Getting Insight Into the Client Experience

I’ve been talking for a long time about the importance of a great client experience. I got some insight recently that reinforces what I’ve been trying to get across to Production teams all over the country.

I was with a contractor who’s having his own house built. He is subbing it out, not trying to have his team build for him. We walked up to the site on a Friday afternoon, after the crew had left for the day. The lumber, I-joists, and various other materials were spread across the yard. We went inside, walking on a 12-inch I-joist laid flat, propped in the middle with a 2×4. There were a lot of nail strips left all around — so many I wanted to pick them up! I saw an LVL header in the second-floor floor framing that didn’t completely span an opening below.  

Looking for Problems

We started discussing the problems. This led us to look deeper into the construction, questioning any number of things. I’m concerned about what is to come, and will advise the contractor to get a level out and check every wall for plumb, check the square of every room, nail patterns, and everything else!  

All of these concerns can be fixed, but what’s the cost in client confidence? As we drove away, he said, “I guess I have to be more diligent in my inspection of the work.”

This made me think of our clients.

Erasing Doubt Up Front

We often complain about how clients pick at and question everything. In many cases we are the cause. Perhaps we think the client doesn’t know much about construction, so we can let things slide. Or our standard practices leave a little to be desired from a client’s perspective. The client sees or feels that something is not quite right — and begins the process of thinking “I guess I have to be more diligent in my inspection of the work”.  

After they brood on this for a few days, especially if the work is not corrected quickly, they become an inspector of every detail. This culminates in an ongoing punch list!

Every client has a friend, relative, or acquaintance that “knows about remodeling.” No matter if we like it or not, we have to please the client and that other person. Complaining about that person does very little. After all, he’s just an engineer!  

In my case, the contractor does have a friend that really knows what he’s talking about. Me. We can’t afford to dismiss the impact of the job-site visit by a friend — it’s going to happen. Who will the client listen to? Always the friendly voice in the ear, not the person he hired. That starts the worrying, and the client’s thoughts are now on everything that could go wrong — regardless of how good we are overall.

The Take-Away

The lesson here is everything on a job has to be top-notch, every minute of every day. YOu can’t allow the doubt to creep in. Quality of work, job site conditions, and communication all must be the best you can do, or you may ignite the “inspector” in your client. Or worse yet — in their friend!  

 

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PowerTips Book Recommendations: December 2018

We’re making a list and checking it twice, to bring you our last edition of book recommendations for this year from our staff, facilitators, and Roundtables members. Add these selections to your own reading list or to your holiday gift list — to give or get. The recommendations run the gamut from business to fiction, as well as a podcast.

 

Doug Howard, Director of Consulting Services, Remodelers Advantage

The One Thing by Gary Keller
This book highlights the importance of not only identifying “the one thing” that will make an impact on your business going forward, but also the importance of scheduling time — and the right time of day — for that area of focus. I’ve had a number of consulting clients read this after I read it, and the impact has been noticeable.

Good to Great by Jim Collins
This business classic is well known and often referred to as required business reading. I find it really deserves a re-read from time to time as the concepts become more profound the more your business grows and its complexity increases. Getting to a level of success is very difficult. Sustaining it and adapting it over a long period of time and multiple generations is a much greater challenge.

 

Rose Grabowski, CRA, Chief Technologist, Remodelers Advantage

The Knowledge Illusion by Steven Sloman and Philip Fernbach
A thought-provoking book that helps us see just how much we don’t know, and how much of what we think we understand really comes from others. How much does “group think” affect our decisions? How difficult is it for anyone to change what they believe in? We can use knowing what we don’t know as a starting point for deciding on what to spend our time learning.

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
Part of the Last Lecture Series at Carnegie Mellon University, Randy Pausch was indeed, giving his last lecture. Diagnosed with late stage pancreatic cancer, he used this lecture to impart his philosophy of life. One of the more thoughtful ideas was about being stopped by brick walls.  The brick walls we meet can be there to inspire us to overcome them. And, with planning and perseverance, we can do it.

Another concept proposed is that it’s important for those of us who are parents/mentors/leaders to understand is that our jobs are to allow and assist our children/friends/students to realize and achieve their dreams. We often forget that our jobs are to assist others to be the best person they can be, instead we try to mold them to the best person we think they should be.

