Construction superintendent going over plans with a customer

Interacting with Customers in Construction

By Erin Coursey, iHire, LLC

Many construction careers require some manner of customer contact, whether face-to-face or by email/telephone. These interactions play a large role in client satisfaction and drive whether you are recommended to friends/family or given negative reviews on social media sites and other online outlets. Here are some tips for ensuring a strong, positive experience:

Maintain Appearances

In the construction industry especially, it can be easy to let appearances slip on a particularly hot, sweaty day or when coming from a site covered in sawdust. Before meeting with the customer, however, it is essential to reinstate a professional air. Check that your clothing is as dust- and dirt-free as possible, tuck in your shirt, and/or straighten your uniform. If necessary, keep an extra outfit in your vehicle. Such measures will greatly improve the customer’s first impression and increase the chances of a smooth interaction.

Another issue to take into account is the appearance of the worksite, which will impact the client’s perception of your organizational skills and desire to maintain effective, high-quality tools and materials. For projects affecting residential buildings, it may be helpful to remind yourself that you are working in/on someone’s home. Creating as little mess as possible will minimize patrons’ stress.

Personalize the Interaction

Always introduce yourself and ask for/confirm the customer’s name (“Mrs. Smith, right? My name is Paul.”). You should also consider commenting on your willingness and eagerness to help (“I look forward to resolving this issue for you as quickly as possible.”). This indicates that you are sincerely interested in both the client and the project at hand.

Exercise Active Listening

Active listening is a strategy that facilitates two-way communication. It will help the customer to feel like s/he is being heard and increase the likelihood of establishing a mutual understanding. There are a few key techniques involved in this practice, including:

  • Demonstrate open body language and tone of voice
  • Stay calm, even if the customer does not
  • Be respectful: make eye contact, remove hat/sunglasses when inside, and maintain a professional demeanor
  • Focus on what is currently being communicated, not on preparing a response
  • Acknowledge what the patron is saying: nod, smile, or repeat points for clarification/verification (“So what I’m hearing is that…”) when appropriate

Active listening is easy to rehearse. Try to get friends/family members to give you feedback on whether or not you seem to be paying more attention to their half of conversations and explore engaged facial expressions in front of a mirror.

Respond Quickly and Accurately

If a client leaves a voicemail or sends an email, make returning the message a priority. There is nothing more irritating than waiting days, or even weeks, for a reply as to why the air conditioning has stopped working or how weather conditions are expected to delay a project’s completion.

When responding, it is essential that you accurately address the right question. Read/listen carefully to the customer’s concerns and double-check anything you are not certain about. If an email is worded confusingly, answer the question you believe it to be asking and make it clear that you are open to further correspondence. Giving incorrect information or addressing the wrong issue suggests a lack of interest and frustrates your clientele.

Make Your Explanations Accessible

While any and all communication should be comprehensive and complete, the majority of your patrons are most likely not construction professionals. Therefore, avoid technical terminology and acronyms/abbreviations that s/he will not understand.

 

Sources:

Barry Himmel – Make Your First Impression Count

Skills You Need – Interpersonal Communication Skills

Ruth Hill – Active Listening: Hear What People are Really Saying 


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