Trade Secrets: Remodeler Marketing with Customer Surveys; A Look at A Model Green Dream

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Murphy Brothers Contracting builds a green Dream Home; Weidmann & Associates uses post-project surveys to shape best practices

June 01, 2009

If you have a Trade Secret you would like to share, e-mail Senior Editor Jonathan Sweet at jonathan.sweet@reedbusiness.com.

Marketing Customer Surveys

Every remodeler boasts of good customer service, but Weidmann & Associates backs it up with cold, hard data.

For the last two decades, Weidmann has conducted post-project customer surveys, but it wasn't until four years ago that the Roswell, Ga., design/build firm started working with GuildQuality to deliver third-party results.

Now, Weidmann posts the results of its surveys right on its home page (www.weidmannremodeling.com). With a 99 percent recommendation rate, that gives clients confidence that Weidmann is a company they want to work with, says President Dan Weidmann.

"It's helped us tremendously," Weidmann says. "I get calls from people who have gone to our Web site first and based on the recommendation have put us on the list of contractors they want to talk to."

Having the information come from an outside firm makes it more credible than anything Weidmann & Associates could come up with on its own, Weidmann says.

At the same time, the surveys allow Weidmann to monitor the company's customer service performance and keep an eye out for any trends. Over the years, the surveys have also prompted him to make changes in response to client comments. For example, a client expressed concerns about being able to reach people involved in the project. In response, the company instituted a best practice on all projects in which the client gets a laminated card with contact information for everyone they'll work with, from Weidmann and his brother and co-owner, Bill, to the project manager and production coordinator.

Building a Green Dream

When Murphy Brothers Contracting purchased a property in Westchester County, N.Y., the remodeler intended to build a spec home.

At the same time, Westchester Magazine was looking for a company to partner with to build a model green "Dream Home." For Murphy Brothers, it was a chance to take advantage of rising interest in green and to hedge their bets against the declining home market.

"We knew this would help us market the house and sell it a little faster in this economy," says Vice President Sean Murphy.

The home has proven to be a marketing boon as well, with leads coming in before the home was even completed thanks to extensive coverage in the magazine and other local media.

Although the company has been remodeling and building green since before it had a name, Murphy says, this is the first time the firm has put a big marketing push behind sustainable construction.

The home was open to public for four weeks starting May 1, with 3,000 to 4,000 people expected to come through on tours. Proceeds from tour ticket sales benefit a local medical center that provides care to low-income patients.

The Craftsman-style home showcases eco-friendly features throughout, including floors of reclaimed lumber; PaperStone countertops made from recycled paper; low-VOC paints and sealants; and spray-foam insulation. The best aspect of the home, Murphy says, is that it shows green can go hand-in-hand with luxury.

"The neat part is how we blended it all into the house without jeopardizing the design," he says. "It didn't have to be designed around the green aspects."

For more on the "Dream Home," visit dreamhome.westchestermagazine.com.

The Sweet Spot: Reduce Client Risk

It started with Hyundai Assurance, the automaker's program that lets you walk away from your loan if you lose your income in the first 12 months you own it.

That idea's been adopted by many other companies in a variety of industries. We've even seen variations of this in construction, with several builders offering to make payments if homeowners lose their jobs.

Now, the first remodeler I've heard about is going down that road: Renewal Design-Build, a Decatur, Ga.-based firm. Under its new money-back guarantee, if a client signs a design contract then experiences a loss of income, job relocation or the inability to secure funding, Renewal will refund 50 percent of their retainer fee.

It's not the same deal that the builders and automakers are offering, but it is a way of reassuring clients who are nervous about making a big decision these days.

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