Nothing sells better than previous work that was done correctly, on time, and that made the customer satisfied. Every pavement maintenance contractor looks to increase his or her sales each year yet many continue to miss out on the easiest sell there is in the business...selling to a satisfied customer!
As a contractor, if you are having trouble getting repeat business with customers, they may not have been as satisfied as you thought. The secret in repeat business isn't selling what you're "going to do" for the customer but what you have proven that you "can do." Let's look at how you can get repeat business.
Get it right... the first time
Most customers will not give a contractor a second chance; so you better get your first job with a new customer right the first time. This requires you to perform quality work in a quality manner. Remember, quality isn't necessarily what you think it is but what your customer thinks. It is very critical that you clearly understand what your customer's needs and expectations are and do everything possible to conform to their definition of quality.
When the job's done, meet with the customer
I'm simply amazed how many contractors are not even at the job when it is completed. If you are an owner you should do everything possible to be at the job when it is actually completed. The senior person needs to be at the project to be able to make the first impression and sales effort toward the next project.
Don't survey...go face to face with the customer
A good many contractors still attach a customer satisfaction survey with their final billing statements. This sales/marketing technique has been taught for many years; however, this effort isn't good enough and rarely gets the result that was initially thought and taught. Instead, make a personal visit with the customer, at the conclusion of the job, to walk the jobsite and discuss what they like and what they want to be improved, corrected, reworked. Going this extra step will gain you a personal audience with the customer and award you "brownie points" toward landing the next project.
Tell the customer that you want their next project
You've just completed a project that the customer verbally confirms they like what they experienced. This same customer tells you that he has another parking lot to pave or seal and stripe. You should, at that moment, tell the customer you want to do that next job. Don't be shy and just wait until the customer calls about that new work because he might not call!
Maintain follow-up points of contact with customers
Set up a process in your scheduling for the year that allows you to be reminded of three to five follow-up contacts with each customer. These may include seasonal reminders to take care of their pavement, cards, or just dropping a note to say "hi." Any time you're working in the area of past customers alert those customers so that they might be looking for your trucks, crews, and you! If "out of sight" leads to "out of mind" then repeat follow-up will lead to repeat work.
"Sell" warranty on your completed work
You may actually give a large portion of this away but selling your customers on allowing you to extend a warranty on your firm's work will assist the effort to keep the customer leaning your way. You may find it opens the door to more strategic planning and budgeting on the customer's part to taking greater care of their pavement maintenance needs.
Induce repeat customers with discounted pricing
Now before you think I'm just referring to lowering your prices for the sake of it, consider that you have little to no marketing costs associated with landing repeat business. In some cases you may not even be required to make another formal presentation but just amend the prior contract. Most customers do expect some form of a discount if they have worked with you before.
Work the customer for referrals
If your customer is happy with you and your crew's effort he will most likely be more than happy to give you the names of friends and relatives that need your work. Don't be shy about asking for such names, and don't be shy about following up with your customer periodically over the next year for additional names.
As you move to grow your company, don't take any job lightly. Even if the job has gone badly, work hard to be visible and work diligently to solve the customer's problems. Don't avoid uncomfortable situations. It is often the "second shot" out of the rough that gets you and your company back in the middle of the fairway and set up for a great finish!
Brad Humphrey is president of Pinnacle Development Group, a consulting and educational company committed to the construction industry. For information about Brad's firm go to www.pinnacledg.com.