Jack Smithson provides advice on how installers can maintain positive relationships with their customers.

Maintaining good customer relationships is essential to any business, particularly when it comes to trade. Word of mouth is an important way to drum up new business for a tradesman, and a bad referral can have a damaging effect. If you are an entrepreneurial tradesman and want to keep your reputation clean, maintaining good relationships is key.

Source the materials

Unless the customer is determined to do so, it is advantageous for the tradesman to source the materials for the job. We all have busy schedules, and most customers appreciate not having to collect tiles after work. By sourcing the materials yourself, you save the customer time and can simultaneously select materials that will work with their floor space. Being fully transparent about the risks and rewards of supply sourcing and selecting products that are practical will make the job significantly easier. Make sure the customer is able to view big pieces of furniture up close before making any large purchases.

As useful as a brochure is to get some ideas flowing, without seeing the items in a showroom they will not know exactly what to expect, and could be upset with the end product. Visiting a showroom lets them see exactly what they are getting, manages their expectations, and keeps them feeling informed and included. And, of course, don’t forget trade discounts.

Tough customers

From the extreme budgeters to the hovercrafts, every tradesman has dealt with their fair share of difficult customers. As frustrating as it can be, dealing with tough customers is an important aspect of the job.

Answering their questions, offering reassurance, and keeping them well informed often proves the best way to keep them happy. Advising them of what to expect and having an organised approach will help reign in any unrealistic budgeting and allow you to provide accurate time estimates.

If a customer gets upset or has an unreasonable request, try to have a little empathy, as hard as that may be sometimes. There is likely some form of logic driving their response, and although you may think it is completely unreasonable, they do not.

Talk to them and try to calmly explain the situation. Be sure to apologise and show that you are trying to resolve the problem as soon as possible. All tradesmen will deal with unhappy customers at some point, but it is the manner in which you deal with it that can make you stand out.

Offer design solutions

Staying up to date on designs is advisable to any tradesman. Having the ability to tastefully style a renovation will set you apart and potentially save your customers from having to hire an interior designer. Once again, customer convenience is key. However, customers often have some idea of what they want, or have a couple of products they like picked out.

If the customer has their heart set on a particular tile or product, keep it in mind when selecting other appliances and furniture to ensure the overall aesthetic fits what they are looking for. Having the ability to offer advice is great, but at the end of the day the customer has the final say.

For the projects where you do have free reign over the design, make sure to take photos of the final product and add it to your portfolio to show your various projects and designs to future clients. Customers like to be able to see what you can do before they hire you, and a portfolio also brings in customers who already appreciate your work, making the process that much easier.

Having good referrals is essential to any self-employed tradesman. Minimising the amount of work a customer needs to put in and dealing with their complaints in a calm and professional manner will take you a long way. Simple things such as transparency and organisation are necessary to maintaining good customer relations, and should not be overlooked.

Jack Smithson is Content Editor for iflo.