Beyond the Build

Customer Relationships

How a ‘Feeling’ Wins and Maintains Business

You have heard it a million times: We never get a second chance to make a good first impression. While initial thoughts might take us toward in-person meetings, this adage is true even in written communication. Our word choices and how they string together into sentences, paragraphs and language as a whole have a lasting effect.

When cost, value and delivery experience are equal, the feeling your words create will get you further.

Maya Angelou said it well:

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

These are hard lessons to communicate to the younger crowd at times. Even I had to learn through trial. When I first started out in this business, I work for H. A. Brice, Jr., who notoriously kept a pencil holder on this desk filled with more colors than you can imagine. He owned a construction firm, but was an English major in college and honed his editing skills on me. I would CC him with my letters, and when they came back they looked like a rainbow. There were always tons of suggestions for better ways of communicating. While at the time it infuriated me to see him diving into my written communication, looking back I see him as one of the great teachers in my life.

I’d like to think we are getting it right at our place. Just this week, I saw a proposal from our company to a customer concerning a future project. It had all the normal pricing, qualifications, etc., but it addressed both the heart and brain, hopefully creating lasting good will. Our team included more than was required of them–initial thoughts and an in depth review of current labor markets and the economy. We offered to review the proposal again in 90 days, to see if things were improving and we could get the customer a better deal. All these extras and concessions let the recipient know that we truly care about them and the project beyond just being hired.

We still have to go the extra mile. We still have to deliver a solid product or service with value. But in most of what we do, the differentiating element will be the ability connect–really connect–which will allow the recipient to feel right about the service provider and just feel good.



Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.