February 2020


16 Jan 2020, Business Tips, Learn, Prove Your Know How

Having a happy client at the end of a job relies on getting the little things right every day, with your client and with your team

This scene might sound familiar: you have nearly finished a renovation; it’s been a long job with some difficult patches and now the end is in sight. There have been a few challenges, and you have overcome these, yet the client is showing signs they are not totally happy. Maybe some necessary variations and tagged out areas cost more than initially thought, or the schedule has gone over, but what is worrying is that the client is questioning every dollar spent and talking about holding back payments. Why would they do that?

You have done your best – even more in some cases. But the relationship has soured. It’s difficult and you wonder if you will even have the courage to ask for a testimonial. What will they say? It might not be flattering.

Wouldn’t it be better if, in spite of the building challenges that all builders experience, your client would rave about you and tell all their friends? Is that possible? Yes – when the client feels really good about the experiences they’ve had.

Here are some tips for making sure that your customers feel good about you and your company – right up to the end of the build.

1. Love your team

This might seem odd initially, but it has a huge impact on your client’s wellbeing. It’s where you start creating fans of your business.

When you set the example and love your team, when you focus on solving their problems, you are teaching them how to do the same with your clients. Your clients will love this! When you stand  with your team and face a problem together and walk in their shoes, they know you care about them and they learn! You are creating a winning culture.

How often I hear of builders who ‘blow up’ at their team. Something‘s not quite right, or they get a little behind. So, they ‘let them have it’. Sure, it might get them going for a time, but it builds up resentment, and it’s probably the number one reason carpenters change employers (a popular employers’ bestseller is titled Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em.).

Creating clients who love your company starts with you creating a team who love working for you. So, practice building great rapport with your team. Show them you respect them and, when there
is a problem, don’t humiliate them. Deal with it in a way that leaves them feeling valued and respected.

2. Major on the minors

A wise sage once said, “it’s the little foxes that spoil the vines”. I think this is teaching that the repetition of lots of little annoying things causes much more frustration than a bigger one-off problem. So, teach and resource your team to be aware of the little things that annoy clients. Then teach them to do the little things that show your clients how you go about overcoming those things. Most importantly, teach them to do it regularly.

A great build experience is built on lots of little things done well repeatedly. For example, ensure that your team is practiced at turning up on time and always doing what they promise. Maybe you can help the foreman on a renovation job to plan well, so your team doesn’t destroy the garden. Or, give your guys the tools, training and time to ensure that the job site is kept tidy.

But with all of these little things, do it more than once. Make them habitual – build them into your regular weekly reporting processes. The expenditure on these ‘little things’ – these caring routines – will pay off in the end.

3. Communicate clearly 

There is no question that when your client receives less than what they expected, they will be disappointed.

When you estimate a job at $100,000 and it finishes up at $115,000, they will not like paying the difference. Even though you said it was an estimate and the $115,000 is justified, they will still be disappointed, because they heard $100,000.

What you say and what your client hears can be two very different things. So, in order to communicate clearly, check what your client has heard you say.

For example, after presenting an estimate, you might want to ask: “Because most jobs end up costing x% (10% – 25%) above the estimated amount, do you still want to proceed knowing that it is  possibly going to cost more than the quoted amount?”

Or: “The completed job is very likely to cost x-amount extra, because of all the things we haven’t built into the estimate. Will this additional expenditure of x-amount be a problem for you?”

Or, when discussing a variation or change order, write it up and have your client read it carefully before signing, so they know precisely how much extra they will need to pay.

Having a good management system that updates expenditure and likely final cost can remove doubt and ensure clear financial communication.

4. Right or wrong – see it from your client’s perspective

When a customer tells you or a team member that they are not happy about something, do you or your team member immediately spring to the defence?

It is much better to listen carefully and recognise that your client is telling you how they are feeling about the service they are experiencing. It’s an opportunity for you to see things from their perspective. They may be right, or they may be wrong. Either way, being right or wrong is far less important than feeling valued.

If they are right and you agree to a change, or if they are wrong and you respectfully show them where, then you have won a friend. Clients who become friends become fans and make great referrers.


Ask yourself – what one thing can you implement right now that would help your client feel better about your company?


Graeme Owen is a builders’ business coach at thesuccessfulbuilder.com. Since 2006, he has helped builders throughout New Zealand get off the tools, make decent money, and get more time in their lives. Grab a copy of his free book: The 15 Minute Sales Call Guaranteed To Increase Your Conversion Rate or join Trademates and connect with builders who are scaling too.

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