Director of Content

Sal Alfano is executive editor for Professional, 202.603.4884

What Customers Want

A close reading of positive reviews can tell you a lot about what customers value. What you find may be surprising.

February 27, 2018

In a world where every potential customer’s first step is to search the Web, online reviews are critical to marketing success. This naturally leads to a preoccupation with reputation management, but for time-crunched remodelers, this often amounts to counting stars. Four- and five-star reviews get a quick look, while most time and energy is devoted to damage control from negative reviews.

There is value in learning from our mistakes, but it’s only half of the story customer reviews are telling. I was talking yesterday about online selling with Dan Wolt, founder of Zen Windows, a Columbus, Ohio-based company that now has more than 30 franchises nationwide. Zen Windows stands out from the replacement window crowd for a number of reasons—for example, no deposit is required, so clients pay nothing until the job is complete. But the main differentiator is that there is no in-home salesforce—the sale is made by the franchise owner and takes place by phone, email, and Internet. And it’s been that way since 2008.

You can read more about Zen Windows in our August, 2016 issue, but what struck me yesterday was something Dan said about his customer testimonials: “Nobody mentions the windows.” We both knew he was exaggerating, but when I checked, I understood what he meant: most customers did mention the windows, but it was almost an afterthought.

It’s Not About The Stuff

Don’t get me wrong: Your work product is important. But when it comes to customer satisfaction, it’s not the main event. Reading through the testimonials on the Zen WIndows website paints such a clear picture of why people hire the company that I began to wonder how many remodelers bother to analyze their own customer testimonials. 

A look at what Dan’s customers say is a real window (!) into what they value. 

“Easy,” “simple,” “fast.” More than any others, these three keywords appear early in a review to describe ... the sales process? That’s right, the “buying experience,” as many called it, is as important or more important to people than the stuff they’re buying. Some reviewers went on at length to express relief at not having to sit through another high-pressure sales presentation.

“Informed,” “notified,” “communicated.” This one is telling. Despite all of the tools we have to stay in touch with customers, the fact that so many people mention good communication makes me think that “disappearing remodeler syndrome” is still far too commonplace.

“Timely,” “prompt,” “professional.” One homeowner wrote: “Did what they said they’d do, when they said they’d do it.” Obviously, that’s what most people want, but the very fact that this statement appears at all tells me that most customers expect the opposite. 

“Clean.” This word showed up in just about every review I read. Apparently, the industry still has a reputation for making a mess, which means there is a lot of value in making sure you don’t.

“Price.” Like the windows themselves, price is almost always mentioned, but it’s clearly a couple notches down on the list. That’s worth noting because Zen Windows is not the cheapest game in town.

How To Succeed in Business

This list of keywords tells me that people these days—meaning in the digital age—don’t have the time or patience for a traditional sales process. They speak, not of a “sale,” but of a “buying experience.” They want information before, during, and after they buy, and not just about the product but about the who, how, why, and when of the installation. And they want you to treat them and their property with respect.

That’s not asking for much. The trick is making it “simple, easy, and fast.” A key step for Zen Windows was to eliminate face-to-face meetings. Radical, but it’s working.

What story are your testimonials telling?

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