Michael R. Morris
The phone rings. You answer.
"Hello, Mrs. Jones. Yes, Mrs Jones? No, Mrs. Jones. He did whaaat?"
It's every large remodeling firm owner's worst nightmare. Your company's success has allowed you to grow the business to the point that you've outgrown your ability to monitor closely what's happening in the field. But because you still rely heavily on the raving reviews and referrals your clients have so willingly supplied in the past for your future leads, the relationship with your customers is just as important as ever.
"No, Mrs. Jones, of course we don't condone such behavior. Are you certain it was one one my guys?"
How well do you know "your guys?" If you've been on a hiring spree for field workers lately, or worse yet if you use strictly subcontractors and/or one of the many temporary manpower labor providers popular across the country, you're at risk.
Two recent surveys conducted by Opinion Research Corp. on behalf of Kimberly-Clark Professional polled home improvement professionals and their customers about their relationship and the situations that cause concern for both.
Here are a few highlights of the results of the research, which included a national telephone survey of homeowners who had a contractor work in their home in the last three years and an Internet survey of residential remodeling contractors, handymen and others.
Worst nightmares: Forty percent of homeowners point to poor workmanship as their top concern, edging out contractors who make romantic advances or use the bathroom without flushing.
Selecting a contractor: Sixty-four percent of clients cited a personal recommendation from someone they trust as the reason for selecting their contractor, trumping good looks, although two percent of customers said they'd base their choice of a contractor on their looks. A small number of contractors begged to differ, asserting that customers chose them because they're "hot and everyone knows it."
Bathroom privileges: While 70 percent of customers said they had no problem letting contractors use their bathrooms, 15 percent said they would allow it but were secretly hoping they didn't take them up on the offer. Ten percent said they changed the towels and cleaned the toilet after a contractor used it. Only one percent would not allow contractors to use their bathroom. When contractors are working outside, 74 percent of customers said they would let workers inside to use the bathroom, but 11 percent would say yes and immediately regret it. Eight percent would "just say no."
Contractors who work outdoors claimed a variety of methods for dealing with this issue: 44 percent ask their client to use the bathroom. Eleven percent said they answered the call of nature by going behind the nearest tree.
"I'm very sorry, Mrs. Jones. Your late husband planted that tree on your wedding day? I don't know what to say. I'll be right over, Mrs. Jones."
What is your code of conduct policy for field workers? Do you even have one? One uncomfortable preemptive conversation with your field employees sure beats an even more uncomfortable one with Mrs. Jones any day of the week.