Trades Management Tradies

Six Ways Tradies can Improve Their Customer Service

As a tradesman, your customer service skills will have a huge impact on your reputation and business.

You can be highly skilled at your job, but it’s the little things and extra effort you make with your customers which go a long way in strengthening the relationship.

This doesn’t come naturally to all tradies. So here’s some key tips to take your customer service to new levels.

1. Show pride in your appearance and workspace

Let’s face it – the work of a tradie is never the cleanest or tidiest. But while your customers will expect a bit of dirt and dust in the work area, it doesn’t mean you can’t respect your client’s space, keep your tools organised and minimise the mess wherever possible. Some tradies are even going to the lengths of investing in disposable booties!

And although no one expects a tradie to show up in formal attire, it’s still important to manage your appearance and look respectable. You should be holding your professional license and proof of liability insurance. This alone can speak a lot for your character and the way you run your business.

2. Educate your client, and yourself

Take the time to better educate your client on the process and understand exactly what they’re after. Initially, you could even go as far as giving them a pamphlet or a link to your website with more information.

You should be providing your client with knowledge every step of the way, especially if you have a new idea or an inkling that the final product won’t work out the way they imagined. Your customers will appreciate you filling them in and taking the time to give them daily insights into your work progress.

But in turn, also take the opportunity to educate yourself on your customer’s rights and your own rights, in case of any issues that arise.

3. Set thorough and reliable expectations

Be clear on all the expectations early on, such as the estimated costs, hours, working days and materials.

If extra materials or working hours are required, ensure you communicate with your client first before taking on the additional costs. It could be a huge shock for your client to receive a higher than expected final bill, and it can leave them with a sour taste!

More importantly, put EVERYTHING in writing and make sure your customer physically signs off and approves the agreements.

4. Communication is key

You can be a highly experienced and fantastic tradesmen, but without communication, your client relationship will quickly crumble.

As a rule of thumb, it’s better to overcommunicate than leave your client in the dark. So, whether you’re running late, giving a daily summary of your work or there is a change in your workload, always reach out to your client via whatever communications you’ve both decided on.

Communication is also about initiative and stepping up in the more difficult situations. If you believe something needs to change or a dispute arises, act on it early and politely. If there is an increase in hours, costs or materials needed, don’t be afraid to communicate the situation with your client. Open and honest communication is the gel in any relationship, and a client relationship is no different.

Another big one of tradies – respond to calls in a timely fashion. It is hard when you’re working all day, but set aside time at the start and end of the day to follow up enquiries, questions and feedback. This alone will set you apart from your competition.

5. Build your online profile

Gone are the days of the Yellow Pages – now, social media and the internet is the bread and butter of business reputation and promotion.

Social media is fantastic for communication, advertising, and giving customers the opportunity to leave reviews. But with social media comes a level of credibility and accountability. Your profile is about having two-way communication and responding to all customers, whether it’s good or bad.

While removing inappropriate or offensive reviews can be ok, platforms like Google and Facebook don’t make it easy. And deleting every single 1-star rating or negative review that comes your way can be inauthentic and send a poor message. You also have the right of reply, and can respond to criticism respectfully while still upholding your brand. Businesses who are honest and own up to their mistakes show greater character and respect from customers.

When you active your brand on social media, do it properly. You need to be posting regularly, sharing content, responding to comments and engaging. Unanswered messages and comments will frustrate clients and won’t reflect well on your brand.

Perhaps what’s even worse is a tradesman who has no online presence at all. Potential clients will immediately be discouraged if you are hard to find or inaccessible online.

6. Make sure you ‘walk the talk’

Nothing is more frustrating than a worker who doesn’t deliver on their promises. If you’ve given your client certain expectations, make sure you live up to them with your work. If anything, it’s better to under promise and over deliver.

If your situation does change for any reason, it all comes back to communication and finding a solution that benefits both parties.

You want to be seen as reliable and committed tradesman with a strong work ethic.

Take control of your tradies

Managing multiple tradies is no walk in the park. Hire a reliable maintenance contractor to do it for you.

Time Management for Tradies

One of the common issues many tradies face is how to effectively manage their time.

When you started your business, you probably had grand plans about creating your own future and what that would look like - a profitable business, more flexibility with your schedule, more time to spend with family.

But it doesn’t take long for most trade business owners to discover that, when you’re running your own business, time is your scarcest resource, and time management is a daunting task. Before you know it, the demands of work take over, your schedule is out of control, you are working long hours to try and manage it and you come home every day stressed out!

