HoBart Builders

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With a six-person staff that includes two sets of spouses, remodeling is truly a family affair for HoBart Builders. In this vein, its approach to customer service is simple: Treat customers like family.

September 01, 2003

 

With a six-person staff that includes two sets of spouses, remodeling is truly a family affair for HoBart Builders. In this vein, its approach to customer service is simple: Treat customers like family.

One way this is accomplished is through the sensitivity employees exhibit when establishing project budgets. Based on the outcome of the initial sales call, they create a "conceptual" budget at no charge to the customer, says general manager and salesman Rob Barefield. Creating this budget helps them determine the feasibility of the project faster, so less time is wasted on the front end while customers decide if they want to proceed.

"We like to get a budget at the initial meeting, but we don't want to intrude on their privacy, and a lot of people aren't willing to share that information upfront," Barefield says. "We understand and don't press for it. We don't charge for it because it's not very time-consuming for us to do it. We turn them around in two or three days and contact them by letter and phone."

 

HoBart Builders Inc.

(Columbus, Ga.)


NRS Index: 97.7

Type of company: full-service remodeling, specializing in kitchens and baths

Years in business: 12 (incorporated)

Number of employees: 6

2002 sales: $842,504

2002 job volume: 33 jobs

Average job size: $25,500

Customer profile: predominantly middle/upper-class

Referral/repeat business: 27% referral, 61% repeat

Mission statement (from the HoBart Philosophy): "Our company strives to provide our customers with the maximum value for their dollar, along with quality workmanship and honest, dependable service. Customer satisfaction is our top priority. We are constantly upgrading our knowledge by educating ourselves with employee training, seminars and literature. We keep abreast of new and innovative products and ideas through conventions, monthly trade publications and design magazines."

This concern for the customer's well-being carries over into other aspects of HoBart's approach. Amid a lengthy job, the company arranges for a surprise, catered dinner for the family at their home, a sort of appeasement for the sense of intrusion that can be a byproduct of the remodeling process. Two to three weeks after production closes, HoBart delivers a housewarming gift to the client.

"We're very conscious of how homeowners must be feeling at certain stages of the remodel," owner and salesman Howard Bartlett says. "We want to show them that we know we've invaded their privacy for a period of time, and we are considerate of the circumstances that they're having to live in."

HoBart produces a quarterly newsletter with seasonal information and maintenance tips, and distributes it to all current and former clients. The company also holds an annual client appreciation dinner during the holidays. It invites every client from the past year, occasionally invites suppliers and subcontractors, and gives away door prizes.

All these events are aimed at giving the actual work HoBart does a familial underpinning. "We're not only providing them a service, we're developing a relationship with them," Bartlett says. "We want to be a service company for your whole family for life." The company is seeing this desire materialize, as it has started projects for former clients' children and grandchildren.

For HoBart, good customer service often boils down to the little things. Even with 13 projects currently under construction, Bartlett and Barefield visit every job site every day and stress that daily communication with customers is an absolute throughout the company. They give clients all their contact information and wear their pagers 24 hours a day in case of emergencies. And they survey clients at the end of the process to make sure they stay on top of their game. For Barefield, it's all about adding more members to the HoBart family.

"The family roots of our business set us apart in our customer service and our integrity," he says. "We treat our business as a family, and our family is our business. Our homeowners are an extension of our family."

 

Where HoBart stands out from the pack


1. Number of walk-through items identified for correction

HoBart's goal is to finish projects two weeks before schedule. The company uses the extra time to complete a post-project punchlist so that everything is done by the scheduled end date. HoBart credits its low number of punchlist items to continual customer contact.

2. Time taken to correct walk-through items

Warranty calls are returned immediately. Requests for work are placed on a priority list and handled within one week, maximum, after the initial call.

3. Adherence to production schedule

At the beginning of each week, HoBart produces a spreadsheet with the status, phase and tasks for all active jobs and assigns required tasks to production and sales staff for completion that week.

4. Quality of workmanship

HoBart emphasizes a "three-dimensional" approach. Production workers consider not only the task at hand, but also how their task affects the project's adjoining rooms and spaces and how it facilitates the work of the subcontractors who follow, ensuring they don't build problems for the future.

5. Price/value of project

Payments are invoiced on a percentage-of-completion basis, so homeowners pay only for the "true value" of the project up to that point.

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