Make Customer Experience Part of Your Product

These days, a pretty portfolio isn’t enough to land the job

November 08, 2015
Reasons why it's important to make customer experience part of your product

Let’s say you were chosen to create the perfect bathroom for your client. You strive for a happy customer and great end product to add to your portfolio in hopes of attracting new clients. But in today’s world of information overload, pictures aren’t enough, and customer experience plays a bigger role in earning word-of-mouth referrals.

Many homeowners—your clients—are couples. And in those couples, from my experience, the women talk more among themselves and online, so they’re more likely to give you referrals. Past clients who are women may share project photos online or show off a new bathroom to visitors, but it’s the experience they have that they’ll remember and talk about for years. They may even blog about that experience.

An Integral Part of Your Process

When clients understand what’s going right and are aware of potential problems, they’ll be more understanding, and accepting, if and when schedule delays or cost overruns occur. The best way to get your team to
focus on the customer experience is to make it part of your business processes. You can do this by:

1. Documenting your processes from the homeowner’s perspective. This will help you stand out from your competitors, and it’s a good marketing tool. Types of documentation worth sharing include:

—Project scope, specifications, and timeline for projects you’ve completed. Be sure to include examples of problems that arose and how they affected the schedule and budget.

—Planning worksheets that help homeowners prepare for their initial meeting with you can speed up the process and can also alert homeowners to the fact that they’re not ready to start a remodeling project.

—Product recommendations to guide client research online and with your preferred local vendors.

—Product and material cost ranges to guide clients in matching their dreams with reality (budget). Including the most common hidden repair items, such as a rotted subfloor in a bathroom, will explain why contingency is included.

—Links to other websites with remodeling resources.

2. Assign a customer advocate to periodically check in with each client. Calls or an occasional site visit can be random and shouldn’t always have a specific agenda. Listening to the client is great because it keeps you grounded. It’s too easy to forget that homeowners don’t have the experience to know what to worry about, and what is “business as usual.” 

A log of all client interaction is helpful in case problems arise. The log can also be used during post-job reviews to learn where business process improvements are needed.

3. Extra communication can help to quickly identify and resolve concerns. You’re the expert and you know when and why most problems bubble up in a project. You already have a weekly project review, but that meeting will focus on accomplishments over the last week and plans for next week. After demo and the discovery of hidden damage, most problems arise from external sources such as delays in product shipment or a scheduled inspection.

You’re already checking on all your project dependencies internally; a quick call or email to update the customer about any changes and how you’re planning to absorb them into the schedule or budget can make a big difference in how clients respond when you do have to revise the schedule or budget. 

Better for Your Bottom Line

We all want projects to run smoothly, which requires good teamwork when problems arise. By integrating the customer experience into your business processes, you are building stronger customer relationships,
creating more skilled team members, and generating more profit for your business. You can’t prevent all problems, but you can, and should, minimize their impact on your bottom line.

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Tina Gleisner sold her handyman business to focus on teaching women how to manage their home improvement projects via her website, HomeTipsforWomen.com.

 

About the Author


Comments

Tina's article is right on the mark! As a realtor, I am frequently asked by clients for referrals. When making recommendations, I take into account Tina's points in deciding who to recommend. Customer expectations need to be acknowledged and included in the process. Above all, communication with the customer is paramount to a successful project and future referrals. Well done Tina!

Tina's article underscores the most important element in any client relationship: communication. Keep your client informed about everything as you work through your renovation projects. In fact, don't be afraid to over-communicate. My experience as a homeowner is that providers err on the side of silence. Instead, share your knowedge and experience freely. As the saying goes: An educated consumer is your best buyer.

Kathy, You make an excellent point that when home pros share their process with clients & other pros, it is much easier to give referrals.

I concur: communication is key!

We are going to swap out our electric range/oven with a gas fueled unit. We met with a plumber who evaluated our internal propane install. After looking outside, in the kitchen and in the basement, he told us that we very likely could have the lines for the propane done at less cost than he would charge - given that the gas companies may charge less hourly for their installs since they'll be filling the propane tank regulary. Turns out he was right. Communication in any size project is key! 

As both a homeowner who has remodeled and a home industry professional, I completely agree with Tina on the importance of communication.  It is the key in setting and maintaining expectations as well as working through hiccups when they occur.  Thanks!

Tina is right, I always recommend contractors based on the "ease" of communication and meeting expectations.  Last thing I need to be doing is chasing down my contractor trying to get questions answered.  Just the simple question of asking the customer how often they would like a check in or update is a small act, but puts the contractor heads and shoulders above the rest.

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