A great question came in last week about a problem many of you have probably faced. It's especially appropriate as we head into the holiday season.
I can't tell you how glad I am finding your website and reading/watching your business material. I don't have the final year end details but what I can tell you is that with the proper markup I implemented, and following the guidelines on how to operate based on reading the 2 books I purchased, my profit margin has gone up by almost 4 times. That's not an exaggeration. It has improved my company and my family's well being financially. I can't thank you enough, hope to join in on a class at some point.
I am struggling with one thing that I am not sure how to professionally deal with. I know what I need to do, but am not sure how to go about it.
Our clientele is upper end scale so I need to be professional but not rude. Most are good but some cross the line by sending emails and text messages after hours and on weekends, and the way they are worded, I'm not sure whether to answer the next day or after the weekend. I don't like it, however I am the owner and unfortunately have no choice but to do the right thing. My interior designer, however, doesn't need this after hours, she works very hard and is very diligent.
My question is…How do I make clients understand that if it's not an emergency we will not communicate back until the next business day, while being polite. Is this even possible to do? Any help would be appreciated.
Some people are used to snapping their fingers and having others jump. It's irritating, but you have to remember that they're writing the checks. So, you need to set the conditions under which you're willing to work, and it should be spelled out in your contract.
This language is in our Fast Track Proposal Writing software, and should be adjusted to match your business policy:
It is understood and agreed that CONTRACTOR's normal working hours shall be as follows:
Monday through Friday----------7:00 AM to 6:00 PM
Saturday------------------------------8:00 AM to 6:00 PM
New Year's Day
4th of July
Holidays Celebrated by Owner
Owners may contact CONTRACTOR during the course of normal business hours and at any time that any emergency might threaten the integrity of the existing building or the work in progress as outlined by this Contract.
Don't spring it on them during contract signing; during discussions about the job, let them know you're available business hours. They can send notes or emails over the weekend, but you won't respond until the next business day unless it's an emergency. Notice that the contract language defines an emergency.
Additionally, a few years back I was asked to develop language that limited the number of communications as well by a contractor who, during the course of a whole house remodel, received over 900 emails from the client. Enough already!
Owner agrees to limit the communications to CONTRACTOR as follows: E-mails to (# per week), Faxes to (# per week), Texts to (# per week), Requested/unscheduled meetings to (# per week) and Phone calls to (# per week).
Any additional communication or meeting requested from Owner to CONTRACTOR will be billed to the Owner at the rate of $(SPECIFY RATE PER HOUR) in 1/2 hour increments, payable at the next progress payment or final payment, whichever comes first.
Now, before you use this language in an agreement you need to read your customer. If you think it won't be needed, or it might send them into the arms of another contractor, adjust as you see fit.
There is nothing wrong with setting the conditions under which you work. You deserve, and you need, time away from your business for yourself and your family. During the course of the job, if you hear a complaint, you'll have to remind your client of your policy on communication outside normal business hours, but it's easier to do politely if it's already been discussed and is included in the contract.