Contractors are only as good as their last mistake. So is their reputation.
Unfortunately, most people remember faults and very few remember excellent work and successful projects.
When asked which restaurants gave you good service or tasty food you’ll probably have to think, but if you’re asked which restaurant gave you bad service or poor food, you’ll probably recall the name instantaneously.
Construction is similar, and clients remember errors long after they’ve been remedied. They can be unforgiving. Even when your price is the cheapest, but your reputation is poor (even undeservedly), you’re not going to get the project.
One mistake can undo thousands of hours of hard work. That error may be caused by you or one of your employees. Even incidents you consider trivial can be problematic for the client.
Furthermore, clients talk to each other and word of a poor reputation quickly spreads.
It’s essential that all employees know the importance of delivering a quality project on time without safety, environmental or disciplinary breaches. Reputation is a team effort, and everyone needs to understand how important it is that they portray the company in a good light, maintaining the company’s fine reputation in everything they do.
What makes a good reputation?
- Being proactive – clients want to work with contractors who are proactive, anticipating potential problems and solving them before they occur.
- Be responsive – don’t ignore the client’s complaints. Clients can be demanding, making changes to the project and schedule, but try and be accommodating. Being responsive also means returning the client’s phone messages, making yourself available for meetings, responding to queries promptly and submitting prices and revised schedules on time.
- Be fair – this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t charge for additional work or variations, but rather don’t take advantage of the client and charge excessively for these additions.
- Work safely – it’s essential that you take safety seriously. I’ve known contractors being barred from working for clients because of a poor safety record.
- Deliver a quality project – poor quality costs money to fix and it also destroys reputation.
- Act professionally – always be professional and courteous in your dealings with your client. It’s easy to say things in the heat of the moment which could upset clients. Some clients can be unforgiving and bear a grudge for years, jeopardising the chances of winning work from them.
- Deliver your projects on time – clients will often pay a premium to employ contractors they know will deliver a project on time. For many clients time is money.
- Don’t over promise and under deliver – it’s usually better to under-promise and over-deliver. The client is then pleasantly surprised when the task is delivered ahead of time. Of course the client’s not going to accept dates which are clearly extended further than they should be.
- Sort mistakes quickly and with minimal fuss – mistakes will happen, sort them out. Admit when you or your employees have made a mistake, tell the client how you will rectify the problem, then fix it.
- Use reliable equipment – equipment that breaks down slows the project and it gives clients a poor impression of your company. Vehicles and equipment in good repair and newly painted can be a good advert for the company, especially when the company’s logo is clearly displayed.
- Be honest – the company and its personnel must be honest. This is more than just not over-charging the client. It’s about conducting yourself and the business beyond reproach and not cheating others.
- Meet the client’s expectations – this means you should understand what these are, then ensure that they are reasonable and that you can deliver on them. If the client has expectations you can’t meet, then turn the project down – a disappointed client can do your company immense harm.
- Provide after completion service – unfortunately a project doesn’t always end when you hand the keys to the client. Most contracts have a warranty period during which the contractor is responsible for repairing defects due to their defective workmanship.
- Behaviour of employees – poor behaviour in public creates a bad impression for potential customers. Clients have telephoned me to complain that the driver of a company vehicle wasn’t obeying the road rules, or was behaving badly or littering.
- Avoid bad publicity – unfortunately news reporters are quick to focus on negative incidents and rumours. Accidents, industrial relations incidents, environmental problems and rumours of impropriety quickly turn into news headlines. Always be mindful of how events can create bad publicity.
It’s imperative that your company has a good reputation and that you’re always on guard to protect it. A poor reputation may result in your company losing projects, even when your price is the cheapest. In addition companies with a good reputation often attract good employees. Nobody wants to work for a company with a bad reputation.
Building and maintaining a good reputation is a team effort and requires commitment from all employees. Your employees need to understand how their actions can negatively impact the company’s reputation and know how a poor reputation can destroy the company. It only takes one rotten apple to destroy a basket of apples. It only takes one mistake to undo years of hard work. Rebuilding your company’s reputation will not be easy.
What can negatively impact your company’s reputation?
Do your employees understand how important a good reputation is?