 

Craig Durusko, Founder & Chairman, Sun Design, Burke, VA, and McClean, VA

Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh
Tony, the CEO of Zappos, tells his story in a humorous and somewhat unfiltered way.  It is an amazing story of how he built a company to 1 billion in sales two years before his goal. He talks about his journey after selling his first company and all the successes and failures along the way.

Selling the Invisible by Harry Beckwith
This book focuses on how different selling services is compared to selling products. Service marketing is not the same as product marketing. Most product failures are obvious and provable, most products can be warranted. Most services cannot be. So, you buy a service with no guarantees, and even more uncertainty. I especially like how, on page 169, he calls out remodeling specifically — “we worry our remodelers will exceed their budget and finish weeks after they promise.”

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
Almost all the patterns that exist in most people’s lives— how we eat and sleep and talk to our kids, how we unthinkingly spend our time, attention, and money — are habits we know exist.  And once you understand that habits can change, you have the freedom and the responsibility to remake them.

 

Paul Winans, CR, Roundtables Facilitator, Remodelers Advantage

Red Notice by Bill Browder
A gripping true tale of what prompted the passage of the Magnitsky Act.

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
A wonderful novel, it’s the stories of several different people in New York City in the 1970s and how they are linked by Philippe Petit’s walk between the Twin Towers of the then-under-construction World Trade Center.

 

Arlene Alfano, CMP, Director of Meetings, Remodelers Advantage

Podcast: Happier with Gretchen Rubin
I am an avid podcast listener and I highly recommend Happier with Gretchen Rubin. The Four Tendencies she developed is similar to DiSC and I have found it to be insightful.

 

Thank You and Happy Holidays

Thanks to everyone who gave us their recommendations! If you’ve read or listened to anything you’d like to pass along, let us know in the comments.

Disclosure: The links provided above are Amazon Affiliate links and that means, at no additional cost to you, Remodelers Advantage may receive a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

Looking for LEAN: Better Customer Experiences All Around You

Creating a successful remodeling company, one that’s profitable year in and year out, isn’t easy. That’s where LEAN comes in. You can look to many well-known companies for signs of how they incorporate LEAN practices and principles into their processes — and how that positively affects the customer experience. 

Every day, we experience situations that have processes that are anything but “lean.” They’re riddled with the waste — making processes longer, more difficult, more expensive to deliver, and more frustrating for employees. Waiting, defective work that must be redone, extra steps, excessive motion, and the extra movement of materials are all common components found in processes that have room for improvement.  

LEAN is the relentless pursuit of the elimination of these wastes in a systematic way. As you begin the journey of continuous improvement, you can find well-known companies that demonstrate LEAN in their processes. Let’s take a look. 

Southwest Airlines  

Southwest uses one type of aircraft for all of its flights, making it easier to create and maintain standard work. It’s easier to change out crews, which helps to minimize delays — and disgruntled customers waiting at the gate. Southwest’s open seating, along with a boarding process that gives each passenger the incentive to board quickly, reduces downtime for the plane and wait times for passengers. 

Subway 

The sandwich chain is a great example of where you can see LEAN principles in action (and grab lunch at the same time). The order and process for making sandwiches is standard. Meats and cheeses are pre-cut and the sides and toppings are all in a particular order. This allows team members to jump in and help without disrupting the flow. Hundreds of customized sandwiches can be produced exactly the way each customer wants. This is further accomplished because the customer is the monitor of selections, catching mistakes as the go and correcting them. 

Disney’s Theme Parks  

By using the Fast Pass system, park guests can reduce their wait times in line. The Fast Past allows patrons to select specific times for popular rides, and get in a special line when the time comes. They can only select one ride at a time, but this reduces the number of people waiting in the regular line, moving people through with less waiting there as well.  

These examples should get you thinking about other companies, the benefits of LEAN processes and the many forms it can take. Start your LEAN journey soon and reap the benefits of improved processes — better customer service, enhanced quality, fewer demands on staff, and lower costs.  

So, is LEAN in your future? Will your company be one of the great examples of ways to eliminate WASTE and operate with improved processes?  

It’s up to you!  
 

Learn More About LEAN: New Online Course with Doug Howard

Doug is now offering an Online version of his LEAN For Remodeling Course… Classes will start November 7th and meet for 90-minute sessions every week, for 8 weeks. Plenty of instruction, assignments and hands-on instruction to make you a LEAN company in no time! More information and registration can be found here: LEAN for Remodeling

[Podcast] Episode 23: Managing Your Customers with Chip Doyle

As a business owner, it seems like you manage everyone — your staff, your crews, your kids, your pets. But if you — and especially your designers — aren’t managing your customers, says Chip Doyle, you’re wasting time and losing out on potential profits.

