4 Steps to Gain Customers for Life

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handshake over contract


You spend a lot of money and time to get qualified leads. Turning some of them into customers is critical to not just survive but thrive. Everyone preaches customer service and there is no doubt it’s important. But you can give yourself an edge that will take your customer service to a whole new level.


No, dick, I didn’t have to look it up. This embodies how you present yourself to others. It actually used to be taught in school that a lady or gentleman was to present himself in a certain way. If you think it isn’t important, consider how many times you’ve formed mistaken first impressions of someone. We can break it down as follows:

  • Dress – We all know this is construction but you should still have standards. There are different schools of thought on this but you should at least at a minimum:
    • Sales – Neat and clean both in body and clothing. Go for at least a polo shirt tucked into cargo pants with sturdy shoes. You may need to climb around in dirty areas so bring a coverall and maybe some shoe covers. I had work shirts with the company logo on them after a few years of being in business but they aren’t necessary from the beginning.
    • Construction – Shirts with sleeves and pants without holes. We work in a filthy environment most of the time, but we don’t have to look like homeless people. Patch holes in your pants or throw them away. You may think it doesn’t matter, but there are a multitude of studies that prove otherwise.
  • Body Language – Showing confidence is important because many times people equate confidence with competence. It is equally important to appear open and calm. Smile, make eye contact, shake hands, and keep your focus on the customer. That means leave your phone in the car.
  • Language – I can curse well enough to blister paint, but there’s a time and a place. Keep it clean and respectful. Nobody cares how often you can squeeze “fuck” into a sentence and it makes you look like a dumbass.

Otherwise, just have the things you need for the task at hand. If you are selling a kitchen remodel and you don’t have samples of products, you look like a moron and are unlikely to get a second chance. Also, have the tools you need for the job. Make a checklist of necessary items if forgetting things becomes a recurring issue


I think Antonio Banderas said it best in Acts of Vengeance, “It’s amazing what you’ll hear if you just shut the fuck up.” This is a service business and customer service is all we do. It’s good to employ active listening when dealing with customers just make sure you’re actually listening. Don’t interrupt them. If you listen, you’ll find out exactly what they want and need and be able to give it to them.

Document what your customers say. You’ll learn a lot and be able to use these statements in the future. People love it when you ask questions about their favorite person, which is themselves. Seeming to keep up with the events of their lives whenever you call on them will make them automatically better disposed toward you.


One of the things that never ceases to amaze me is the number of contractors who go as far as to look a job over and get the specifications and then never follow through. If it’s because you don’t like the job or the customer, it shows far more integrity to say, “I’m sorry. This job really isn’t for me so I won’t be submitting a bid. Thank you for the opportunity and good luck with your project.”

Whatever you have agreed to provide your customer, give them that and then some. That starts with the first phone call and is what real customer service is all about. Be early to appointments. Submit quotes and changes on time. Provide everything they’ve asked for and give them a great value.

Now that doesn’t mean give the farm away for free. In fact, you don’t need to do anything free. Not even estimates. Create value with your professionalism. That means:

  • Keep a clean job site. Don’t scatter trash, tools, and materials everywhere. Definitely, leave a clean site at the end of each day. That means no tools, trash or materials laying anywhere but where they belong.
  • Respect the fact that someone is trusting you in their home or business. Let them know when you arrive and leave each day. Make sure ahead of time what bathroom you and your crew can use or bring a portable toilet. Use drop cloths for traffic areas and refresh them as needed. Do not, for any reason, go into rooms in which you don’t have work or use a homeowner’s property for work purposes.
  • Protect the homeowner’s property from damage. Take every precaution to stop dust and debris from going anywhere but the work area. If you do damage something, take responsibility and fix it or pay for it to be fixed.
  • Notify neighbors when dust will be unavoidable so that they can protect their property. Ask permission to park anywhere but on the street in front of the job. If your vehicle leaks anything, put something down to catch it.
  • When the job is finished and you’re doing the walkthrough with the homeowner, compile a punch list and have them sign off. Then set a firm date to complete the list and keep it.

Follow Up (Traditional Customer Service)

According to the Harvard Business Review, it costs far more to gain a customer than it does to keep one. Too many contractors finish a job and then forget about the people they’ve worked for. There are many easy ways to keep in touch with them so that you’re who they think of for their next project. Seriously consider using a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) program to help you keep track.

Some of the ways you can retain customers is to:

  • Send a handwritten “Thank you” card. Include a couple business cards.
  • When the job has been done a month, call and make sure everything is okay. It may mean a service call, which you should schedule immediately, but it also makes a customer happy.
  • Call on the six-month anniversary and check in again. Of course, if you work for the customer again in this period, you can address anything at that point instead.
  • About a month before the one-year anniversary, when the warranty period is about to expire, call and let them know and check in. No matter what, send a card celebrating the date. Include a couple more business cards.

Basically, the idea is to do things periodically to keep your business in their mind. Whenever you make contact, use some of the personal information you’ve accumulated to maintain rapport. You’ll undoubtedly be able to update that information with new little tidbits you learn. So keep in touch to keep earning their continued business and always deal with any customer service needs promptly.

Become a Customer Service Master

Each of these things may seem trivial independently. Maybe they are but don’t think they aren’t important. Building a contracting business is a long game. Every step you can take to help it succeed will mean a lot more money in your pocket from more long-term customers.

Have any questions or comments about customer service? Fire off an email! I read them all even if you’re yelling at me.

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