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I run a deck company with multiple crews. Sometimes stuff happens, we as contractors know that: crew guy gets sick, car breaks down, it rains, special order item doesn't come in on time, etc. So I call the homeowner and apologize and explain, and most times they don't understand at all. They get angry, say things like "as long as the project gets done on time", or "well I expect them to work on the weekend".

I'm not talking about not showing up for a week straight, I'm talking about maybe 2 days in a row not being able to make it. At most.

The thing is, I set these expectations up front, stating multiple different times, unexpected delays may come up. I also don't commit to get their project done by a certain day. I do, however, commit (and do) that a crew doesn't bounce around jobs: once we start your job, we work on your job until it's done. I don't commit we'll be there everyday, or even the same time everyday. Plus, we're outside - we never need access inside their home.

Why do homeowners not understand that stuff happens, things come up, we're humans? How do you prevent such an issue?

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Sounds like a typical customer unfortunately. I know I'm getting pretty tired of it. They are all giggly happy before you start the project. When it starts seems that they think, because they are paying you that they can treat you any way they want. Things are about to change for our company. I feel your pain. Wish I had ab good answer for you. And 480Sparky is dead on with the excuses for not paying when payments are due
 

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If the expectation is set ahead of time that you won’t be there all day everyday, do you need to call on the days you aren’t there?

I don’t know the right answer, just wondering out loud.

You said you called and apologized, I wonder if that makes them think you did something wrong and that they can pile on?
 

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We have the exact same problem. Customers get mad when we are late and when we don't call and they get equally angry when we call in advance to tell them that we will be late.

Customers are also the biggest liars when an appointment is missed, or when we are late because the customers always say they took a day off work when they did not, or they say they re-scheduled their entire day.

The problem is; we try to accommodate our customer when we should not. We try to give our customers a 3-hour window, but the truth is we should be like our local phone company and tell the customer we will be there some time between 8 am and 8 pm.

For large jobs like when you have to get into the rear yard with a locked gate, the customer should probably be given a 24-hour notice in advance telling them when you will show, or not show, but we always tell the customer to leave a key somewhere and maybe we will show up and maybe we will not.

Regardless, you can't win and customers are seldom very nice. In fact, my company has more than 70 bad reviews and about 67 of them are only because we never showed up on time. So, don't feel bad!
 

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Sounds like a typical customer unfortunately. I know I'm getting pretty tired of it. They are all giggly happy before you start the project. When it starts seems that they think, because they are paying you that they can treat you any way they want. Things are about to change for our company. I feel your pain. Wish I had ab good answer for you. And 480Sparky is dead on with the excuses for not paying when payments are due
Yup keep biotchin' about how poorly you deal with customers and manage your projects. That attitude is contagious, to your crews and many customers can pick up on it. It's not about you, it's about them. Start dates have to be absolute, 'A1' or the highest priority. It's a big fricken deal to them as it should be. Taking time off from work, the positive excitement of getting the project underway, often a dream (long in planning) becoming real. Unlike yours it's Not just another day in their life. Start day is a very close second of importance to how you present during the sales process.

And yes some customers will be challenging, regardless.
 

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Folks tend to go along with the kind of relationship you establish. This may sound counterintuitive, but unless it's a real goof, I focus on the explanation of any schedule change or whatever, but without apologizing because that sends the message that I'm at fault. Sure, acknowledge any "disappointment" they may have, etc. but be in charge and keep it moving with the plan, and share it with them. If I have to state the obvious, like "It's a shame when an order doesn't arrive as expected, or a guy's kid gets sick," etc. I do it, but calmly.

I try not to get visibly swayed by emotion (anymore), one way or the other.
 

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Years and years of people griping about contractors has led to the current stereotypes we all need to help break. Not showing up on time, not showing up for days on end, going from job to job while finishing nothing at any of the jobs. People have a pre conceived notion of how we operate...true or untrue it’s what they believe.

Every Sunday my customer gets a text with my schedule for the week along with a high level list of what I hope to get done. If I am running late one morning I call my customer....even if they are at work and would never know if I came late. If I have dr appts or will miss a day for personal reasons I make sure they know in advance. I jump thru hopes to make sure the customer knows everything.