In this episode, Victoria, Mark and Chip discuss how to break up bottlenecks and speed up the process of handing off from Design to Production. By effectively managing client expectations, setting clear goals and deadlines, and guiding clients intentionally, you can avoid having projects park for too long in design and selections. “Time kills deals,” says Chip.

Chip has been in the sales industry for 28 years, and training with Sandler for nearly 16 years. He’s a sought-after speaker, and will be on the main stage at our Remodeler’s Summit in September, and co-authored Selling to Homeowners The Sandler Way. Chip has a licensed training center and trains companies of all sizes in Pleasant Hill, CA, helping them reach their full potential, exceed expectations and continue to grow.

Empowering designers to guide, and ultimately lead, clients through the design process can increase your profits by 25%, Chip tells our hosts. Some of the ways to get there include:

  • Cutting design time in half, without cutting corners
  • Giving designers the right role models
  • Managing “genius attacks”
  • Setting clear meeting goals and timely next steps
  • The importance of deadlines — for clients
  • Getting projects through that would otherwise stall
  • The traits to look for in a designer — toss the DISC assessment
  • And, as always, much more…

Click Here to Listen to Episode 23 >>

 
To learn more about Chip and what he can do to help you grow your company, check out his website at www.chipdoyle.sandler.com.

Spread the Word about PowerTips Unscripted!

As always, if you have a topic that you would like us to cover or know of an industry contact, author or thought-leader  you think others would like to hear from, let us know.

If you’re enjoying our PowerTips Unscripted podcast, please spread the word and post reviews on iTunes andStitcher.

 
 

Is Your Company Disaster-proof?

For business owners, the tragic events unfolding before us in Texas prove the critical importance of having a disaster recovery plan. Ask yourself, “How would my business survive such a catastrophe? How would we continue to operate?” According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), 40% of businesses do not reopen after a disaster, and another 25% fail within one year.

Keep in mind, disasters come in many shapes and sizes… Although you may be out of reach of a hurricane or natural disaster, there are other scenarios such as fire, theft, power outages and other unforeseen obstacles that can devastate your business.

While no plan is perfect or covers every situation, let’s look at 9 steps you can take to help your business survive:

Have a Business Continuity Plan

Remember that our goal is to not only survive the initial event, but to be able to operate our business and move forward as quickly as possible. The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) has great information for businesses that may not have the time or resources to create an extensive plan. Here is a PDF that will really help your business prepare and tailor a plan that works for your business.

Insurance Policy Review

Obviously having insurance is a “no-brainer” but what type of insurance do you have? Does it cover everything? In the wake of Hurricane Katrina insurance companies received 1.2 million personal property claims and more than 156,600 business claims. In total, only 167,900 policy owners received payment for losses caused by floods.

The time to review your insurance policy is before disaster strikes and more importantly, before you must file a claim. It is critically important that your business has the right amount and type of insurance. Meet with your agent as soon as possible to review your plan and coverage.

Back-up Data to Cloud and External Drive Off-site

Hopefully your business has already started to do this, as we face mini-disasters of hard drives crashing every day. Utilizing “the cloud” to either store or back-up our files has become a standard for most businesses. This can be a complex set-up with larger providers of data storage or in many cases one of these 22 providers would meet your off-site data storage needs.

Just as a precaution and in the event that your access to the internet may be compromised, back your REALLY important files up to a physical external storage device and store it off-site. Thumb drives and external hard drives, for example, have dropped in price and increased in capacity and can be a really easy way to provide this extra layer of protection.

Hard Copy Protection

So you have everything backed up in the cloud and offsite… What about your hard copy documents? You know, those records that came before you moved everything online? There can be some pretty important documents in your office that need to be stored and protected.

Our first step may be to scan and save these records. Desktop document scanners are very affordable and if you are faced with a mountain of paper, there are document scanning services in your local market that can handle this for you.

Our second step may also be to protect these documents in their original form. Invest in a file drawer system that can be locked, secured and is fire, water and crush-proof. They may be a little more expensive, but worth every penny if you ever face a disaster.

Generator

Power outages can be stand-alone events or a by-product of just about any natural disaster and they can last days, weeks and even months. Invest in a generator for your front office. Before you run out to Lowes or Home Depot or try to use one from a jobsite, have an electrician get an exact estimate of your required power output and outfit your business accordingly.

