Prioritizing Clients During a Natural Disaster

As a construction professional, your services are in demand during a natural disaster.  Here are few tips for prioritizing your clients. priority article

As soon as Hurricane Matthew made its way to the U.S. earlier this week, panic sunk in for many home and business owners.  Roofing and general contractors have been inundated with calls, covering everything from the concerned clients in the middle of a project to the concerned citizen who wants to make sure their property is safe.  And that’s just the beginning.  Once the Hurricane has rolled through, repairs and reconstruction will be in order for much of the southeastern coastal areas of U.S.

With the high demand and clients being in desperate need, it can be nearly impossible to get to everyone at once.  Unless you have idle crews waiting around (not in this labor pool), you are bound to have a few anxious clients, many of which you will need to put on hold.  This is not only a challenging process, but it can be stressful for both the contractor and client.

Here are few simple ways to help prioritize customers in high-demand and desperate times such as natural disasters, while still maintaining professional and courteous customer service:

  1. Listen – In many cases, the customer just wants to be heard. Take the time to listen to all of their concerns prior to attempting to alleviate them.  Validating their concerns and expressing that you understand their perspective is important in building communication and having their understanding when you explain your services and the projected timeline.
  2. Know Your Clients – In an ideal world, all clients would be created equal. The truth is that some of your clients will be higher maintenance or have certain expectations based on the services you have provided in the past.  Additionally, some clients have larger projects, histories, referrals and billings with your company.  Create a list of the top ten clients that your team should know of proper response time and how they should be worked into the schedule.
  3. Be Proactive – Don’t wait for the calls to come to you. Maintaining healthy and regular communication with your clients will go a long way in situations where demand is high.  Getting ahead of the storm and contacting clients in advance will allow you to alleviate anxiety, as well as supply realistic expectations should an immediate need arise as anticipated.
  4. Get Your SOP Ready – Natural disaster or not, your business should have Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) in place for everything from evaluating job sites to handling clients. Don’t leave it up to your employees to figure out the best way to handle an irate or angry client.  Have an accessible SOP to which they can refer; it will give your team the confidence needed to work with clients in stressful situations knowing that they are following company guidelines.
  5. Know Your Value – Your time is valuable, and you must be realistic with what you can provide a client and how effectively you can help them in a given situation. In intense situations such as natural disasters, anxiety is high and can lead to receiving unrealistic and even irrational requests.  Hold your ground and be a steady resource for customers.  Do not expend too much energy or time with a customer with whom you are not seeing eye-to-eye.  Remember that your time is valuable and should be used with customers and situations where you can effectively and professionally provide your services.

Having more requests and open jobs scheduled than you can handle will be overwhelming.  By setting realistic expectations for clients and organized timelines that can be effectively met, you will have both satisfied clients and productive crews.  By hearing your clients out and prioritizing them based on how you can best meet their needs, you will ride out the storm surge of business and come out better on the other side.

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