Survey: Contractors Must Battle Consumer Perceptions of Failure

Survey: Contractors Must Battle Consumer Perceptions of Failure

Park Ridge, IL Remodeling contractors, among those businesses being affected by the current economic slowdown, must be very careful not to cause themselves additional damage by allowing customers to perceive that their company is experiencing financial difficulties, according to a survey by a leading building industry consulting firm.

The recently-concluded survey, conducted by the Park Ridge, IL-based George S. May International Company, reveals that medium- and small-sized business owners believe that contractors are among those businesses being damaged in the softer economic climate. A clear majority, however, feel the downturn will be short-lived.

"This survey highlights the danger of a perception growing into a self-fulfilling prophecy," said Donald Fletcher, president of the George S. May.

"Customers respect and prefer working with business people, including contractors, who are successful," Fletcher said. "While they may feel sorry for a business that is having hard times, it is dangerous (for that business) to show its difficulties. If it does, customers will begin taking business elsewhere.

"This reaction is part human nature and part business nature," Fletcher observed, "and it is very difficult to turn that impression around once it is made."

According to Fletcher, the importance of presenting a successful impression to the customer was confirmed by the fact that positive, growth-oriented actions were selected by 59% of survey respondents as their response to the lagging economy. These activities included increasing sales and marketing efforts, retaining or increasing current employee benefits, adding employees and increasing inventory, Fletcher said.

In contrast, only 41% of the survey's respondents said they are taking actions to reduce their business activities.

"Customers have expectations," Fletcher noted. "If these are not met, customers will sense something is wrong and go elsewhere. They'll forgive an occasional lapse, but if it becomes a general trend, they'll start to shop elsewhere.

"(And) if they try and like the other operation, the first company is in serious danger of losing that customer."