Communication Fall-back

So we have power but in the event of most large natural events, the phones are likely going to be knocked out as well. Yes, we can fall back to our cell phones but in order to maintain business-as-usual while the phone companies try to get you back online, you may want to invest in a back-up service that automatically provides instant failover protection in the event of an emergency or other outage. I am sure there are others, but PBX Parachute offers this.

Disaster Funds

In your business continuity plan determine your course of action financially. Will you continue to pay your employees? Do you have enough to cover repairs and expenses before your insurance claim is processed and funds are received, which may take weeks or months?

Make sure your business insurance policy includes a business interruption policy which may cover unexpected expenses as you attempt to get your business back on track. Insurance experts seem to agree that setting aside 30 days of operational expenses is the standard, if available.

Safe House

Where will you go if our office or location is unreachable or worse, destroyed. While many of your employees are used to working in the field, your front office staff will need a temporary facility while you work to get back online. This can be a prior office; perhaps you moved from your home office to your current location. You might have a vendor, partner or business associate that can sub-let or offer you a temporary place to do business. The key here is to have that in place now if something occurs in the future. Trying to find a solution later will be difficult and time consuming. Build it into your plan and be ready to hit the ground running should you have to set-up shop in a different location.

“This is only a test”

Hey, it worked in elementary school! You don’t have to line-up single file in the hallway but you should absolutely test your disaster plan internally. Pick a day during a slower time of the year and test your team with a scenario. Have a non-owner be the point person for your test so that the management team can be tested on how they handle this situation as well. The IBHS Document (PDF) has a great test template to use, complete with a scenario to start out with.

Summary

As a business owner, you have learned quickly that the adage “did you plan to fail or fail to plan” comes into play. That can apply to your overall business or financial plan or more critically when something goes terribly wrong in your community. Use these 9 steps to be prepared to not only survive, but get up and running so that you and your company can do business and more importantly, help those around you recover.


How Can You Help?

Our thoughts and Prayers go out to those affected by Hurricane Harvey. If you are looking for a way to help, here are two known resources that provide a tremendous help to those families and relief works that may need assistance.

The Salvation Army’s Hurricane Harvey Relief Page

The American Red Cross Donation Page

PowerTips TV Throw-back Thursday: “How to Stop Losing Money on Change Orders”

We are excited to announce that PowerTips TV will be returning this Fall! So to get you ready, we’re bringing back some of our best episodes over the past few years. Since we are in the midst of Slippage Awareness Month, we’re bringing back an episode focused on ways to control costs in production, “How to Stop Losing Money on Change Orders.”

We will be in “re-runs” until this Fall when new episodes will arrive. If you have topics that you would like us to focus on, leave them in the comments below. Enjoy!


Have you ever lost money because you didn’t manage the change order process effectively?

In a perfect world, your original plans are clear, and the job will be produced as planned and with zero modifications. However, since that rarely happens I thought it would be a good idea to explore this under-appreciated topic.

In this week’s episode, I share best practices you should be following when it comes to managing your change orders effectively.

What about you?

Do you have a system in place that keeps your change orders profitable and worry-free? Please share your story in the comments below!


Warning: Change Ahead!

Bonus: 5 More Change Order Secrets to Protect Profit!

Click Here to Download!

Selling Without Slippage: Translate & Communicate

The responsibilities of a Sales Person range significantly within a remodeling company for many reasons. Typically, a sales person is rewarded by closing the deal and setting expectations with the client. However, it is equally important to know how he or she can help reduce profit slippage by communicating the client’s project details effectively, when handing the project off to production.

Depending on their service offerings, company structure, and volume, there are many ways remodeling companies handle the transfer of information from Sales to Production. There are salespeople that just sell, salespeople that design, salespeople that estimate and then of course, there are the owners who are the salespeople, estimator, designer, office manager, janitor and chef. No matter the structure or size of your company, here are a few things to keep in mind, when selling, that will help your company avoid slippage and improve profitability.

Have a Process
Implementing a sales-to-production hand-off process is one of the most important things a company can do to reduce or eliminate slippage. Depending on the size of the company, when a sales person is wearing multiple hats, the need for a process is even more imperative. Establishing a process will help eliminate the important information that is lost with “mental notes” during the sales process.

