Contractors, what skills lead to the highest customer satisfaction over a range of replacement jobs?

If you’re like many contractors you’d probably answer, quality of work, expertise and team knowledge. You might even think the customer feeling like they got a good deal is of high importance to their contentment.

But while those aspects are all essential parts of a job well done, the three skills that most affect customer satisfaction are:

  1. Problem resolution
  2. Being professional and organized
  3. Communication

Those findings are based on GuildQuality customer satisfaction data from more than 100,000 homeowners about their experience going through a variety of common contracting jobs such as roofing, window replacement and vinyl siding. And here’s the key: Customers who are satisfied with a project are also more likely to recommend contractors to a friend.

That a contractor’s ability to resolve problems is the number one service trait leading to customer satisfaction is a “fundamental shift” for the industry, says Tim Shigley, chair of NAHB Remodelers.

“That was what woke me up,” said Shigley, who’s also president of Shigley Construction Company. “They’re saying, ‘We don’t even care about you being an expert at all.’ If you look at, that’s pretty disturbing.”

But contractors shouldn’t assume that service traits such as quality and expertise no longer matter. They’re actually integral to problem resolution, professionalism and communication, says Kathryn Ewing, GuildQuality marketing manager.

“If you’re not an expert it’s a problem that’s going to come out in other areas,” she said. “Quality also plays into problem resolution because if the job is done correctly then there won’t be as many problems to solve.”

Linking the wrong skills to customer satisfaction — typically skill of craftsmanship — is the biggest mistake most contractors are making today, said Shawn McCadden, president of Remodel My Business Inc. “Consumers assume the quality will be good,” he said. “So what’s more important to them is, ‘Can I get along with this guy? Is he giving me good options? If something happens during construction, what’s it going to be like to work with this company?’”

When put to those questions, he said many contractors don’t meet customer expectations. “How many smaller contractors can even write a coherent sentence?” he asked. “They’re terrible at communication.”

As a result, he said, contractors often get stuck in a “commodity mentality,” meaning they have to sell themselves on price rather than differentiate themselves with higher-level — and higher paying — skills. “It’s not their house, and it’s not their money,” he said. “They need to help the prospect figure out the best solution and what they’re going to have to pay to get it.”

And don’t expect customers to be forthright about their problem solving needs, Ewing warns. Most are too timid or kind to complain even when they’re unhappy. That’s why the most successful contractors have checkpoints before, during and after the project to make sure customers are satisfied throughout.

“Some customers are more hesitant to complain directly to the company they’re working with,” she said. “So make sure you have those lines of communication open at all times and let them know they have a safe and secure outlet to voice their concerns. You don’t ever want to assume anything. A problem may have gone unresolved and you may not even know about it.”

Even at that point, it’s never too late to make sure customers are happy — and more likely to do repeat work or recommend you to others. “Just because a problem occurred during a job, doesn’t mean it can’t be resolved after,” she said. “It’s important to know the customer is satisfied all the way through the job.”