Perfecting the art of listening
Most remodeling clients come out of the process unhappy about something. Three years ago, Stebnitz Builders in Delavan, Wis., decided to see what they could do about that. The company sent a survey to past clients and potential clients who hadn’t hired Stebnitz to see what they liked about their projects, what they didn’t like and what could be improved.
"What we found was that people were really frustrated with the communication they received from people in this industry," says Chris Stebnitz, the company’s sales and brand manager. "We came up with the realization that what they wanted was a remodeler who will listen."
For the next two years, Stebnitz looked at its processes to see how employees could improve their listening skills. Employees have been trained on the techniques of active listening, such as eliminating distractions and making eye contact. The company has created a system of forms that are used every step of the way to gather information. Stebnitz also trained its employees on notetaking so they could better capture the key points the client makes.
"We share those notes with the client, so we can make sure that we’ve gotten it," Stebnitz says.
The company has already seen significant improvement in its feedback from customers, especially in communi-cations, Stebnitz said.
Priceless consulting for free
When Menold Construction & Restoration completes a project, the team wants to hear about any little thing that went wrong.
The Morton, Ill., design/build remodeler looks at those problems, no matter how small, as the best way to improve its operations. A couple of weeks after a project wraps up, the project
manager and designer visit the client for a post-
project meeting. "Our goal is to just listen and take notes," says Vice President Steven Driscoll.
After the meeting, the project manager creates a report and sends it to everyone involved in the project. The management also collects the reports to look for recurring complaints that can be corrected. Meetings tackling issues take about an hour; afterward, Menold sends the clients a note and gift certificate to thank them for their time — a minor cost for what Driscoll says has been invaluable information for the company.
"It’s free consulting for us that is worth much more than any survey or outside consultant could be," he says. It also shows customers that the company cares about quality, which helps its repeat and referral rate.
Says Driscoll: "We love it because we create those customer cheerleaders who are going to go out of their way to promote us because we take care of their needs."
Fire, ready, aim
It's always important to check your tools. That's a lesson David Powers, owner of Ocean Breeze Awnings & More in Surfside Beach, S.C., learned the hard way a few years ago.
The company was installing vinyl siding on a brick house, using wood strips to attach the siding to the home. To attach the wood strips, an employee used a powder actuated gun with a .22 shell to fire the anchor.
Unfortunately, the gun was loaded with the wrong anchor depth, and each time he fired, an anchor shot through the brick and the wallboard and into the house. He only realized his problem when the homeowner came out and told him he was shooting anchors all over the house. Luckily, nobody was hurt during the mishap.
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