Even if you are handing the sheet off to yourself, from sales to estimating for example, be sure to establish a process that will grow with you and your company. As you are implementing or even just improving your process, be sure to keep all of the parties involved during development. Getting constant feedback from Sales, Design, Estimating, Trade Contractors, and Production will make your process more effective as it is handed off throughout a project.

Become a Project Translator
During a consultation with the client, Sales will gather a number of important details, and the client will often times personalize the reason they are renovating. Whether you develop a checklist, or record the interaction with the client, do not let the personal details get lost when you are estimating, or creating the scope of work. Make sure that production will not only know what they are building, but WHY they are building it as well.

Increasing the emotional intelligence of your details will fill in the gaps in the scope of work. If you let your design or production team know why the basement is RedSox Blue, it will also help them pick up on a missing detail and ask the right questions during a planning meeting. It will also let them know that they should refrain from their Yankees talk during the project.

Know the financial and emotional cost of slippage
No matter the cause of project slippage, the one thing that must be discussed is the financial and emotional impact that slippage can have on your company. Do not let the stress of a deadline get in the way of checking each box in the process. If the Customer/Client is adamant on completing the project before a holiday, wedding, or graduation, always remember the cost that slippage will have on your company and your bottom line. If your company generates $1 million in Revenue, at 4% slippage you are losing $40,000 a year due to waste, excess runs to the lumber yard or improper material orders.

Being efficient in your process is the goal but rushing and skipping steps to meet the needs of a client is counterproductive and will ultimately help you lose money, creating a division among your team. If the production staff is regularly given a poorly developed plan or find that they are constantly scratching their heads in the field, you can bet that they will look to the sales/estimating/design team for answers.

Conclusion
While you are setting expectations with your client for an incredible project and customer experience, remember that the production department needs you to do the same with them. Increasing the clarity of communication while you complete a project will not only reduce and eliminate slippage, it will help you establish a reputation as an incredible remodeler & builder.

How to Say “I Don’t Know” Without Losing Face

Between my brother and me, we know everything. The answer to your last question… well, that’s one my brother knows.

In all jobs – especially remodeling – there will be times when you don’t know the answer to something. In and of itself, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, it can cause major problems for you and your company if not handled properly.

What’s the big deal?

In my first year with Remodelers Advantage, the president of the company, Victoria Downing, called me into her office and said she would like me to start speaking at our workshops.

Though I was flattered, the thought of standing in front of a room full of people to talk about marketing scared me. It’s not because I didn’t know my stuff. To the contrary. The whole reason she was asking me to speak was that I “knew my stuff.”

It wasn’t because I suffered from stage fright either. I didn’t become a stuttering, quivering mess the moment I walked out on stage.

No, the reason I was anxious (I later realized) was the fear that someone might ask me a question that I couldn’t answer. I mean, I am supposed to be the expert up there, right? Wouldn’t I lose all credibility if I couldn’t answer any and all questions hurled my way?

My trepidation eased the day of the workshop: immediately after having heard Judith Miller’s first session.

She’s fantastic. Arguably one of the top three financial minds in the remodeling industry. During that session, she didn’t have the answer not once, but twice.

I soon realized how silly I was being.

Judith’s expertise and credibility weren’t diminished in the least. In fact, it had the opposite effect. Her credibility was elevated. How is that possible?

In today’s post, I’ll share the why, the what and the how of saying I don’t know without losing face and sounding like a lost fool.

Why you can say it

Why did Judith’s inability to answer a question not negatively impact her credibility? Well, for one thing, she’s a very smart cookie. She wrote the book on QuickBooks for remodelers (literally), and she conveyed that knowledge throughout her presentations.

So the first point to be made here is that you can’t just be clueless all the time. These tips aren’t going to help you if you are unprepared and unknowledgeable.

As long as you’re in control and well informed most of the time you’ll be allowed to say I don’t know when the occasion arises.

Remember, there’s a big difference between not knowing everything and not knowing anything.

What to say

All that said, it’s rarely a good idea to just come right out and say, “I don’t know.” Intelligent, well-informed people handle the situation better than that. Here are a few ways to respond based on the three most common scenarios.

1. When you should know the answer but don’t

Let me be sure I understand your question. You want to know . . . 

Restating the question is one of the best things you can do when you’re on the spot. It accomplishes two things: first, it buys you some time to either recall the answer or craft your response, and second it verifies you’ve got the question right. Sometimes this will result in a further clarification by the questioner which can help you recall the answer.

