I’m having some gas logs installed at my house, a project that was supposed to take 2-3 hours and has turned into several days. I’m also having some work done on my gutters. In both cases, the people coming to the house have been pleasant and polite, but I’m having a heck of a time finding out when they will return or how long the jobs will take.

This has reminded me once again that many in our industry are experts in our own businesses but amateurs at communication. And poor communication is a recipe for frustrations, misunderstandings and bad results.

I’ve developed a few guidelines that I believe can help bridge the communication gap between the restoration contractor and the client. No doubt, you can add others.

Keep Clients Informed
We do a good job of letting clients know when we will come to discuss a project or start a job. The problem comes when a job lasts a while or subcontractors have conflicts. In such cases, you should contact your clients to let them know what is happening even if you are not sure of the timing. At least they won’t be getting angrier by the minute because you haven’t called.

Avoid Assumptions
Just because you know a process like the back of your hand doesn’t mean your client understands anything that you are doing. Be patient with explanations and avoid jargon unique to our industry.

Ask Questions
Questions show you are listening and help ensure that you understand what a client wants. Restate what you have heard to verify that you and your client have a mutual understanding of the job.

Practice Active Listening
Listening requires concentration. Because our minds process information faster than people can speak, we mentally multitask. In fact, some observers say that people only hear about 65% of what other say. If you want to test your ability to focus on one thought, try counting silently to 50 without letting anything except the number enter your mind. Odds are you will not get past the teens.

Follow Up and Respond
Although we have more ways to communicate, we still tend to be slow in responding to problems. Set aside a specific time each day to return calls or handle problems so that you will get back to people within a day or two at most. Express appreciation when someone points out a problem because they are helping to make your business better.

It’s Monday and the workers who were here Friday afternoon are nowhere in sight. When I called this morning, the receptionist said I’d have to call back tomorrow at 9 o’clock to find out if my job was on the daily schedule. If I could get someone else to finish this job, I would. Unfortunately I’ve got too much time and money invested with the current company. So I’ll just wait and wish that they knew the basics of communication.