Contractor Do’s and Don’ts

Why Customer Experience Is So Important When Choosing a Contractor

September 3, 2014

Contractors have a lot in common with large businesses who offer services; they are always trying to win new business and gain loyal customers. But there are a lot of potential missteps that service providers can make when trying to close deals. Here are tips on what to do and what not to do.


Although we all know we should get bids from multiple contractors to ensure we’re getting a good deal, the most important aspect of choosing and working with a contractor is the customer experience before and during the project. A few dollars more or less won’t make as much difference as will an engaging and knowledgeable expert who helps the customer make vital decisions and ensures a successful working relationship and finished project.

From urban to suburban livingAs I embark on my first move in 25 years (from an urban condo to a suburban house), I was faced with the daunting task of choosing the right contractors to assist me: movers, home inspectors, flooring installers, etc. I found that there are a number of things that some contractors do very well (e.g., responsiveness, listening skills), and some that crossed even highly rated companies off my list.

Whether you provide contracted services to consumers or non-commodity products and services to businesses, the same do’s and don’ts apply!


Who Do Customers Turn To?

Right now, I’m the ultimate consumer. After 25 years in a condo in Boston, I’m selling my home and moving to a house in the suburbs, and the whole prospect is daunting! Luckily, I have a good friend who is a realtor, so that decision was easy to make. But there are so many other services I’m going to need over the next few months as I pack up to leave the city and customize my new house to reflect my tastes and comfort needs.

REFERRALS FROM FRIENDS AND FAMILY. So who do I turn to for advice? The first thing folks like me look for when facing this type of situation is recommendations from family and friends. And, after asking for referrals, I discovered (not with any surprise) that what my circle of friends remembered about the service providers/contractors they recommended was the customer experience they received. No one really mentioned price—as long as you are competitive (hourly rate within the ballpark of other providers), a few dollars more or less doesn’t seem to matter. The final job done and the experience getting it done is what people care about and share.

CUSTOMER REFERRALS AND TESTIMONIAL. The best recommendation I received came from my friend Judy, who has moved and done home improvement a number of times. “Join Angie’s List.[1] Get ratings and recommendations,” she advised. “Even if a friend gives a great referral, check it out on the list. What have others said? Talk to a bunch of providers and find out what they offer.”

This was great advice. Now I could depend not only on the handful of testimonials from people I know, but I could see how hundreds of customers rated and reviewed providers of the services I was seeking.

Figure Out What’s Important to You in a Contractor

But ratings and reviews can only narrow your choices. There are hundreds of providers on Angie’s List—for example, of the 207 moving companies in the greater Boston area, 155 had an A rating. You can further filter the list by distance from your zip code, but that still leaves you lots of options.

INTERVIEW THE PROVIDERS. So you have a lot of work to do to find a contractor that is a good match for your needs. And it’s important that you, as the customer, figure out your specific needs. For example, when talking with moving companies, I casually mentioned to the first company I spoke with that I have a piano. Turns out that some movers charge a fee for piano moving—others don’t. And I will need to empty my condo on a Monday, but not move into my new house until the next day. So I need overnight storage—what’s that going to cost?

Most of all, I wanted someone to answer any questions as they arose, to be my partner in this adventure, and to give me advice when I asked (and proactively if I seemed to be making bad decisions).

So, although I started out thinking that I’d get a few bids and then choose the cheapest option, I found that I was really interviewing the providers. After all, they were going to work for me—albeit only for a short time. But you don’t hire people without an interview, right? A few dollars more or less wasn’t the issue; trust, confidence, and peace of mind were more important.

I used this interview method (when I could) with a variety of contractors: moving companies, home inspectors, flooring sales and installers, and painters. I’ve made my decisions. When the move and associated services are done, I’ll give you an update on how well I chose.


Do’s and Don’ts to Get the Job

Over the past few weeks, during the screening and interviewing process, I learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t work in winning someone’s business. So let me share what I’ve learned...(more)


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[1] Angie's List is a U.S.-based, paid subscription supported website containing crowd-sourced reviews of local businesses.

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