her mind? That’s what LawnSite user David1332 faced recently, and he turned to others in the industry for advice on whether he should put this customer back on his route. Here are a couple of LawnSite member responses.

“If they come back to us, I re-evaluate their prices and raise them to adjust for nut tax, late tax, constant call tax or other headache tax so that if we get them back at least I’m sure we are making money. Also, it’s a good time to talk to the customer regarding problems you have had in the past.” — bigred562

“If you don’t feel comfortable working for her anymore, just politely tell her that her spot on the route has been filled and thank her for her past business.”

Continue this discussion on LawnSite: Customer Who Fired Me Wants Me Back