“Nothing in America happens until something gets sold,” said Michael Kelley. “And hard work is the yeast which raises the dough.” Kelley, the General Manager of Kelley Construction Contractors, focused his presentation on building value with the customer, but he acknowledged that it takes time and effort.
The key is communication. “Communication is the number one thing that can bring value to your company,” he said. “The better quality communication, the more the customer will experience the value of your service.”
He noted the two most stressful things for homeowners are moving and having repair work done on the home. “Discover what customers’ expectations are,” he suggested. “Great communication will help decrease the homeowner’s stress levels. Poor communication will add to their stress levels.”
Having a live person answering phones around the clock is the best method, he said, even if it means using an answering service after hours. “You only have one chance to make a great first impression - and that first impression is when the phone rings,” he said. “Teach all team members to answer the phones appropriately.”
Kelley urged attendees to be specific about scheduling. Setting a schedule - and sticking to it - will differentiate you from the competition. “Schedule set appointment times,” he suggested. “Be specific: Monday evening at 6 p.m. - not Monday evening between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Show up five minutes early on every call. If you’re late to the first appointment, you’re already like everyone else and you have already broken your first promise.”
Technology can help with customer communication, noted Kelley. “Use a type of customer management software to make communication simple and keep customer information at your fingertips,” he said. “Gather e-mail information, and utilize estimating software for professional-grade drawings, blueprints or outlines of projects.”
He recommended that contractors take the time to verify the details of the project with the customer, including the work schedule, and meet with the homeowner daily. “Communication doesn’t just stop because the paperwork is authorized,” he said.
Kelley believes training is the key to operational excellence. “Train, train, train,” he said. “It’s a broken record. Training of team members never stops; it is an ongoing process. Training is expensive. You might ask, ‘What if I train them and they leave me?’ The question should be, “What if I don’t train them and they stay?’”
According to Kelley, in the final analysis it all comes back to communication. “The most important thing is this: Contractors are notorious for not returning phone calls, not getting back to people. You have to improve your communication.”