The good news is, there is a pathway forward. And with a bit of structure and planning, you can learn how to shift your mindset and develop a time management plan that will help take control of your time and schedule to give you back hours in the day.

Step 1: Start with the end in mind

Before you drill down to how you should be spending your time, you need to create a north star for your business to work towards. An achievement that will make all your hard work worth it in the end!

Effective time management begins with a clear vision (your north star) of what you are working towards. Your vision helps you focus and prioritise your time. Simply ask yourself – is completing these tasks or activities the best use of my time that will get me closer to my vision?

Step 2: Understand where you spend your time

To become effective at time management, you first need to know where your time goes. And to know where your time goes - you guessed it - you’ve got to regularly audit your time by completing a time-log.

Your time can be thought of in three categories:

  1. Working on your business
  2. Working in the business
  3. Administration

Use a time-log to get a better reflection of what a typical week looks like for you so you can understand where you currently spend your time.

For a free time allocation tool to help you understand where you spend your time, download Tradies workbook: Own your time and get hours back in your day.

Step 3: Value your time

One of the biggest mistakes managers of trades businesses make is not valuing their time.

The value of your time is not your charge-out rate and it’s important to understand where spending your time creates the greatest value for the business. (hint: it is working on the business and building your asset).

Of course, as a business owner you wear multiple hats and you have to generate cash to pay the bills. It’s about getting the balance of where you spend your time right.

For a free guide to help you understand what your time is worth in dollars, download Tradies workbook: Own your time and get hours back in your day.

Step 4: Reallocate your time

Now that you have understand where you currently spend your time and understand the value of your time, you can start to identify ways to reallocate your time so that you are maximising the time you have available to you.

Step 5: Measurement and holding yourself accountable

In our experience, measuring results and holding yourself accountable are the #1 things you can do to improve time management. As the old saying goes, ‘what gets measured, gets done’.

Planning is the easy part, but execution is bloody hard. It’s easy for a busy person to fall back into the habits of always being busy. So, to help hold yourself accountable for getting your tasks done, set up a structure from the outset that helps you stay on track. And find someone you trust who can hold you accountable to achieving your goals.

Step 6: Time block your way to success

Once you know where you should be spending your time and how much time you should be spending on administration, working in the business and working on the business, you need to schedule time blocks each week where you can focus on executing your plan.

Improved time management can start with a 90-minute block each day where you work on the important and urgent tasks first thing in the morning and another 90-minute block in the afternoon for the important but not urgent.

During these times you should completely remove distractions. Turn off your phone and emails and ask your employees not to bother you during these times.

Tradies workbook: Own your time and get hours back in your day.

It doesn’t take long for most trades business owners to discover that time is their scarcest resource. Before you know it, the demands of work take over, your schedule is out of control, you are working long hours to try and manage it and you come home every day stressed out!

The good news is, there is a pathway forward. The Tradies workbook: Own your time and get hours back in your day can help provide the structure and planning you need to learn how to shift your mindset and develop a plan that will help you take control of your time and schedule to give you back hours in the day.

The Best Way to Manage Your Team of Tradespeople

How to manage your team of tradies?

If you have a team – if you’re a trades business, you do work by people going out into the world to do work and to do good work. And you grow that – you make more money and do more good work, by having more people out there doing that good work.

So, you need your team. You’re very reliant on your tradespeople and on your people in the office. You need them to:

  1. Do a good job
  2. Work hard
  3. Care
  4. Complete things on time and on budget
  5. Understand
  6. Help you build this business that you want to build

Hiring well is important, but it’s also important to do that with discipline and process.

Managing Your Team is the Small Picture

If leading is big picture stuff, showing them your strategy, showing them the vision and their part in the plan, then managing is the small picture stuff — their job, their performance, communicating with them on an operational level and on a daily and a weekly basis.

It’s about feedback and closing that loop.

As usual, it’s about being disciplined and systematic. It starts with their job descriptions. Everybody should have one. Everybody needs one.

And if you did your hiring right and you followed the process I showed you last time, they already have job descriptions.

This is the clarity and what’s expected from them — what they’re responsible for and what’s expected from it. You need to hold them accountable for what you expect from them on a daily basis and in their formal reviews that you do every six months.

You should be doing reviews every six months too — formal ones where you sit down, have an agenda, take notes, and look at them again in the next review and look at whether they’ve improved.

Management Hierarchy

You should have a management hierarchy because there’s only so many people you can manage.

Maybe now there’s only three, four, five or six that you can manage by yourself. By the time you’re up to 10, it’s too many and you won’t have any more time to do your own job so you’re going to have managers and have to put that management hierarchy in place.

