|Look out for customers looking for a long-term relationship and start working to earn their trust today.|
By Scott Burt
Over the past 20 years I have been very lucky to have worked for some great people, and I’ve noticed many of the best customers share certain similarities. Here are some of the traits to look for to know you’ve found a stellar client:
1. They want a relationship
The best customers, in my experience, are repeat customers. They want a paint company that will get to know their home and take care of it for them. Too often paint contractors do a nice job for a customer, but a year or two later the customer does not even remember their name, much less how to contact them again. So, you need to do relationship marketing. All this takes is staying in touch.
The best customers want the best service, and they are willing to pay more for it. In website marketing, my company promises to deliver a “resort level experience” in the delivery of our service. That means treating the customer’s property as if it were a resort and making them feel as if they are watching a professional level resort staff take care of things.
Great customers appreciate a consistent experience every time. This starts with working a predictable schedule—showing up on time at the same time each day and cleaning up and leaving on time as well. We can never forget that having painters at a customer’s home is a bit of an imposition. Our goal needs to be to make this as convenient and unobtrusive as possible. You will know you are on the right track when you are able to provide the same crew of painters to these customers every time. It is a great feeling when your customers remember your employees in a positive way and are happy to see them. And on the flip side, you will find that your employees are happy to go to these jobs.
2. They are not do-it-yourselfers
Top-notch customers are not handy people. They don’t pretend to be handy. They don’t even want to be handy. But they sure appreciate the fact that you are handy when you show up at their house. They will be curious about how painters do things. If you notice them watching you work, it is not because they are being critical. It is usually more out of curiosity and respect.
Don’t be surprised if your best customers ask you to do other things. They may be simple things to us, but difficult tasks for them. It is common for us to be asked to change a hard-to-reach lightbulb. Small gestures like this mean a lot to people.
Your “A-List” customers will never suggest that they can do part of the job in order to reduce the price of the project. They are willing to pay your price to know that it will be done correctly and in a timely manner.
3. They pay fast and in full
If you have delivered your service correctly, the very best of customers will want to pay you immediately upon completion. As mentioned above, they do not burden your marketing budget, and by paying quickly they are excellent for your cash flow. Let’s face it, cash flow is the fuel that keeps our small businesses running healthy.
4. You earn their trust and respect
These customers don’t always know exactly what they want in terms of details (colors or products) or scope of work. During the estimating and project planning phase it is important to define for them what needs to be done for paint performance reasons, and what would be nice to do for aesthetic reasons. Empower them with knowledge and lead them to the right decisions.
Many of our top customers travel a lot, and they like to have us at their home doing the work while they are not there. They like knowing that someone will be keeping an eye on their property while they are not around, and it is always a fun surprise to come back to a spruced up home.
When you have earned this level of trust with a customer, treat that relationship like gold. It is to be treasured. Again, it is the simple things that nurture this relationship, such as always calling them right back if their call to you has gone to voicemail. You never want a good customer to stress over not being able to reach you.
5. They love communication
The best way to pull all of this together is to reach out to your A-List customers at least quarterly. I am not referring to boosting a Facebook ad to remind them that you are still around. If you have large quantities of high-level customers, you might consider a newsletter to reach them all in the same way with seasonal updates or tips to remind them of maintenance items. However, it is important to reach out to them personally as well, either through phone calls or emails.
I do this each spring by setting up an annual paint inspection where I can look at everything with them and advise on any service that will be needed in the coming year. People like this because they can plan for the cost of taking care of their home, and they can also figure out the best timing in which to have the work done.
Don’t be afraid to work with people at this level
Many painting contractors I’ve spoken with over the years consider high-end customers to be a pain in the neck or high maintenance. I have come to believe that this is because many paint contractors are intimidated or unsure that they can please customers at that level.
I see so many paint contractors casting the widest possible net to all demographics of customers. For all the reasons listed here (and more), I am of the school that it is more efficient and profitable to target the type of customers with which you work best.
The last thing I want to do is spend time and resources on qualifying and screening customers as a result of random lead generation. There is no bigger waste of time than going out to an estimate for a customer who is not a good fit. I would much rather spend that time building relationships with ideal customers.
Scott Burt owns and operates Topcoat Finishes in Vermont. He enjoys communicating with paint contractors at topcoatreview.com.