In the contracting industry, referrals remain one of the most vital tools of getting new business. Without good referrals, you'll be facing an uphill battle, so with this in mind, we provide the following list of things you should avoid doing if you want to keep that flow of positive references coming your way.
Think of these as the deadly sins, except instead of just seven, we've got a full dozen for you. Avoid these things and your chances of earning a sweet referral is significantly better! The detrimental dozen:
1. Failing to show up: This is as basic as it gets. Hell, remember that kid in high school who never participated in class, never handed in his homework and never did more on any exam other than sign his name? Well, he showed up every day and that was good enough to earn him a D minus! If you don't arrive when you said you were going to, everything else in your relationship with this client will likely go downhill very quickly.
2. Invoice more, but don't explain why: This is a very common practice, and nothing irritates a customer more. If you don't let them know in advance that you'll be doing so, and why you're charging more, you're simply not managing their expectations well, and that's going to leave them upset and unlikely to refer you to anyone.
3. Disrespect your customer: When arriving in the morning, don't just barge into the front door if you know they are home. Ensure the dog or cat doesn't bolt out when you open the door... little things that add up. A rule of thumb: take care of the house as if it were your own.
4. Leave a mess: A sure way to upset your customer is by not cleaning up or leaving things around that may be tripped over. Ask yourself if you'd find the condition of the house acceptable if it were your home and you were just coming back from work.
5. Upsell pressure: No one likes this under any circumstances, and given the investment these customers are already making, the last thing they want is to be instructed about all this other money they suddenly should spend. Provide them the information, and let them make up their own minds. It will be appreciated more in the end.
6. Provide estimate without meeting the customer: Hey, it's fine to quote over the phone for a small service job when you have set prices for certain jobs, but a good rule of thumb is that any time a project is worth over $5,000, you should show up and assess it, and provide the quote in person. This helps put the customers' minds at ease because they can show you exactly what they want and see that you understand what the project is, and they in turn, understand what they are paying for.
7. Back out of the project at the last minute: No, you're never going to get a good referral from this scorned customer anyway. But now, this person is talking about you within their social circle -- possibly even calling you out on social media -- and doing damage to your reputation.
8. Ask for too big a deposit: Clearly, you do need a deposit for your projects, but it's important to communicate with the customer ahead of time what your deposit expectations are. At least this gives them a chance to negotiate and not be blindsided.
9. Using unqualified tradesmen: When one of their trusted trades is busy, many contractors have brought in someone who says they're qualified, but it doesn't work out. Good contractors who get good referrals don't do this kind of thing.
10. Don't honour your warranty: The post-project period is the most stressful for both parties, so make sure you have a strategy for your warranty period -- and ensure you get it right.
11. Don't meet delivery time periods: It happens to all contractors -- a unique item has to be ordered from abroad and doesn't arrive on schedule. But it's up to you to communicate that such items can be problematic and -- if an issue does arise -- you need to manage your customer's expectations.
12. Non-stop back-ordered materials: Yes, this happens, but again, you need to communicate these issues in advance with your customers so they know you're on top of the situation. When they are blindsided, they feel you're out of control, which makes them feel out of control... and they won't refer you to anyone.