I am a one man show so things are a little different with multiple crews, but the same train of thought should apply. If the crew is running late give a call, if they won’t be there for a day or 2 let the customer know before hand. If a crew calls out sick in the AM then call your customer. Simply doing nothing and excepting the guy paying you to be ok with it is not right.

You would think a majority of customers would understand, but they don’t. All they know is they are paying you way too much money for a job their uncle could do for half your price. You need to set yourself apart from the pack, if not you become part of the pack.
 

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I run a deck company with multiple crews. Sometimes stuff happens, we as contractors know that: crew guy gets sick, car breaks down, it rains, special order item doesn't come in on time, etc. So I call the homeowner and apologize and explain, and most times they don't understand at all. They get angry, say things like "as long as the project gets done on time", or "well I expect them to work on the weekend".

I'm not talking about not showing up for a week straight, I'm talking about maybe 2 days in a row not being able to make it. At most.

The thing is, I set these expectations up front, stating multiple different times, unexpected delays may come up. I also don't commit to get their project done by a certain day. I do, however, commit (and do) that a crew doesn't bounce around jobs: once we start your job, we work on your job until it's done. I don't commit we'll be there everyday, or even the same time everyday. Plus, we're outside - we never need access inside their home.

Why do homeowners not understand that stuff happens, things come up, we're humans? How do you prevent such an issue?

Sent from my Pixel 3 XL using Tapatalk
So you don't commit to a start or completion date, you set expectations that there WILL be delays (and then comes the realization there is but they have no idea how many times it will happen), you tell them that you stay on the job until it's done, but the WHOLE CREW is not on the job?

If a special order part is not going to be in by the start of the job, you should know by then, and so should the customer and you don't start...

The trust train has only so many links... when the links start to break and the expected journey becomes tenuous or delayed do you really expect the customer to be happy about it or just blow it off when it's one of the things Consumer Advocates ruminate about regarding the fly-by-nights in our business? Saying "as long as it's done on time" when you haven't even committed to a completion date, is hardly outside the parameters of a customer being concerned...

To me, that'd be a polite way of them letting you know they're watching and you better not screw me and come through... you want to give them reasons to sing your praises to others not be wary of giving them your name...

One way to avoid it is to approach every customer like they're you're first customer (or how you'd like your own family to be treated) and you're relying on their referrals to stay in business and feed your family... what would you have to do process wise to make sure that happens?...

Is it going to erase every issue? Of course not, but it goes toward building a company culture that minimizes it...
 

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So you don't commit to a start or completion date, you set expectations that there WILL be delays (and then comes the realization there is but they have no idea how many times it will happen), you tell them that you stay on the job until it's done, but the WHOLE CREW is not on the job?

If a special order part is not going to be in by the start of the job, you should know by then, and so should the customer and you don't start...

The trust train has only so many links... when the links start to break and the expected journey becomes tenuous or delayed do you really expect the customer to be happy about it or just blow it off when it's one of the things Consumer Advocates ruminate about regarding the fly-by-nights in our business? Saying "as long as it's done on time" when you haven't even committed to a completion date, is hardly outside the parameters of a customer being concerned...

To me, that'd be a polite way of them letting you know they're watching and you better not screw me and come through... you want to give them reasons to sing your praises to others not be wary of giving them your name...

One way to avoid it is to approach every customer like they're you're first customer (or how you'd like your own family to be treated) and you're relying on their referrals to stay in business and feed your family... what would you have to do process wise to make sure that happens?...

Is it going to erase every issue? Of course not, but it goes toward building a company culture that minimizes it...
Most of the replies like this one are IF we lived in an ideal world where respect, attitude, effort and patience was reciprocal. Unfortunately, the world is far from ideal and the question in this thread is asking how to keep a customer happy when it is impossible to show up, or be in time.

It doesn't matter how perfect a contractor thinks he is when it comes to scheduling, calling to re-schedule and being on-time because it is absolutely impossible to call every time when late and even when you do call the majority of customers are rude, lack understanding, are selfish and blow a fuse.

Personally, I cannot call my customers when I am late because I blow a fuse when I am trying to be respectful and they start harping on me and lying when they say they have a lot of things to do and they took their day off from work for our appointment. I have my secretary, or another employee call to avoid an argument.
 

