TECH TIPS! Strengthening Business Relationships with CRM Technology

Construction companies starting out five, 10 or even 20 years ago faced many challenges, but communication was likely not one of them.

Small business owners are in the field shaking hands with customers, personally making sure everything is done right and spending time with suppliers and subcontractors. As companies grow, things change. Leaders are less involved with daily operations, and more employees are interacting at different times with key contacts. Communication silos begin to take shape. In a larger construction firm, it’s easy for communication to break down, threatening the critical relationships on which the firm’s reputation and business has been built.


How can a company ensure employees are all on the same page when it comes to working with customers and business partners? The right software solution can help.


In construction, customer relationship management (CRM) software is not limited to customer relationships. It’s equally important to manage both upstream and downstream relationships, including those with architects, owners, general contractors, suppliers, customers and subcontractors. CRM solutions centralize all of a company’s contacts and related communications so everyone can work together to create an experience that ensures clients and other project collaborators come back the next time a job opportunity arises.


Staying in touch with customers

Regardless of the marketing activities a company uses (e.g., Angie’s List, email, LinkedIn, phone calls or events), it’s important to communicate relevant information to current and future clients on a regular basis. This keeps the company’s name and capabilities in front of the people who procure the services it provides. Many contractors develop emails to announce a new job or promote a job well done or the completion of another successful project.


A good CRM system allows contractors to quickly and easily build outbound marketing lists, design personalized email communications and deliver messages to the right people at the right time. Social media is another viable marketing avenue, but many contractors don’t quite know how to navigate these waters.


Today’s CRM systems work with key social media applications, including LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to help the business more easily reach and engage its customers and prospects. CRM solutions also can track the source of any leads back to the originating marketing activity, so it’s clear which social media platform or other marketing effort works best for the company.


Keeping Bids on track

When it comes to bidding, there’s a lot to communicate and track. What jobs are on the horizon? Which bids have been submitted? What follow-up items need to be addressed? Have contracts been finalized? Especially when dealing with a high volume of bids, things can easily fall through the cracks. To prevent this, contractors use CRM software to visualize their entire sales pipeline. The software shows the status of all bids and quotes in order to illustrate what needs attention. It also can track bid results across multiple years. When a bid is due, users can see how many times they’ve bid it in the past, if they were successful in getting the job, what their price and their competitors’ prices were, and whether the job was profitable. Once a project is awarded, the job is automatically set up and a contract can be created in the accounting system. Additionally, an email can be sent to everyone involved in the project so specific steps are taken to schedule and start the job. Salespeople continue to keep tabs on their clients’ projects using CRM to see what has been completed and when the customer was last billed.


Getting information to the field

Perhaps the biggest beneficiaries of a CRM system are field workers. For example, service technicians need access to information such as service history, equipment information, manuals and other technical documentation. A CRM system gives mobile field teams access to the most up-to-date information and reduces wait time and multiple service trips. Often, superintendents are in the dark if a general contractor called about an upcoming job. With CRM software, before they ever see the work order, superintendents can view the scope of work quoted, if a subcontract has been completed, and any related communication so they can speak intelligently about the project with the general contractor. Using web-enabled computers and mobile devices, superintendents also can input notes and document conversations they have with vendors, suppliers and engineers about what’s going on at the job. Change orders can be set up in the CRM system and linked automatically to the firm’s project management system so more people can access the status of change orders.


Improving customer service

Once a company wins a job, it needs to show the customer why it was the right choice. On a daily basis, the company has to stay on top of all client requests, as well as ensure their issues are resolved. With access to centralized client information, staff members will know what customers are asking about when they call, regardless of who answers the phone.


Today’s technology has dramatically changed customer expectations. Clients expect businesses to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.


To address this, some CRM systems offer a self-service portal where customers can securely access information about their account, request service and give feedback. After a job is completed, it’s important to know what the company did right to earn the customer’s loyalty, or what it did wrong so it can be fixed. Some contractors send their customers a survey and find out how satisfied they were with their work and employees. A CRM system can send the survey and keep track of responses so it’s clear which customers can be used as references for future projects. Relationships are one of a construction company’s most valuable assets. A CRM system can help employees track and manage each relationship to provide the best experience possible and make sure the company is top of mind when the next job comes along.