Repeat business makes a contractor’s life easier.

Now, some of you operate on government contracts. Those have their own arcane rules — sealed bids, highest and best offers, that sort of thing. But a lot of contractors operate on a more personal level, where having a customer sing your praises to another potential customer makes all the difference.

What You Know

The first step in getting referrals to work for you is to do the work. It sounds obvious but, trust me on this, it’s not. We all have experiences that put the lie to how obvious it should be to show up on the job and do the work to the customer’s satisfaction. Think of the awful reputation cable companies have. The regular complaints? They don’t show up on time. The service stinks. The product isn’t as reliable as they promised.

Does that sound familiar? Have you heard similar complaints about your crews’ work or with your finished product? If so, rethink how your company does things.

First, take a look at the attitudes of everyone in your organization who interacts with customers. Vocabularies should include “yes sir” and “yes ma’am” without fail. “Please” and “thank you” too. It’s elemental. It’s sometimes called “home training.” But if your crew members and the folks answering your phones didn’t get that home training, it’s time for a remedial class in the break room or at the tailgate.

Next, when problems come up, whether in a well’s installations or years after the fact, jump all over it. Sort out the payment, if need be, later. Customers respect contractors who solve their problems. They will pay for it. And customer-oriented service can be kind of rare, so when it happens, it makes a big impression. Even if you have to eat a small cost, it will be worth it when that customer tells three other people.

Who You Know

When you show up — and actually show up (that is, do excellent work) — and your company has made an impression on a customer, what’s the next step? That’s when you close the referral deal.

The best way to do this involves the personal touch. Take a few minutes once a week and call or email customers whose jobs your company just finished. Frame it as customer service.

  • “I’m calling to see what your experience was.”
  • “Was the crew courteous and professional?”
  • “Was cleanup completed to your satisfaction?”
  • “Is the finished work we did for you performing at or above expectations?”
  • “Any feedback, positive or negative, that you’d like to share?”

If, after a few minutes of questions like that, the customer sounds satisfied, close with, “Thank you for your time. I hope you’ll consider recommending us to anyone you know who might need our services.” Just ask. It’s that simple. If they have really glowing things to say, ask them for a quote to put on your website or social media. And, if they have criticisms, take them to heart. Implement changes and earn the referral the next time.

Let’s wrap it up with a summary. Referrals can help contractors build a strong business with a wide and happy customer base. The best way to get referrals starts with doing great work and having a customer-service mindset, and then asking customers to recommend you to friends.

As an aside, I recently changed internet companies. Price was a big driver in that decision, but also customer service. We went with a regional provider. They gave me an hour window for hookup, not “sometime between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.” Then, they showed up five minutes early. After installation, I got an email from the president of the company asking if I was satisfied. You bet I was. And you bet I told a dozen friends about my experience. That’s how it should work and how it can work for you.

Do you have a successful referral strategy for your company? Tell us about it. Send an email to

Stay safe out there, drillers.