Mike Damora is vice president of sales and marketing at K&B Home Remodelers, in Succasunna, N.J. Reach him at madamora@kbhomesnj.com. Follow him on Twitter @madamora.

Not-So-Great Expectations

Homeowners don’t expect all that much from exterior contractors. That’s your opportunity.

August 04, 2016

Anyone who has experience selling home improvement projects knows that when it comes to sales, the more expensive it is, the higher the customer’s expectations.

​​​​​That makes perfect sense. What’s also true is that when it comes to remodeling, there are two sets of customer expectations and standards: There’s the world inside the house and there’s the world outside the house.

Inside and Outside

Inside the house, expectations run high. A homeowner expects to be thrilled with their $100,000 kitchen remodel. They’ve paged through 10,000 magazines and been to a zillion websites and they’ll tell you they’re certain they want a farmhouse sink and country cabinets and that the hardware on those cabinets must have a satin nickel finish.

The $10,000 re-roof is another story. Homeowners typically don’t know the difference between GAF and IKO. Nor are they likely to be familiar with proper safety procedures on a roof or ventilation standards in the attic. What they do know about the roof is that it’s on their house and if it leaks someone has to fix it.

Of course, when it comes to siding and window products, homeowners probably know more. A few mouse clicks can land you in just about any database of product options. But homeowners still aren’t going to expect the level of attention and customer service that they would on a kitchen remodel or an addition. That’s because replacing these exterior items is typically something homeowners don’t want to do; it’s something they have to do. And to them, exterior contractors all seem alike. So if the homeowners have five or six contractors lined up, they expect to pick one like you’d pick the dog with the fewest fleas.

An Opportunity

Could you ask for a better opportunity? Sell the homeowner an exterior job by showing them you’ll provide the level of choice and service that they would expect from the remodeler doing their $100,000 kitchen. Go to that siding sales appointment with an abundance of options—color, texture, stone, trims. Spend the time to take a serious look at their roof system and don’t be afraid, on the roofing appointment, to talk about how thoroughly your installers will attend to chimney flashing and how that benefits the homeowner.

Sell this way and you’re immediately in another league from other companies vying for the work. What will they do but scratch their heads and throw down a price? And because those prices are all over the place, price seems to the homeowner like something random plucked from a hat.

Commonsense Texting

Exterior customers today expect two things at a minimum: communication and transparency. They want to know when you’re coming, when you’ll start, how the job’s going—that is, the communication needs to be ongoing—and when the job will be completed. They’re like kids constantly in need of attention.

But what homeowners often get from contractors is silence. So let prospects know that you’re going to keep them informed, using the medium of their choice. Today, thanks to the smartphone, that medium will probably be text. Actually, texting is an incredibly efficient way to stay in touch with people. It takes minimal time and gives them the attention they expect. The only caveat: Don’t attempt to resolve problems by text. Anytime emotion is likely to be aroused, call your customer. Say, for instance, while installing the roof you encounter wood rot in the beams. Replacing them wasn’t part of the original scope and requires a substantial change order. Text that information to a customer and they're likely to go berserk.

On the other hand, if you call, your vocal intonations and inflections reassure them that you have the situation well in hand.

Is That Clear?

The transparency homeowners expect consists of providing as much information about your product, your price, and your company as homeowners need.

Products, they can easily find out about. But if your price is bundled, that’s a red flag. This is the only retail industry where it’s still OK for service providers to offer a bundled price. To the homeowner, it may not be OK.

That means breaking the price of the project out and explaining what the homeowner is going to get for their money. Doing that sets the stage for you to talk about the fact that when they sign with you, they’re going to get more than just a great product and experienced installation. They’re going to get a company that adheres to standards of professionalism uncommon in contracting.

Of course, they probably won’t sign without a clear idea of what you stand for as a business organization. In the old days, that meant the Company Story. Today what you have to say about your company doesn’t matter that much. Your prospects have probably already been to Google, Yelp, and Angie’s List to find out what other people have to say about you. They’re especially interested in how you resolved any problems that arose.

And if you’re spending 15 minutes talking about licensing and insurance, you may be wasting their time. They can easily find out if you’re properly licensed and insured. If it’s not made clear on your website, it needs to be. Wouldn’t you expect your doctor to be licensed?

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