Cleaner & Plumber Magazines -- Managing Your Customers During the Busiest of Times By Darcy Derkowski

There are many hurdles a contractor faces in this industry, or any service industry.

One of the more perplexing issues that comes up at some point in the year is thedouble-edged sword of the backlog. What a great problem to have — the companyis so booked with business that there is a backup of work to get done. But there is also nothing more frustrating than to have to tell your customer their work can’t be completed at this time. You spend so much time assuring customersof their status and priority only to disassemble that relationship by saying,“I can’t get to the work right now.”

How do you move forward in these times? The temptation is to stop visiting customers, stop making cold calls and stop looking for business until the time comes when your crews are available again. But there are several things one can do in the midst of a backlog period to even out business and continue building relationships.

1. Appreciation visits

Call on your existing clients for the sole purpose of thanking them for business.Get in touch with the A-level customers first, but even small-job customers need some love and attention. In fact, the customers who account for the smallest amounts of work are usually most impacted by an appreciation visit. The visitcreates a space where they feel appreciated and comfortable with you. This isalso a good time to make sure they are educated on other services you offer to further tighten the existing relationship.

2. Schedule in advance and be positive

Meet with customers and be upfront about your schedule. Be careful not to pose yourbacklog in a negative light or else that’s how they will perceive it. You don’twant the customer thinking the company is low on resources of any kind; you want them to perceive you as in high demand for all the right reasons. Use phrases like “we’ve had so many referrals from other customers,” not just “we’re swamped.” Remember, extensive backlog is the best kind of problem to have, so make sure your customers see it that way as well. That being said, behonest about your schedule and see if their projects can be completed in that timeline. Usually there’s some wiggle room on both sides.

3. Be proactive

Ultimately,there are trends to the busy and slow times. See if there are ways to even outyour work to make it easier and therefore more profitable for operations.Perhaps some customers would be willing to schedule their job a little earlieror later than initially desired in return for a discounted rate. They will feel like they are doing you a favor, which leads to a stronger bond. This is also agood way to notice trends in the year that might benefit from a campaignapproach in the future. For example, if you notice that late fall is always aslow point in the year, take time to think about ways to drive more business,and perhaps put together a campaign that might help even out the highs and lows.

The bottom line is that visiting with current customers is always beneficial.Embrace the mindset that every hurdle you face as a business owner is an opportunity in disguise. Your customers and business will be better for it.

About the Author

Darcy Derkowski is responsible for business development and sales activities for the southern division of AIMS Cos., a national industrial,municipal and utility services company. She holds a bachelor’s in agricultural business and a master’s in natural resource development from Texas A&M University. Contact her at

Solution – Use a Bigger Truck

Equipment Truck Cost Per Hour Traffic Control Per Hour Hours to Complete Total Cost
Small Truck $180 $50 12 $2,760.00
Large Truck $235 $50 8 $2,280.00

* Increase in time accounts for slightly slower digging, fetching water and dumping more frequently. Rates listed are for comparison purposes only and not based on actual quotes.

Solution – Use a Smaller Truck

Truck Cost Per Hour Traffic Control Per Hour Hours to Complete Total Cost
$180 $50 2 $460.00
$235 $50 2 $570.00

* Since it’s a small task order, dumping time and fetching water is not factored in.