Last month I presented the first five of 10 tips for creating a great remodeling experience for your clients.
It is no surprise that people often think of remodeling their home while they live there as stressful. They hear stories that projects go over budget, they never finish, and it was difficult to communicate. It is no wonder why if you look at your local Better Business Bureau statistics that home remodeling is often the No. 1 inquiry and often high up for complaints. Now that we know that, let’s go to work. Even if you already do these things, how and when are you communicating the value to your client?
(For the first five tips for a great experience, visit http://www.HousingZone.com/ProfessionalRemodeler/durosko-10tips.)
6. Avoiding Communication Breakdowns
Set up a process of ongoing communication during construction. At Sun Design we have a weekly walkthrough that happens every week at the same day and time.
Communicate what an emergency is and how to contact someone. For instance, we discuss if there is a fire or natural gas odor, call 911; if you don’t have hot water, call our 24-hour paging service; and if you have decided on a paint color, email it or wait for the morning to discuss. Set expectations about who to call.
Often there are multiple people involved in the design and construction process. Identify the “lead” person to contact for the client. Discuss working hours, start and end times, flex time if you offer it, not working weekends or if you allow it. Discuss behaviors allowed on the jobsite including “no shirts off” or loud music. Discuss changes and how you handle them. For instance, we require written change orders signed and agreed to PRIOR to any work being performed. This is often an area of disagreement at the end of the job if not agreed upon at the time of change.
7. Throwing down the red flag
In remodeling there are many problems that may arise during the construction process: existing conditions, hidden mechanicals in the wall, a mismeasurement or product issues. Having a process that quickly addresses these issues will allow for the least amount of delays and cost.
We have implemented a “red flag” process at Sun Design. Any time there is a significant issue, any employee in our company can call a red flag meeting. The players are identified — usually our president, director of sales and design, director of production, design consultant, designer and project manager. The problem is discussed, all sides are presented, the solution is agreed upon, and everyone leaves with a clear action plan.
8. Are we there yet?
Just like when you go on vacation and everyone is excited to get there, your clients are excited to move their furniture in. Agree to what the re-occurring updates are, how often and how the project ends.
At Sun Design we do a substantial completion walk through, make a list of punch items and the client keeps twice the value. At the completion of that list they then pay the final payment. Agreeing to terms before you start eliminates surprises when you reach completion.
Clarify what the warranty term is, what it covers and the process for getting any warranty work completed.
This is a good area of discussion for testimonials. Have your clients ask your referrals specifically about this and how quickly any problems were resolved and how the process went.
10. Share your experience
I have heard it said that a satisfied client tells one person, a dissatisfied client tells 10 people. Now with the Internet it is thousands.
It is important to encourage your satisfied clients to “rave” about you as much as anyone. Encourage referrals, testimonials and on-line rating services. This might not feel right to some to ask, but I feel it is helping others to hear about their experience and what they learned from it.
Craig Durosko is the founder of Sun Design, a Burke, Va.-based design/build firm he started in 1988. Sun Design has won more than 70 awards over the past 20 years for design, customer service and business success, including being recognized by Inc. magazine as one of America’s Fastest Growing Companies.