Based on what I know right now, my best-educated estimate is . . .

There’s a tendency by some to want to answer a question in full or not reply at all. Bad idea.

If you can contribute anything to the questioner, you should do so as soon as possible. Firstly, you’re not satisfying their need for information. But more importantly, you may end up dodging and avoiding the person until you know all the answers.

This can be very problematic–especially if the questioner is the client.

That’s good timing! I’m actually gathering that information right now. I should have an answer to you by . . .

This is a good way to show that although you don’t know the answer, you’re aware of the situation and are working on it. The key here is setting a “due date.” It reinforces in the questioner’s mind that this is something you are actively working on. Just be sure to be specific! Saying, “I’ll get back to you next week sometime,” will sound like you’re not in control or you’re blowing them off.

2. When it’s not something you should be expected to know.

Sometimes people just ask the wrong person. For example, if you’re the lead carpenter on a project and the homeowner asks you, “did you guys deposit my check yesterday?” It’s unlikely you would (or should) know the answer to that question. Here are a few ways to handle this situation.

Sorry, I’m not the best person to answer that. You should talk to ______. Would you like his number?

That’s not something I’m involved with, but if you like, I could make some calls and get that answer for you.

3. When you know just enough to be dangerous.

When someone asks you a question that’s not your area of expertise, but you have some knowledge about it, that’s when you can really get into trouble. The worst part about this situation is that many times you’re just trying to help by providing what little insight you have.

This is particularly common when the questioner is your boss or your client.

The best thing to do here is to use the responses outlined in the previous section; refer the questioner to the subject matter expert.

If, however, you’re determined to go down this path, you need to be sure to include “disclaimers” in your response, so the questioner is fully aware of your position on the matter. For example:

What I do know is ______, but I don’t know ________. I suggest you speak with ______.

Using this cadence protects the questioner from taking your response as gospel. The second part underscores that there are pieces of the puzzle that are missing (in other words they don’t have the whole picture), and the third part is giving them a resource. The questioner will greatly appreciate your honesty and eagerness to help.

How to say it

keep calm and gain credibilityThe one thing that all industry experts and thought leaders have in common is not only that they’re willing and able to say “I don’t know,” but how they say it.

Whenever you’re asked a question that stumps you, you must remain calm, cool and collected. Your body language and facial expression must convey as much.

And finally, your response – whatever it may be – should be delivered with confidence and class.

If you’re secure in yourself and your overall competence, then you will never diminish your credibility by not having the answer at your fingertips.

As I said earlier, the opposite is true.

Your audience (even an audience of one) knows deep down that you can’t possibly have every answer to every question. When you say I don’t know with confidence and class, they tap into that knowledge. What results is greater credibility and respect for you.

To this day, not one speaking engagement goes by where I’m not asked a question that catches me off guard. And it’s okay.

What about you?

Do you have any advice for saying I don’t know without sounding clueless? Please share your tips in the comments below!

The 4 C’s of an Amazing Customer Experience

The days of laying down canvas tarps in the hallway, giving the workspace a light sweep, and leaving a note for your client are over.

The truth is; living in a home through a remodeling project is a highly stressful experience for the homeowner. (Yes, you are living there.)

But don’t fret. With the proper mindset and resources at hand, there are multiple ways to navigate through the bumpy path of a construction project and dazzle the customer the entire way. Follow the Four C’s and you’re sure to get there.

Cleanliness

Cleanliness on a remodeling job site is no longer a bonus, a marketable value, or a part of your value proposition. It is expected and has become the default setting of quality customer service for an above average Remodeling company.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t continue to rise above the competition with proper preparation. I recommend investing in the right tools that will set your business apart.

Dust, for example, is a tough advisory and one that is often contained, and not controlled.  So spend the money on duct control systems (like BuildClean and ZipWall) to evacuate and eliminate the dust that will travel into non-work areas. The investment will pay for itself in customer satisfaction ten times over.

Be sure to seal all vents during the workday, and permanently in the areas that are out of use.

Remember, cleanliness on a job site is a daily exercise, and all your carpenters should be as skilled with a broom and vacuum as they are with a hammer.

Communication

This seems easy right? We are always in communication as it pertains to the details of the project. You know the tile they chose. You’ve worked with them to select paint. And you’ve spent hours talking about light fixtures.

But are you asking them the questions that matter for the experience? Look, I know the project details will always be the focus of your discussions, but make sure the details of ease and convenience are not going by the wayside.

