Shopping for Services- A Buyer’s Experience
I recently purchased a home that required relatively extensive repairs and a seemingly endless task list, including a new roof, painting, lawn work, pool repair, insulation removal/replacement, pest control, tile cleaning, flooring replacement, and more.
The decision-making process was eye-opening for me. I found that there were particular reasons why we went with one provider over another, and a lot of our decision making came down to a few simple items.
There were certain things that mattered to us when deciding which contractors to contact initially, then different factors that played a role in which contractors we ultimately selected.
Deciding Who To Contact
We had referrals for a couple of the items we needed done, but the majority of our work would need to be sourced by us. We (obviously) began our search with Google. The biggest factors for deciding who to contact were:
Number of Reviews and Overall Rating- We did not contact anyone who did not have reviews, had less than 3 reviews, or an overall rating of less than a 4. If someone had negative reviews, we read those to get a better idea of what the worst case scenario was like.
Professionalism of Website– We contacted very few providers who did not have a website, and only ended up using 1 of those for lawncare (he had 19 5-star google reviews, though). Websites that looked old and outdated and websites that looked super flashy or too upscale were both warning signs, either that they may be too expensive or that they may not be active in their business. Websites that were functional, attractive, and had lots of pictures were the ones we were drawn to the most.
Other Factors- We also considered things like relative location (closer was better), how easy it was to contact them, and trust factors such as warranties or guarantees.
Selecting the Right Provider
The providers we ultimately chose had commonalities in their sales processes and practices that impressed me.
Here are the 5 factors that most influenced our decision to work with one provider over another:
1. They got back to me right away.
They either answered the phone when I called, called me back immediately, or responded to me in one way or another right away. If I didn’t hear back from someone that same day, they got bumped down my list. Many of the providers I reached out to NEVER CONTACTED ME AT ALL.
Why This Matters: If they weren’t able to be timely in an attempt to win my business, they certainly weren’t going to be on the ball once they already had my money. I was working within a deadline and needed assistance right away. It may go without saying, but I can tell you that I DID NOT hire any of the contractors who did not contact me back.
Put It Into Practice: Call back EVERY phone call AND EVERY form lead within 5 minutes of receiving the contact. E-mailing back is NOT sufficient. They may have mistyped their email, or your message may go to spam. An immediate phone call is the #1 way to secure the business as quickly as possible.
2. They set an appointment to view the property immediately.
Everyone that I seriously considered working with made an appointment to look at the house within the next 24-48 hours. If I was not going to be available to meet with them, they called to discuss while they were on-site so we could make sure they had all the information they needed for a complete quote. We were most impressed with providers that arrived neatly groomed in company work shirts and a branded vehicle.
Why This Matters: I tried to get quotes from at least 2 providers for every job I needed done. By getting out to meet with me quickly, they were able to ensure they were one of the ones I considered. After I had two appointments set, I did not reach out to any other additional providers. If someone was not able to get out quickly to quote the job, it was a sign that they would not be able to get the work done quickly, either.
Put It Into Practice: Schedule your consultation or on-site evaluation as quickly as possible. Being the first on the job means that you get to set the standard for your competitors. Be on time, be friendly, and make sure you have all the tools you need.
3. They provided insight, advice, or suggestions I hadn’t considered.
The contractors that provided the most value to me were those who helped me to understand what was best for my unique situation by offering alternatives, recommendations, or helpful advice of some sort. A window contractor that we worked with recommended a company that provided great service for sliding glass door repair that would save us a ton over replacement, and we ended up using both contractors. They were friendly, helpful, and told us how they were saving us money by doing the job a certain way.
Why This Matters: Sharing their expertise and providing additional value turns them from a salesperson into a consultant. Letting me know that they had my best interests at heart, and that they were able to do things more economically because of their expertise instilled a lot of trust very quickly, and with minimal effort on their part.
Put It Into Practice: Make smart and helpful recommendations that prove your expertise. Make sure they understand how working with you saves them money, either because you are providing something free that other companies charge for, your quality is better, you have a better guarantee, or something else that proves your worth over the other guys.
4. They put something in my hands.
My favorite contractors left me something to look at, read, and play with while I made my decisions. Either a sample of some type of material, a folder with details about their services, or some other valuable bit of collateral that I could refer to later. One company provided a folder that included a packet with THOUSANDS of addresses of completed projects and testimonials.
Why This Matters: I talked to a lot of providers, and kept everything they gave me together in a single packet for comparison and review. When sharing thoughts and ideas with my family, I was able to reference these details to ensure things would look good together, and to get second opinions. When I could see and feel something, it was much more real to me, and I was better able to envision what it would look like as a part of my home.
Put It Into Practice: Take samples of materials, past project examples, references, material data sheets, and other information along with you to give the client. Leave them something to remember you by beyond a business card and handshake.
5. They sent a quote immediately & kept following up.
Some contractors did everything right up until this point. They answered the phone, came out for measuring, left me behind materials, and then dropped the ball by not sending the quote right away. The providers I ultimately decided to go with sent me detailed quotes within 48 hours of the on-site visit, including next steps, payment terms, and cost breakdown, frequently with multiple options at different price points. I was ok with it taking a little longer to get the quote as long as they expressed that to me ahead of time so I knew what to expect.
Why This Matters: Sometimes a provider was just so on top of it that the choice was clear. There was one instance where I was strongly considering a different provider, but one guy just kept messaging and following up with me, and I had a hard time reaching the other company, so he won my business. He wanted it more, and I wanted someone who cared about doing a good job for me.
Put It Into Practice: Create the quote immediately, then call the client to let them know you are sending it. This allows you to mitigate any potential negative reaction, answer any questions, and explain pricing or structure. Continue to follow-up consistently until they have given you a firm answer one way or the other.
Price Vs. Value
So, all of this being said, there is one more factor that impacted our decision making- price.
Regardless of service, if someone was way outside what we deemed to be reasonable, they were not considered. No amount of great consultation could win us over from a quote that was simply uncompetitive with the others. When pricing was more similar, it became much less of a factor.
When we reviewed our quotes and compared them, we looked at more than just the price, but rather considered the entire cost vs. value of working with that provider. In some instances, we chose a provider who was a little more expensive because they were able to handle multiple aspects of the job, meaning we had fewer providers to manage. That value outweighed the slight cost differences. Some we picked because we liked them better as a human being and wanted to give them the work. There were some services that did not have a standout service provider, and in those instances, we had no problem choosing the lowest price.
The Final Decision
Ultimately, the providers we went with were honest, helpful, and hungry for the work. They proved that they were dependable and reliable from the very first communication, and treated me more like a good friend than a customer.
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