Having a successful home services business is based on one simple concept: trust. You certainly have to be skilled at what you do, but trust is the foundation of a business relationship. It’s essential. Building clients and customers for life—and that bring you referrals—is all about them trusting you to deliver on your promises.
Basically, without trust, customers won’t be convinced that your price quotes, deadlines, and work quality are truly what you say they are. You have to appreciate that people are protective of their property. Homes are one of the biggest investments and most personal of spaces. It’s only natural people are determined to be extra vigilant about who they let in their home, whether it’s a regular visit for house-cleaning or lawn maintenance, or a time-sensitive appointment to do some home repair work.
While trust may sound intangible and touchy-feely, it delivers concrete results. A Concerto Marketing Group and Research Now Survey found that when customers trust a business or brand, 83 percent will recommend that company to others and 82 percent will continue to use that company frequently. Building trust takes effort and time, but it’s important to realize that it starts as soon as people hear your company name or find you through web search.
Here are three key tips to building client trust:
1. Make a Great First Impression
Whether your customer is looking at your business card, your website or meeting you in person, you want to immediately instill confidence and professionalism. In person, it takes about seven seconds to form a first impression, so make those seconds count!
- Look people in the eye. It may sound obvious, but if you’re constantly shifting your gaze, it makes people suspicious
- Go in strong and sure of yourself. You’re the expert and you know your material best
- Remove all distractions when you’re meeting with your client. Turn off your phone and your computer screen, so you can give your client your undivided attention.
- If you’re meeting to pitch a client, dress appropriately. Business attire for a first appearance conveys your own professionalism and your respect for your client. Wear a work uniform branded with your business name when you arrive on the job.
- Offer a business card that has the name of your business and your logo or tagline, consistent with the design of your marketing materials and website. Include one or two contact telephone numbers, your persona; email (not “info@”), and your address, which helps to lend legitimacy to your business. Include your website and one or two main social media accounts. You want to invite people to contact you and get to know what you have to offer, but don’t overwhelm them with too much information. Make the most of the marketing opportunity and use the back of the card as well so the information can be well-presented with enough white space for clarity and impact.
This good first impression should extend to your web and social presence too. After all, you might not even get to meet the client if you don’t stand up to their online research. As such:
- Have a professional photo and bio on your site
- Include testimonials and, where appropriate, work samples with before and after shots
- Be visibly responsive to comments and queries that come in through social channels
2. Deliver Consistent Service
Building trust, beyond the initial optics, is about delivering consistent great service. How would you expect to be treated as a customer if you let someone into your home to work for you? Put yourself in your client’s shoes for a moment and really critique if you measure up. You can command trust by your timeliness, responsiveness, and exceeding expectations with the service you provide. Clients are human. While they may not shower you with compliments (it’s a bonus when they do), they will certainly give you an earful if they’re upset because you didn’t meet a deadline or did something they didn’t expect.
On that note, try to be as transparent about the service you provide as you can be. Be upfront and straightforward when you’re planning, executing and completing a project. This means letting the client know the how’s and why’s of what you’re doing. Keep explanations simple and free of jargon. It’s likely your client doesn’t have your expertise so may not relate to the industry terminology, whether you’re speaking about fabric treatments in home staging and décor, or handyman work to repair kitchen cabinetry.
Also, don’t overpromise. You want to live up to the expectations you create for your customers so they will take you at your word. If unexpected problems arise or you’ve made an error, address the issue directly, and explain how you will handle it. You are the expert at solving problems, and you’ll want their buy-in and support. Clients are smart. They will appreciate you more for admitting to a mistake and moving forward, instead of avoiding the topic and hoping it goes unnoticed.
3. Check in When You Arrive and When You Leave
One easy way to alleviate a customer’s anxiety is to keep them from wondering whether you’ve arrived at their home, or if you’ve come, completed a job and left. Rather than leave people uncertain about your arrival and exit time, check in by text or phone, and try to be as prompt and consistent about times as well. This kind of communication is also great way to “put a cherry on top” of your services – something that customers will be likely to share with other prospective customers.
Update your client on progress and any concerns at each visit, whether by text or phone. You want them to feel that you are involving them in the work and the job is progressing.
Get to know the individual needs of your clients. Some people like detailed reports, while others are more hands-off, so the intricacies of building trust will often depend on how well you understand your clients’ expectations. When you exceed these expectations, make sure to ask for endorsements. People are influenced by customer opinions and asking for feedback also makes the customer feel valued; always a good thing.
4. Don’t Forget: The Walls Have Eyes
Always conduct yourself as if your client was on the premises. With nanny-cams, home monitoring systems and neighbours watching over your work, demonstrate that you are committed, have a strong work ethic, and are treating their home as you would your own. This also means, of course, tidying up at the end of your visit. No one wants to come home and find their personal things in disarray.
When you establish trust and good relations with clients, the day-to-day operations will go smoother, customers will be more receptive to up-selling, and word-of-mouth advertising will be in your favour. The gains to be made will far outweigh the time and effort.
About the Author: Karen Hawthorne worked for six years as a digital editor for the National Post, contributing articles on business, food, culture and travel for affiliated newspapers across Canada. She now writes from her home office in Toronto as a freelancer, and takes breaks to bounce with her son on the backyard trampoline. Connect with her on LinkedIn.