Changing Customer Interactions In A Coronavirus World

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The smiles, the handshakes, feelin’ the vibes, looking over the contract side by side … social distancing has taken much of the romance out of a sales call. From the first “hello” from a safe six feet, to the work and the final payment, contractors are changing their approach.

How Close? Techno Close!

Rob Yarbro, owner of Wyoming View Painting in Laramie (and a 2020 TOP JOB winner), had to adapt to the new way of selling. “Making that personal connection with customers was difficult at first,” he said. “When we moved away from doing in-person estimates, we were simply sending proposals via email and having a very hard time closing jobs.”

Then he used the new technology to his advantage. “We came up with a similar idea to our Zoom interview for hiring,” he said. “Prior to conducting an interview, we get to know the customer and their needs via Zoom, phone, and/or photos. Then, we either gather measurements ourselves for exterior projects or have them measure and send pics for interior. This allows us to minimize interactions as much as possible.”

Then came the hard part: presenting the proposal and having the customer sign on the now virtual dotted line, without that in person reassurance that it was the right thing to do. “We started using online services like Screencast-O-Matic and CompanyCam. This allows us to send a more personal and in-depth review of their project without having to meet in person. We immediately saw an increase in our closing rates the week we switched to them,” he said.

Terry Begue, owner of Begue Painting in Hartville, Ohio, keeps his distance, but if he can’t, he keeps a bottle of sanitizer in his truck. “Nothing has changed in terms of how I communicate, other than standing a little further away and not shaking hands. There’s been a handful who have initiated a handshake and then I shake their hand.” Then he’ll sanitize when he’s back in the truck. Fortunately, his reputation precedes him. It’s helped that they only do exterior work, and that their jobs are repeat customers or referrals, so he doesn’t have to sell from scratch.

At Premier Painting and Services in Muncie, Indiana, owner Jeremy Bramlett has tried to avoid wild goose chases by screening clients to make sure they’re serious about a paint job before anyone actually goes to visit. Customers have to understand that things are different, that needing it “done yesterday” just might not happen with smaller crews or other precautions that slow things down these days.

New Painting Protocol

Bramlett makes sure his customers understand his company’s protocol: masks, sanitizer and disinfecting the painting tools from one job to another, for example. But the distancing is difficult. “I still find it hard to have to stand back,” he said. “You’ve got to step back and let them feel comfortable.”

Rob Grant, owner of Rob’s Painting and More in Moncton, New Brunswick, won’t go anywhere without some sanitizer on hand (literally!), and he explains his procedures up front. New Brunswick has had one new case of COVID in the last two weeks and very few overall, so things are different than in an epicenter. Grant lets customers know that his team is not out partying in large crowds. “We don’t go anywhere. We paint and go get our groceries but that’s about the extent of it,” he said. “I make sure that everybody’s sanitized before they go into a home. If they go out, they put on hand sanitizer before they go back.” On site, he makes sure the crew is spread out and has their own workspace.

Also, while setting rules for your painters, he suggests setting them for your clients as well. “I ask the clients to keep their space and that if they have questions, comments or concerns that they do it from a reasonable space for everybody’s safety, or they can text or call,” Grant said.

Rob Yarbro has turned social distancing into strong waving. “We understand that distance between each other and the customers is vital, so we try to go a little above and beyond in our vocal tonality, morning and evening greetings, and hand gestures to show our appreciation for them trusting us with our project, and that we truly care about still building that relationship and trust as best as possible,” he said.

Let Them Be Themselves

Finally, our painters advise to let clients be themselves, including the space to be uncomfortable. One of Grant’s best clients, super nice, he says, wears sunglasses and a big scarf. “When it came time for payment, she threw it at me in a bag, so we didn’t touch,” he said. Of course, he made a good catch!

Jeremy Bramlett suggests letting them know it’s OK to stop the job in the middle or postpone it if they have a change of heart. His advice? “Don’t get stressed out. All you can really do is just be safe out there. Don’t overthink it.”

Takeaway tips:

  • Use technology to your advantage
  • Vet customers before going on site
  • Be very clear on your protocol
  • Do what's necessary to keep customers comfortable throughout the process

Contributions by:

TOP JOB Winner: Robert Yarbro of Wyoming View Painting

Rob Grant  of Robs Painting & More

Jeremy Bramlett of Premier Painting & Services

Terry Begue of Begue Painting

Next COVID Comeback Story: Hiring in the Age of COVID


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