How to Use Your CRM to Improve Relationships With Homeowners

by:
on February 21, 2018

It’s a home builder’s worst nightmare: You bought customer relationship management (CRM) software for your construction firm, you’re closing deals and sales are booming—but, now that business has picked up, you start to notice some friction in your client-contractor relationships.

The issues don’t seem like much at first: A forgotten change order here. A pushed-back close date there. But if you let issues accumulate, they result in unhappy customers.

And research has shown that disgruntled customers are more likely to leave negative reviews online about their experience, which can be devastating to your small business.

As frustrating as these situations are, they come with the territory. With so many moving parts and teams involved with a home build, you can’t avoid setbacks. What you can do is mitigate the fall out. The trick is to communicate early and be transparent.

You already have the tools you need, but if you’ve been using your CRM for sales and lead generation only, you haven’t been using the software to its full potential.

Here are three tips on how to use your CRM to nurture the client-contractor relationship over the course of the job.

By doing this, you’ll improve your relationship with homeowners and help preserve your brand and reputation online.

Make Client Care a Priority, Not an Afterthought

We all know that a personal touch goes a long way. We used to teach our sales and marketing staff to memorize client names, recall birthdays and anniversaries—extra points if they remembered to ask about little Bobby or Susie.

Of course, now our CRM software can “remember” these details for us. When Bobby Sr. calls, we can pull this information up with a click of our mouse. But, what about using it proactively?

How to use your CRM to make client care a priority:

  • Ask clients to fill out a profile and create a client login for your CRM tool (or within your project management software if it integrates with your CRM).
    • Set up tasks to remind you of client birthdays and anniversaries.
      • Email holiday greetings from your firm.
        • Schedule calendar alerts to celebrate important milestones in the project.
          • Create surveys and ask customers to rate their experience.

          This outreach will help create a rapport with homeowners. Establishing this sense of connection can go a long way in setting your firm apart from your competition. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to start your client-contractor relationship out on a positive note, even when you have to reach out with news of a delay.

          If you’re not sure how to automate these functions in your CRM, reach out to your vendor. If they don’t offer these features in-suite, they can suggest products their integrate with their CRM which you can use to supplement their offering.

          Accessing client information in Zoho CRM
           

          Be Honest About Project Progress, Even When It’s Slow

          Inevitably, some part of the project will fall behind. Either a material shipment is late, or an installation is delayed due to the weather. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you can resolve the issue before having to tell the homeowner, so you “go dark” for a few extra days while you try to find a workaround. Then a few days turns into a few weeks.

          Instead, you should communicate early and often. It’s basic advice, but it’s paramount to a positive client-contractor relationship.

          How to use your CRM to communicate project progress with the homeowner:

          • Set up a weekly, recurring “check-in” with your clients. You can schedule this as a summary report or email, which provides a snapshot of progress and an overview of financials, open change orders, personnel changes etc. Let them know early how delays will impact the schedule and keep them in the loop if anything changes.
          • Ping clients in the client portal (or via email) for urgent changes, updates or delays that can’t wait until the weekly status report. Use descriptive subject lines such as “Requires immediate attention” or “Requires immediate action” to let home owners know what’s expected from them.
          • Set up tasks to remind you to email clients an agenda few days before your next in-person meeting. Ask them to add their questions/concerns to the agenda ahead of time, so you can prepare accordingly.

          Project activities screen, showing scheduled tasks and emails, in Insightly
           

          Establish Workflows for Handling Change Requests

          Change orders can make or break the client-contractor relationship. Misplacing a change order or failing to document and approve change requests could become a source of distrust between you and the home owner at best, and at worst could cost you a lot of money.

          Change Order Process

          Project activities screen, showing scheduled tasks and emails, in Insightly


          If you’re using construction management software with built-in CRM, you should be able to define workflows and allow clients access to change orders via the client portal. If you’re using a CRM that isn’t specific to construction, be sure to link change order documentation with the client contract documents in your system.

          How to use your CRM to establish workflows for handling change requests:

          • Document procedures dictating how change orders are handled, whether as a result of a design error, procurement issues or owner-initiated changes.
          • Make change order workflows “public,” meaning internal staff can log in and see where the order is in the process, and so can the client (through their client portal). Each user can see where the change order has been, and where it needs to go next.
          • Require approvals for change orders to move from one stage to the next in the process (e.g., the designer or architect proposing a solution and the contractor and client sign off on the changes).
          • Use e-signature to approve the change order and amend the client contract.

          Viewing and approving a change order from the client portal in BuilderTrend

          Are Teams Set Up for Success on Your Home Builder CRM?

          You may just be scratching the surface of what your home builder CRM can do for your construction firm. To make sure you’re getting the most out of the system, look into the following:

          • Training. Did your sales teams and your contractors receive training on your CRM? What about your subcontractors? Make sure each group, or type of user, has had training on your CRM and knows how to use it effectively.
          • Integration. As mentioned above, your CRM should integrate with your construction management software. Another integration to consider is your accounting solution. This is the best way to be sure you’re staying on top of and communicating project expenses to the client.

          If you have questions about implementing our tips for building a better client-contractor relationship, email me at eileen@softwareadvice.com.

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