E-mail is a great tool when it comes to communicating news, general information or just keeping in touch. But some cowardly homeowners use e-mail to file complaints. Customer doesn’t understand something, they have a bitch, gripe or complaint and they hit the contractor with a nasty E-mail.

You want to hear if a customer is unhappy, but in a manner that makes it easy for you to correct the problem and keep your relationship intact. Put safety measures in place to prevent customers from blasting you with a nasty e-mail and instead make them talk to you about their complaints. Instill in the customer’s mind that if they do blast you with a bad E-mail, they will be held accountable for it. Here is how.

In your contract, include language that says all gripes or complaints should be brought to the attention of the contractor and no one else. Additionally, you will respond to all phone calls and will set an appointment to deal with those issues within 24 hours of that phone call.

Now, before they sign your contract, point out that language and tell them, “John, Mary, if you have anything you don’t understand, anything that is troubling you, I want you to call me immediately. I don’t want an E-mail, I want you to call. I will either answer the question on the phone or if there is a complaint, I will come right over and we will deal with the issue. That also means John, Mary, that we don’t take shots at each other via E-mails, faxes or anything like that. If you have something, anything bothering you, we will deal with it face to face. Is that fair enough?

Now if they violate that rule and fire something nasty at you, I would go to them, ask if they remember the conversation you had before they signed the contract and ask why they felt it necessary to violate the agreement? You might think, “Oh, I can’t do that. I will alienate them.” Maybe. But they are already on the way to being alienated, at least in their own minds. It is more important to get this remote hostile bravery stopped before it gets out of control and they become a royal PITA. If you have a confrontation coming, it is better to deal with it right away rather than wait until they are so worked up they call an attorney.

Treat them fair, do what is on the contract, do what you agreed to do. And expect the same from them. Don’t be afraid to confront hostility right away. If you don’t confront it, it will only get worse.

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