"My painter does such a great job for me. The next time I need something painted, I wouldn't even consider going to anyone else." Do your customers talk about you this way? To make sure they do, incorporate some of these winning customer service strategies into your business practices when you complete your next job.

1. Go the Extra Mile

Once the job is finished, nothing ruins a good paint job quicker than leaving a mess behind. Some painting contractors take cleanliness to a new level. Ken Doyle of Emerald Isle Painting in Phoenix, Ariz. makes it a point to clean the carpet in the room she has painted.

"It only takes an hour," he says. "And people love stuff like that."

Doyle says he once moved a tree for a customer because she was having a difficult time getting her landscaper to do the work. "Going the extra mile really helps when it comes to repeat business," he says.

Future business also comes from taking the time to make sure the customer is satisfied with the current job.

"We call the customer and make sure everything is up to the standards they expected," says Dave Rohde of Rohde Custom Painting in Onalaska, Wis. "If everything is not exactly the way they thought it would be, I send the guys out to make sure that it is. I make sure the customer is completely satisfied before I send out an invoice."

Likewise, Gary Brousseau of Brousseau Painting in Windsor, Ontario, personally walks through each completed job with the customer. "The customer and I go through the house room by room," he says. "We check it wall by wall, ceiling by ceiling, to make sure it's perfect." Brousseau once painted a bedroom and found out later that the husband of the woman who contracted the work didn't like the color.

Brousseau went back to the job site, where the woman had picked a new color that her husband liked. She didn't have a lot of money to pay for the project, however, so Brousseau made a deal that she pay only for paint.

"I did the repaint for free," he says. "That went a long way." He received so much future business from her and other members of her family that it easily made up for the time he spent repainting the bedroom.

Rohde likes to leave customers the leftover opened cans of paint used in their home. That way they can do minor touchups later if there is call. "We label each can clearly, marking the date of the paint job and on which room the paint was used," he says. "I also send a note to them later to let them know that all their colors are recorded and will be kept on file in our office. That gives them peace of mind."

2. Stay in Contact

Successful painters make it a point to stay in touch with good customers.

"I make it a point to stop at my old jobs and chat with the owners," says Steve Allen of Allen Painting in Ferndale, Calif. "I check over our work and make any repairs or touchups. Then I sit down with them over coffee at the kitchen table and talk about future projects."

Sending out holiday greetings is a popular method for companies to thank customers for business while building name recognition. Other items like pens, refrigerator magnets, wall calendars and pocket calendars with your business name on them are also appreciated at the end of the year. But with a little creativity, your holiday package can also even be used to drum up sales.

"At the end of the year, I send a Christmas card or letter," Dave Rohde says. "In the letter, I thank them for their business and wish them happy holidays. I also remind them that January through April is our slow time and an excellent time to have interior painting done." Many customers in his Midwest market escape the cold by taking a one- or two-week winter vacation, and Rohde offers to do any interior jobs while they are away. He also waits until April to raise his rates and uses the Christmas letter to remind customers to take advantage of last year's rates before spring arrives.

"I started doing this three years ago and it has really helped us to grow our business at that time of year," he says. In the end, repeat business is your goal.

"There's nothing better than a satisfied customer," says Billy Moore of Billy Moore Painting in West Monroe, La. "You can build your business on that alone."

Ken Doyle agrees.

"It pays to be nice to people," he says. "I always say, don't ever slam the door on your way out. You may have to go back in someday."

3. Make a Lasting Impression

Impressions are lasting. Think about your favorite restaurants. Now think about the places to which you have never returned. What made the difference? Sure, the food is good at your favorite places, but isn't it the atmosphere, service and attitude of the employees that keeps you coming back time and again? Don't they make you feel comfortable, maybe even a little pampered? These kind of feelings linger with your painting customers too. Taking the extra time and paying attention to details will pay off in the long run.

Ken Doyle makes a good impression by always washing down the customer's home before he paints.

"This catches people's attention," he says. "Because of all the sand here, houses get really dusty, but nobody else really takes the time to do this. I come from a small town in Ireland where I learned that you better show people you have good customer service or you won't be in business very long."

Sending out a good crew is also key to making a favorable impression.

"I try to hire people that are customer-friendly," Dave Rohde says. "I look for nice, polite painters who are conscientious when they are in a customer's home. Someone who goes out of their way to not disturb a sleeping baby, or whatever the situation may be at a particular job site."

Gary Brousseau agrees.

"I have three workers, and none of them smoke," he says. "I supply all of my workers with shirts with our name on them. There is no long hair, no beards, they are all clean-cut. That leaves a good impression."

Making it a point to always meet or even beat your deadline is another good way to set yourself apart from the competition.

"I've learned you're only as good as your last job," says Dick Valliere of Decorative Concepts in New Hampshire. "When we deliver a quality job on time, my customers reward me with some of the most choice new jobs in the state."