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Most of the replies like this one are IF we lived in an ideal world where respect, attitude, effort and patience was reciprocal. Unfortunately, the world is far from ideal and the question in this thread is asking how to keep a customer happy when it is impossible to show up, or be in time.

It doesn't matter how perfect a contractor thinks he is when it comes to scheduling, calling to re-schedule and being on-time because it is absolutely impossible to call every time when late and even when you do call the majority of customers are rude, lack understanding, are selfish and blow a fuse.

Personally, I cannot call my customers when I am late because I blow a fuse when I am trying to be respectful and they start harping on me and lying when they say they have a lot of things to do and they took their day off from work for our appointment. I have my secretary, or another employee call to avoid an argument.
No offense but that's a strange one-side definition of respect... only one of you is the customer...

On the other side, that attitude towards a customer who is trading the money earned from their own labor for your service is exactly what leads to the presumptions a lot of people have about others in the trades... works to the advantage though for those who work towards minimizing customer issues...

Don't forget, a customer issue becomes YOUR issue... no way around it... it's to your benefit to remove it from your plate before it even becomes one...
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Great discussion so far. Two replies hit home... I apologized. Why did I? The expectation was set simply that we are human, that my crews have young kids that get sick, it rains outside, it's negative 20 outside, car breaks, Foreman sick, etc. So why should I apologize, as long as it's 1 or 2 days here and there, far and few between?

As for other comments... "Entire crew", most of my crews are 2 guys who ride together.

During active build, I call my homeowner every single day, whether we're there or not.

Yet, I apologize, like something is wrong. The change I'm going to implement is not to apologize. Explain the why's, and state that it's a bummer, then move on.

Separately, if we make a mistake of course apologize, but if we miss a day because of something normal, explain and move on, no apology.

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I had a woman listening in on a call with a POd customer. I got to the critical part of the explanation and said "I'm sure you understand" and then explained.

If they kick about it, they look like a jerk.

Sales woman thought it was pretty slick. That was for a major F up.

I also understand both sides. Truck breaks down, so the customer isn't getting their work done and I'm not earning a pay check. Nothing I'd rather be doing right now than working on their project and making a living...
 

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Keep in mind, all good schedules have float. You can't predict exactly what will come up, but you can predict things will come up. It's just part of the schedule.
 

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I deal with a fairly high volume of customers. I think that about 5% of them are complete piles of trash and I wish ill upon them.
Communication is key. On larger projects I tell them I would be a liar if I stood here and said there won’t be any issues, however if issues do come up, we deal with them promptly.
I also make it a point not to promise a start date. I will tell them around when we will start, and I’ll be in touch as it gets closer. I tell them there are to many variables that are out of my control to give them an exact date.
Usually if a customer is upset with me it’s because I haven’t communicated with them, and I tell them something stupid like...sorry I let this slip through the cracks, I don’t like running my business like that but sometimes it happens.
If they are unreasonable and still throw a fit I will ask what they want to do or if they want to cancel or something that puts the ball in their court.
It takes thick skin to be in this game and the key is don’t let the 5% bring you down. And every time someone is upset, step back and reflect on what happened and usually there is something you could have done differently to help the situation...... that and whiskey helps everything at the end of the day.
 

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As Inner said, Communication is key. Always keep your customers in the loop on everything. They get to be informed straight up when you are informed. Most the time when **** happens, it's not a last minute thing.


Mike.
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Communication has been brought up as the solution over & over again. There's a reason for the echo.



Most of our jobs are a fews days to 2 weeks. We book 2 to 4 jobs per week most weeks. Being anal about staying on schedule is key to keeping all the dominos standing. We tell clients what day & time we're starting their project. I give myself a 30 minute cushion & if I'm going to miss that cushion, the client gets a phone call or text letting them know the amended ETA. Often times, they've taken time from work to let us in & go over final plans & being late is very disrespectful to them.



Another notable quote from above that deserves repeating, "under promise, over deliver". That's exactly how I setup expectations during the sales presentation. I point out problems that we expect to encounter during the project & paint the picture worse than I know it will actually be. Clients notice that things went smoother than I projected & it makes closing out the job smoother IMO.
 
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