This article was written by Louis Cole, founder and president of Emecole, Inc. the precursor of Emecole Metro LLC.
The basement waterproofing contractor is a good worker. He finishes the job on time. He attends to detail. He fulfills every obligation in the contractual agreement with his client. Yet when the task is done and he walks out the door, he never again hears from that homeowner. No calls for other projects and, even more critical, not one referral. What just happened?
What didn’t happen is the issue. Perhaps this contractor installed the waterproof system beautifully but didn’t clean up after himself. Maybe he didn’t dress in a professional manner when he first met the client. Or, worse, the crew did not demonstrate proper demeanor during the introduction before the job begins. First impressions go a long way, and that includes the crew.
My colleague Roy Spencer, owner of Perma-Seal Basement Systems in Downers Grove, Il., has been in business for 30 years. Just lucky? I don’t think so. Early in his career Roy recognized that big things follow when a basement contractor attends to the little things – the kind gesture, the extra touch. After 30 years, the basement waterproofing industry has expanded greatly, and with that comes a growing number of new contractors.
Whether the basement waterproofing contractor is repairing a small crack or installing a drain tile system, the homeowner has a vested trust with that contractor. While the homeowner expects his or her basement repair or installation to be completed properly, a job well done is only the beginning. “Every homeowner expects their basement contractor to do good work,” says Roy. “You can do a great sales presentation and follow through, yet that may not be what the client remembers.” According to Roy, a contractor may assume that just by doing good work, they have met the customer’s expectations. Despite how well a job turns out, it sometimes isn’t what the customer is left with. “They may remember that you didn’t wipe your shoes before you walked into the house. It’s a cosmetic thing, but it sticks in the mind. That’s human nature.”
While it may seem silly to worry about such details, aren’t they at least worth the extra effort if it avoids losing a referral because of a misstep? “Basement contractors must project a consistent image of caring. It’s not just about delivering contract specs. It’s the little things that build the referrals.” A contractor’s excellent reputation will mean nothing if the homeowner is not initially impressed. A poor demeanor at the beginning may sway the homeowner towards hiring someone else. “From the first call you must impress prospective clients with your professional demeanor.”
At the end of the day however, the most important aspect of the contractor’s job is the quality of the work. All the small things a contractor does to go the extra mile will mean nothing if the job wasn’t done right. “You must have a good, durable product and reliable service,” says Roy. “The little things make or break you.”
Attending to the little things sounds simple, yet they are easy to forget when thinking about the actual job. It is important to remember that the guiding incentive is to leave a lasting impression on the customer. That is not only one of the surest ways to gain referrals, but also a great way to separate one from his competitors.
With the competition in our industry continuing to grow, I believe that the contractor should primarily concentrate on himself by doing the best job possible while letting his work speak for itself. Most people don’t care to hear someone bad mouth their competition. The contractor should have enough good things to say about his own company so that it isn’t necessary to discredit someone else.
Unfortunately, a quality contractor sometimes loses a job to a huckster with a slick presentation and a big smile. How does a contractor survive when such competitors exploit the “little things” without delivering what’s most important? While Roy believes it is important to respect the competition, he also feels it is necessary to be responsible to the consumer. “I feel a responsibility to tell homeowners that they must be aware of dishonest companies. You don’t necessarily have to name names. You might ask a client to check you out at the local Better Business Bureau, and then add, ‘Be sure to check out my competitors, too.'”
Empowering the customer to make a more informed decision shows a quality of care and honesty from the contractor. “You don’t want to come off as sanctimonious. It’s not a good place to be and it’s not necessary. Be sincere, helpful and have good information and insights to share. That will come through and give people the flavor of your company.”