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After an initial pause at the beginning of the pandemic, the construction industry has been experiencing a boom in demand. Yet, for those looking to benefit from the rebound in the U.S. economy, broken efficiencies, skilled labor shortages and customer service issues are tampering with the possibility for increased sales. In June 2021, 88% of contractors reported moderate-to-high levels of difficulty finding skilled workers, and that number is only growing with workers aging out of positions.

The challenges can feel endless, like one piling on top of another. Just as demand picks up, a worker shortage stalls progress. As one satisfied customer refers work to another, a lack of resources prevents capitalizing on the lead. This year, 35% of contractors have reported turning down work due to skilled labor shortages. 

Times of increased demand like this present a rare opportunity to identify gaps in business planning and identify areas for improvement. By focusing on how to more efficiently run the business and what offers the most value to customers, owners will find ways to save time and/or money that can then be reinvested in either recruiting and hiring or retention and training. Consider the following.

Provide consistency, always. A primary frustration among customers is inconsistent experiences. Whether that’s receiving different information from various staff interactions, or a business’ service delivery not meeting expectations, customer loyalty often hinges on a consistent experience across the duration of a project, beginning with the first interaction. Building this into training can produce cost-effective results through customer satisfaction.

  • While it may feel contrite or trendy, a business’s mission, vision and core values can be the anchor to meeting and exceeding customer expectations. Define these first to prioritize the various touch points on the customer journey the expectations they will likely have and how those expectations will be met. Then focus employee efforts on these stages, especially when short staffed.
  • Train every employee in consistency and reliability. Frontline staff is often the first interaction a customer has, so these employees can be critical to a business’s long-term success. Staff needs to be responsive, helpful, and have the same answers for every customer, every time they call.
  • Field employees are typically the ones managing customer concerns. An investment in training these individuals helps ensure every employee approaches customer interactions in the same way for smoother projects. These employees need to be proactive, understanding and solution-oriented. 

Prioritize customer and prospect communication. Business owners enjoy their work but often don't have a passion for, or feel they lack skill in, managing ongoing communications. But that communication is critical.  

  • Outsource frontline customer communication. Staff turnover impacts quality customer service and disrupts internal processes. Planning ahead by hiring a service to answer incoming calls that can be scaled up or down based on company demands saves time and focuses a team’s energy on the most important work.
  • 75% of contractors say that word of mouth is one of their most important new client resources, while 70% say that phone calls are the number-one way new customers contact them. This is why businesses offering easy, reliable accessibility by phone or online chat see results in sales.
  • Create a company website to interact with existing and potential customers. A website is like a physical storefront, and potential customers need to be engaged in a sale before they click away. A website can be made even more useful to a business with additions like live chat to engage customers, interest forms to gather their contact information and online specials to entice sales.  

Leverage technology to improve the sales funnel. Technology can be an important tool in the construction industry in terms of process, workflow and even employee recruitment. How it’s used can save valuable time and also provide better customer service across projects. 

  • Vendors can be important referral sources when looking to adopt new tools. By asking how their customers have been successful with the tool, what went right and what went wrong with others, business owners save valuable time and money by not having to test things out.
  • 42% of home services businesses say efficient customer scheduling is the top challenge. If only looking to invest in a few key pieces of technology, prioritize software that’s best for customer management. Again, a consistent customer experience is paramount, so software that helps with project management, efficiency and capturing project details can have a widespread effect on the business. 

This is an important time for the construction industry to both improve processes and streamline communication with customers. While hiring and retention have always been a concern with the industry’s seasonality, now, workers aging out of skilled labor jobs and a widespread worker shortage (from frontline employees to office management to in-field positions) means the construction industry has a lack of resources that is only growing. But there are ways to streamline business to successfully get work done.

Investing time and attention in the beginning—both with employee training and customer service expectations—saves money in the long run.  


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