You should meet your direct reports (team leaders) every day for a10-minute huddle. And your managers should be doing the same with their teams.

It’s a quick:

It should be short, 10-minutes maximum.

You should meet the whole team separately for an operational meeting once a week where you discuss again:

You should meet your whole company at least once a month.

And that’s about sharing the strategy again — the progress that’s been made so far, the numbers. And it’s about recognizing and rewarding contributions people have made. That’s really important.

It’s really important for your team’s cohesiveness. And if you remember back to the leading video, it’s important to keep them involved, be waving the flag about the progress we’ve made against that strategy.

It’s important to make these investments in communicating with your people even though I can almost hear you thinking, “I need them on the tools making me money. I can’t afford to have so many meetings where people are not doing that.”  But it’s how you manage and how you communicate. And if you don’t do this stuff, you’ll be disappointed in the performance you get.

This stuff holds everyone together. It makes a team rather than a loose collection of people with the same brand on their polo shirts. It’s important.

Please don’t neglect it. Please don’t leave it to chance. It’s an important part of your growth.

Transforming great Tradies into great Business Owners

People working in the Trades industry are often asked what their biggest challenge is when it comes to running their business. Not a single one of them ever talks about the actual job they do. Why? Because they all are exceptionally good tradesmen and they know their stuff like the back of their hands. Where they are lacking is the business side of things.

If you are reading this, I can already tell that you are sick of spending hours putting quotes together, tracking which employee is working on what, sorting out the paperwork on weekends and may be even spending more time on the tools than you would like. This is a story I’ve heard more times than I can remember. But I’ll tell you what; the journey from being a great tradie to becoming a great business owner doesn’t have to be so hard, with the right mindset and the right systems in place.

It’s simply an ART that you need to master. Why do I call it an ART? Let’s find out:

1. Autonomous team building - Running collaborative, self-managed teams

Running a one-man show is just about doing the job. Running a team? Well that’s a different ball game altogether. As your business grows, you realise that you cannot be at 10 different places, doing 10 jobs a day, at the same time. You need to hire people and delegate tasks. With tight schedules and endless work to be completed, you need a system in place that gives more autonomy to teams that can manage jobs on their own, with minimum oversight needed.

The first step in achieving this is to equip your teams with the tools they need to work independently but not alone. With a self-managed team, once a job has been assigned, there should be no need for you to keep calling to check on progress.

The teams should be empowered to directly communicate with customers and with each other, start and finish jobs on their own, and contact you only if there is an issue that needs your attention.

The second part of running a self-managed team is to simplify the reporting process. Despite the fact that your employees are working independently, you’ll still need to keep track of daily progress, due dates, payment collections and any problems that arise in between. That’s only possible if there is a system which employees can use to report back to the main office.

2. Relationship nurturing - Repeat customers that act as brand advocates

Not knowing what your customers want from you can be stressful. But for customers, hiring someone they know nothing about, can be even more so. In my experience having worked with hundreds of Tradies, most of the Customer-Tradie disputes arise from mismatched expectations on time, quality and cost, which in turn results in payment retention, bad word-of-mouth or a poor customer review.

The key lies in customer focus.

The best way to avoid this is to set out expectations before the work begins. And this goes for both the customers and the business owners.

Sending a detailed written quote and getting it approved by the customer is where you start.

Keep customers informed of any changes in the time, scope or cost of job and once it’s completed put a system in place that makes it easy for them to pay on the go. Collect feedback and act on it to deliver a better service next time.

This is how you nurture relationships and can even turn difficult customers into loyal brand advocates.

3. Time management - Stop working harder, start working smarter

Not enough time in the day is the story of every trades services business owner. From daily team meetings to taking calls, sending quotes, overseeing tasks and sending out invoices, it’s never an all-done-now-I-can-relax moment for you.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Scheduling tasks well in advance can give you foresight into what your week is going to look like and also gives you the freedom to make slot for emergency jobs in between the days with ease.

Additionally, you can move from manual invoicing to a cloud accounting system that sends automatic feeds to the system when a job is completed and invoices customers electronically. This will cut out the hard work from managing your business replacing it with smarter ways to achieve more in less time.

Over to you

Team management, time management and customer relationship management continue to be the leading issues Tradies struggle with when they expand from a being solo trader to a registered Trades services business.

With technology already transforming the lives of Tradies helping great Tradies become great business owners too, it’s about time you contemplated what aspects of your business can benefit from new technology out there making waves for so many and which ones are still better off the old-school way.

The choice is yours.

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