Your No. 1 Asset

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My parents decided to remodel their powder room. They asked me for help. I have given them the names of local remodelers, explained how design/build works, taken them to showrooms.

September 01, 2002

 

Kim Sweet

My parents decided to remodel their powder room. They asked me for help. I have given them the names of local remodelers, explained how design/build works, taken them to showrooms. They are not demanding people, but they are difficult customers, especially when I'm consulting for free. They are now looking at remodeling two bathrooms, and maybe the living and dining rooms. Perhaps the kitchen floor, too. They do not agree on design and selections, either with each other or with me. It is not easy to keep a remodeling customer satisfied.

Because customers are a remodeler's No. 1 asset, satisfying them is of utmost importance. But how do you know, for sure, that you've satisfied them? And how can you make sure you do it every time? And how do you make sure you do it better than your competition?

Many remodelers make follow-up phone calls or send surveys. But there's a science to measuring customer satisfaction. The timing of the survey or call, the phrasing of the questions, the person or company doing the asking -- all of these factors can change responses. That's where an impartial, experienced third party can help. Then that third party can help analyze the responses. It makes sense to share the good stuff with employees and to rectify any problems immediately. But this is also a chance to identify areas of the business that might not be problems but still could stand improvement.

Third-party customer surveys are pretty standard in new-home construction. One of the best parts of them is the development of a large pool of data, allowing builders the opportunity to benchmark themselves against their competitors and against the industry as a whole.

Professional Remodeler enlisted the help of NRS Corp. to provide remodelers the same chance, and the results of the industry's first customer satisfaction study, as well as the top performers' best practices, appear in this issue. While all the participating remodelers did well on sales, design and construction quality, the factors that put the top three above the rest all were related to the construction process, and especially communication: change orders, schedules, progress reporting, site cleanliness, responsiveness, etc.

Another tool to help remodelers serve their customers better -- especially customers they don't have yet -- is market research. Again, it's information that's relatively easy to come by in the new-home market; not so easy in remodeling. So read this month's cover story, "What Consumers Want," the product of a nationwide survey of people who have remodeled and who will remodel. There are some real surprises in there that just might change how you approach potential clients.

Customer focus, process improvement, benchmarking results -- these are the hallmarks of quality management.

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