Every contractor is looking for the best ways to be competitive and stand out from their competitors. A lot of the time, we don’t know what we can do or how to do it. We just think it is too hard since a lot of companies also offer good prices, capabilities and client relationships. You may think “I have a small company and I don’t have enough money to make changes.” Or you may think “I have a big organization, it’s too hard to make changes.” We need simple ways to further reduce costs and increase customer satisfaction.
Fortunately, there are a few steps you can take to be a preferred contractor and get more customers with little expense.
1. Consider the type of contractors clients like to do business with
We’ve always been taught that on-time and high quality deliverables are the most important things customers are looking for. Everybody knows that. However, you will become a more favorable contractor if you can provide evidence to show how you are going to deliver on time and provide great service. What your customers want is solid proof that helps them feel sure that you will deliver – not just talk about how you will do a great job.
Here are some key items that customers want from their contractors:
- Competitive prices
- High quality work
- The ability to monitor work status
- Speedy response to requests
- Qualified personnel working for them
- Easy access to all work history in a central location
Even if you don’t tell your customer directly, you may feel that you do not have the budget to hire a spare person to relay work status all the time. It may be standard for you to respond to customer calls and requests for information in three business days. You spend time collecting all the requested information and then e-mail your clients – and they have to wait.
So you feel bad that it would take so much time and money to make yourself a more favorable contractor, especially when most companies are trying to cut costs to make their prices more competitive. You may think, “I just don’t have the resources to meet these critical expectations, so how can I do it?” Now you are thinking… There must be an easy and affordable way to achieve these goals.
Tip: Use affordable software to grant your customers access to their information anytime instead of making them wait for your response. You can either design a custom Web-based database on your Website or use an existing Web-based application. Customers can submit their requests online, and receive real-time email notifications and responses whenever work statuses have been updated. You can plan projects and schedule work orders.
2. Cut costs but keep the high quality of your work
It’s sad but true that running a successful business is not as simple as 1+1=2. Every business tries to lower costs, but eventually finds there is nothing else they can cut. Labor is the biggest expense for most service providers. In order to offer more competitive prices but still make a reasonable profit, you must increase employee productivity to save on labor costs. If not, you will lose customers and see a decline in profit. So how can you increase employee productivity and put their skills and talents to the best use? We often hear managers say it takes them lots of time to schedule work in one system and then check personnel qualifications in another system – even in an Excel file sometimes.
There is a workable way of accomplishing that – do what some of the fastest growing contractor companies do. Relieve professionals from so many time-consuming mundane tasks so that you can let them focus on what they were hired to do. Streamline your communication processes and save them from spending tons of time on tedious e-mails and phone tag. Make project planning, work order scheduling and report creation easy for them – and watch their productivity soar.
Tip: Using software to streamline business processes and increase employee productivity has proved to be the most effective way to save on labor costs. Review how your employees spend their time and see what parts of their work could be streamlined, simplified and automated with cost-effective software.
3. Pay attention to the small things and make your company stand out from competitors
It’s a simple fact. Happy customers bring you more business. Never assume you are successful when you get that first contract from a new client. If they can’t see any difference between you and your competitors, they may end up leaving you in the dust for someone with lower prices. You are often competing with hundreds of other qualified contractors for the same opportunities. Creating an enjoyable working partnership with your clients often leads to business opportunities in the future – and may even bring you referrals through word of mouth. Make your customers enjoy doing business with you and impress them by paying attention to the details.
How can you find out what a customer really likes and how you can offer it to them? If it is something you can offer that your competitor does not, that will help you stand out. Businesses in the Oil & Gas Industry often have customers that need work reports immediately, or fast access to their historical work reports. They would also like to have reports created in a professional format that includes their company logo. Is this something that you currently do for them? How could you?
It’s simple. Create a report template for each client and make all their reports accessible in a secure Web-based application. These small things will be of significant value to your customer, something they are quite likely to keep in mind when making the decision to do business with you or a competitor.
Tip: A lot of the time, you will find that technology allows you to offer the most benefits and convenience to your customers – with little cost to you.
4. Don’t forget to provide great post-sale service
Following up with clients after you have finished a project for them is fundamentally important to maintaining their loyalty. Customers of contractors often need to retrieve information such as work reports and work activity histories. If they can receive great support even after project completion, it will go a long way towards gaining their loyalty.