And don’t let customers emotionally fend for themselves during a remodel. For example, did you ever consider that maybe it should be up to you to make sure they have adequate shelving for pots, pans, and any other items that will be displaced during the project?

Customer Respect

Yes, this goes without saying, but I can’t tell you how many times I would have to remind crew members of my company’s policy on foul language on the job site.

It is imperative that you communicate and reiterate with your staff and any subs that will enter the site that you are in someone’s home. Even in the times where the house is empty, bad language is unacceptable.

Although you are getting paid for the work you are doing, you can never lose sight of the fact that it is a privilege to make your living in a persons’ home.

Critique

Allow the customer a daily forum to let you know how they are feeling. This will help you head off customer contention “at-the-pass” during a lengthy remodeling process. And you can do it with a daily email, an online platform, or your building/estimating software.

Have you noticed that dust has started to collect in the hallway closet that you forgot to seal off? Well, they have, and it is a must that you are aware of these issues. Always strive to contain the small issues while they are small.

What remodelers do is amazing. Remodeling a home is achieved by loud noises and a million moving parts. It is messy, it is imperfect, and it is inconvenient in many ways.

When I started out in Remodeling, I was told by my lead carpenter, “when you start well, you end well.” Let this simple, yet profound statement be the guideline for a fantastic Customer Experience. Never get behind, and never let an impending deadline — or repairing a mistake — get in the way of the overall experience.

What Do You Think?

Are there any elements to the 4 C’s of customer service that I missed? Anything you do in addition? Please share in the comments below!

 

Market the “During” to Make a Difference

Are you using before-and-after pictures to market your business? Of course you are. You need to realize that while your photos are impactful and attention-grabbing, your competition is likely doing the same thing. A quick Google or Pinterest search will bring up millions of those beautiful images touting spectacular remodeling work. But as a professional, you know that before-and-after photos don’t tell the full story.

For your customers, what happens in the time between those photos is just as important as the end result. By focusing on your service during the remodeling process, you can differentiate your business from others in the industry while highlighting your commitment to customer satisfaction.

Livability is Key

Giving potential customers a complete idea of what they can expect from you before, during, and after a remodeling project will help put them at ease. Most homeowners want to continue living in their home during a remodeling project. Think about how you can make the “during” as comfortable as possible for them. What is your plan for keeping everyone in and around the jobsite happy and safe?

One way to do this is to create a “livable remodeling” plan for each project. This helps remodelers and contractors proactively address common remodeling pain points and includes a plan for timeline, logistics, dust control and safety.

For example, 85 percent of homeowners surveyed said remodeling dust was the most serious inconvenience of their entire remodeling project. To ensure a better remodeling experience for your customers, you should explain the steps you take to control dust, such as isolating the work area with dust containment barriers, controlling airflow, and capturing dust with an air scrubber like the BuildClean Dust Control System.

Expert Advice

zombie loyalistsMarketing your livable remodeling or “during” strategy is all about differentiating your firm, showing clients you care and leveraging customer satisfaction to grow your business.

Take it from author, consultant and entrepreneur Peter Shankman, who discusses how to achieve this in his book Zombie Loyalists: Using Great Service to Create Rabid Fans.

“You create zombie loyalties through great customer service,” Shankman wrote. “Be brilliant at the basics. But note that where tiny little things make the difference, they can also harm you. The jobsite is an excellent example of this.”[divider style=”hr-dotted”]

Some of Shankman’s core customer satisfaction principles include:

1. Transparency Rules: Make Mistakes, Move On

Many companies think customer service applies primarily to things they do well, but great service really shows when mistakes are made. How you respond to mistakes—like a missed deadline—will determine whether customers stay or go.

2. Stay Relevant: Ask Customers What They Want

The best way to find out what customers need? Ask them. Studies show that customers who are asked what they want, become three to four times more invested in your company.

3. Be Short and Sweet: Move with the Speed of Social Media

In the Internet age, Shankman says companies have a maximum of three seconds to gain a customer’s attention—about the length of time it takes to read a tweet. Learning to deliver content and services as succinctly as possible will turn customers into fans.

4. Stay at the Top…Of Customers’ Minds

Turn past jobs into reviews for your company, leveraging client satisfaction to grow your business and get the rest of the world talking about you. One way to keep your client satisfied is by showing that you are proactively protecting their loved ones and belongings during remodeling and standing out as contractor who cares.