I thought I saw a reliable contractor once. Turns out he was hammered. My point is this: Ever notice how most contractors are a little flaky? Doesn’t matter whether it’s the guy installing a new furnace or the dude replacing your deck or your brother-in-law’s nephew repairing your washing machine. They all seem to have the same concept of customer relations: they’re slackers. They fail to call you back, they arrive two hours late – if they keep the appointment at all –and then they leave after just 30 minutes on the job because the one critical tool is back at the shop.
Why is this? Why are most contractors so unreliable? I did some research on the dark web and stumbled across a Deep Dark Secret – That’s what it’s called: A Deep Dark Secret – the course all contractors are required to take – and are sworn never to reveal to their clients, the homeowners.
It is an intensive seven-week seminar on how to deal with difficult customers – by which they mean, well, anyone who hires them and expects the job to be done on time on price. Of course, getting the job done RIGHT will cost you extra. Every Joe plumber, electrician, and roofer must pass the course to get their license. I went undercover to expose this scam. Unfortunately, no one bought my act as Fred the Welder. Go figure. Eventually, though, I was able to obtain an exclusive copy of the course syllabus from a disgruntled former HVAC guy.
Don’t take crap from just anyone. Take it from us! In Customer Relations with Annoying People – or CRAP, for short, you’ll learn everything you need to deal with pushy homeowners. You know the type: the ones who expect you to do the job WHEN and AS promised. Never again let a trivial contract keep you from blowing off that roof job and going fishing instead. Follow the key principles in this seven-week program and before long, you won’t be taking CRAP from any customer [Disclaimer: Because you may no longer have any].
Week One: The Initial Visit: Setting the Trap
Arriving on time at the initial appointment is critical to landing the gig. But don’t worry – that’s the last time you need to show up on time. You will role-play a scene from our patented “First Impressions” in which you inspire unwarranted confidence in your workmanship with vague references to previous quasi-relevant experience to create the false impression you’ve actually done this kind of work before.
Week Two: The Estimate: Tightening the Screws
This module teaches you to turn a 15-minute job tightening a screw with a Phillips into a major demolition project requiring an excavator and a cement mixer (hiding the bodies is an upper-level course). Experience the thrill of duping customers into believing that a minor leak (which you will secretly make worse) requires taking the main level down to the studs for fear their house will collapse into a giant sinkhole. Instilling fear is key.
A panel of experts discusses how to use obscure terminology to make any everyday project sound far more laborious and costly than it should be, with phrases like, “Hmmm, I see that your Angular Discharge Tube is not feeding properly into your Compression Valve. That’s a serious a problem…”
Week Three: Over-Promise and Under-Deliver
Master the technique of promising to complete the job in three weeks under budget, then actually delivering it in three months at double the original estimate. This session explains how to set up customer expectations, then slowly chip away at their false hope by routinely arriving late, leaving early and complaining about vital parts being on back order. Participants break into “Plausibility Groups” to compile a list of credible-sounding excuses. Want to spend the day drinking? Learn to say, “My truck wouldn’t start” with a straight face using our patented mirrors for instant feedback. Masters candidates learn how to get the client to pay for a new engine for your truck.
Week Four: Taking on Another Project That Pays Better
A key skill for all contractors is blowing off a current customer when a better-paying gig pops up halfway through the project. Learn how to rationalize that this isn’t unprofessional. Let’s face it, you’ve got the first customer in a bind, so they can’t really drop you this far into it. Is it possible to juggle six projects at once without pissing off everyone and ruining your reputation? Of course, not, but this session teaches you how that’s really not your problem.
Week Five: Avoiding Customer Calls
Otherwise known as “PTSD: Practical Tips and Strategies for Deadbeats” – The How-To guide for avoiding customer contact when they begin to wonder if you’ve fallen off the face of the earth. Popular ploys include deleting messages without listening to them and turning off the phone for days at a time. It is crucial to avoid engaging with pesky clients asking why the kitchen light switch now sparks every time they flip the switch.
If you’re a contractor, customer complaints are a given. Learn how to feign concern by promising to fix the issue without committing to any time frame. Skill-building exercises include blaming the customer for any misunderstanding and how you’d be happy to finish those previously promised repairs for an additional $1,000. We will briefly explore the ethical question, “Who says the customer is always right?”
Week Seven: Over-Billing
This session equips you with a glossary of indecipherable construction-sounding terms to assist in padding your final bill. Easily transform a $50 service charge for shutting a valve into a $795 invoice for Pressure-Balancing the Discharge Flow to repair the Hydronic Shutoff Receptor. For an additional $49.95, you’ll go home with a three-ring binder filled with dozens of highly technical flow charts and electrical grid diagrams which have nothing to do with your actual project, easily attachable to your invoice to confuse your customer.
After you have completed this seven-week program, you’ll be prepared to respond to any customer issue that could possibly arise – whenever you feel like getting around to it – which according to my calendar is not for another three weeks months.
That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.
Check out my latest humor book: YOU’RE GROUNDED FOR LIFE: Misguided Parenting Strategies That Sounded Good at the Time
©Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2017