So many people are urging contractors to refrain from defaulting to the tag line “on time, on schedule and on budget,” that talking about it has almost become a cliché in its own right. Make no mistake, the advice still stands. The real question is, “How does a construction company demonstrate a real and higher-order understanding of, and commitment to, a client’s needs, not just lip service?”
The answer lies in proactively managing customer service — the third and final “piece” of the business development jigsaw (alongside marketing and sales), and the one which is so often taken for granted. Executing and delivering a project is where contractors feel at home. After all, this is where the rubber hits the road — where we get a chance to do what we do best, build something. It is the other two “pieces” of the jigsaw that are seemingly so foreign and pose the greatest challenge to most companies — handling the “black art” of marketing and efficiently managing our resources to nurture leads, develop selling propositions and close deals. (i.e., sales.)
The reality is all too often very different. While customer service is the easiest and most tangible component to grasp mentally, only very skilled contractors do a great job of truly bringing the concept to life within their organizations. Faced with today’s pressure on margins, it is easy for employees to focus on production, not on customer service.
Customer service deals with delivering value to the client to ensure both success on today’s project and winning the next. This service needs to happen 100% of the time. Your customer service process is what your field, project management and administrative functions are doing to ensure the clients get everything they have been promised in both the contract requirements and the procurement process (i.e., sales promises.)
What are the rewards of getting customer service right? The answers are obvious: increased customer retention, positive word of mouth, improved reputation in the marketplace and opportunities for increased revenues. The flipside results are no more complex when poor customer service is provided.
Highly successful contractors create distinct linkage between the three components of business development (sales, marketing and customer service) and make the process real for those who promise — and those who must deliver what is promised to your client. We can control the messaging during the work acquisition phase, but any perceived “service quality gap” in the delivery phase creates dissonance between the client’s understanding of what has been promised and the reality of its perceived delivery.
There is the heart of the issue, how your perceived ability to deliver directly impacts your brand — the outcome of what you say versus what you do. Although you might like to believe otherwise, the reality is you do not have complete control over the brand. Your brand lives in the mind of your clients, competitors, industry influencers, employees and others. Though the name and logo belong to you, what they represent and the image they conjure is an entirely different issue.
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