In the service industries, your customers are everything. Some businesses get a lot of repeat work with customers, while others may not. Whether you rely on repeat work or not, you should maintain a healthy relationship with your customers—both past and present. One way to forge long-lasting good impressions with your customers, and open a door for repeat work, is to follow-up and check in on your work and their satisfaction.

Why follow-ups are important

If you've done work for a client, you should want to know how they feel about the job and quality of your work. You've may have a habit of asking your customers before you've left the job, or before sending the invoice or asking for payment. This is good to provide an opening before you consider a job finished for the customer to express their immediate thoughts about the results and quality of your work. However, some jobs might need following up a few days or couple weeks after the job is done to get an honest assessment of how your work is holding up. This isn't something a lot of businesses think to do, but you should.

A lot of times, a customer may notice something once they've had time to look the job over when you've left. Sometimes this can even be a few days after. It's a little awkward to ask someone to O.K. your work while you're standing over them, ready to get your things and go home, and ready to ask to be paid. It can be difficult to ask for honest criticism face-to-face. Or perhaps the work you've done was fixing a leaky roof or toilet, or planting some grass or laying sod for them—in these instances, the customer might not be able to say everything is good right away.

These are perfect examples of when you should schedule a follow-up. While some jobs might require an in-person follow up, or can be verified with a follow-up email, the easiest follow-up is a quick phone call to check in with the customer.

Making the call

Making the call is easy, really. Just ring the customer on the phone, and ask how your work is holding up. We think it really makes the most impact if you actually call the customer—stay away from text messages if at all possible. Let the customer know you actually want to hear from them, and give them an opportunity to feel heard.

Try to schedule the call for a time that makes sense for the work you performed. If you fixed a leaking roof, you could make the call after a rainy day. If it was a slowly leaking toilet, calling the next day might be enough time. If you'd done some planting and landscaping, the time period might be a bit longer. Most importantly, you should make a specific point of asking if they're happy with the work you did. You'll hear praise more often than complaints, so don't be afraid to ask. When you do hear a complaint, assure the customer you are glad to know about it, because you want to fix it for the customer.

Following up with customers, and hearing occasional complaints, can help you discover ways your work can be improved so you don't repeat the same mistakes on future customers. Consider each complaint an opportunity to correct mistakes and guarantee you won't hear other customers complaining about those issues in the future.

All feedback is good feedback. The last thing you want is a customer sharing your rushed job on Facebook, or talking bad about you to friends and family. You want to turn every customer into an advocate of your services—making sure each one is happy is the best and easiest way to getting enthusiastic referrals.

Finding more work

Once you've finished checking on the job, and ensuring your customers are satisfied, you can easily turn the conversation into an opportunity for more work. Here are a few common scenarios you might find yourself in, and ways to offer a subtle ask for repeat business.

You want to let the customer know you're open for more work

Saying something as simple as, "Well, I'm glad to hear you're happy with the work. If there's anything else I can help with, please let me know. I'd love to take care of it for you."

If they respond with questions about other projects around their home or business, you've just turned it into a potential new job. Whether they offer anything up or not, you can add an incentive like, "We give 5% discounts to all repeat customers." That just might do the trick at making them think of something they'd been wanting to get done, or it might help them schedule or ask for an estimate on a job.

The customer has mentioned other work they'd like to have done

Maybe, when you were chatting with the customer over the course of doing a job for them, they casually mentioned some other things they wanted to have done around the house. Perhaps you're a handyman, fixing a leaking toilet, and they asked if you could also take care of fixing a door that was sticking, or hanging a new light in the dining room.

If your customers ever mention opportunities for more work in the course of casual conversation, remember it. Ask them about it later when you follow-up. Don't leave work sitting on the table for someone else to pick up.

This time, when you're done verifying they're happy with your work, you can say something like, "I remember you mentioned wanting to have that door fixed, and a new light mounted in the dining room. Would you like to schedule a time to have me out to the house to take care of it next week?"

The trick here is you're not just leaving your ask for more work as an open-ended, yes-or-no question. You're already sure they want to have some things done. You also know you have a few hours open next week that you'd like to fill with a paying job or two. So you pose the question in a way that not only allows the customer to say yes to more work, but sets you up to schedule another job right then and there.

You have schedule openings and are looking to fill them

Sometimes, especially during the slow seasons, you might just have schedule openings that you'd rather fill with paying jobs then leave empty and income-free. In such cases, you could say something like, "I have a few openings over the next couple of weeks. If you, or anyone you know, has a need I can take care of, please feel free to let me know or pass my number on to someone. I'm even offering a seasonal discount right now, if you'd like to take advantage of it."

The goal here, even if the customer has already said they don't have anything that needs doing, is to plant a seed in their mind that you're available for work. Something might come up and they'll know you're there. A friend or family member might mention needing something done, and they can mention that you did a great job for them, and just said you had some openings the other day.

Make follow-ups a habit in your service business

Follow-up calls are a great way to make sure your customers are truly happy with your work. They help maintain positive relationships with customers, communicate that you care about their happiness and your work just because you called, and they give you additional opportunities to talk directly to your customers. Follow-up calls are also a natural way of turning past customers into repeat customers, as well as advocates for your services to others they know. It's a pretty basic and fundamental practice to turn into a habit as you run and grow your service-based business.