Preferential Treatment

Successful business requires understanding the homeowner's perspective.

October 31, 2000

According to the employees at Michael T. Martin Contractors in Las Vegas, there are fundamental rules for dealing with homeowners, whether it's on a sales call or in midproject. Keeping the clients' perspective at the forefront of your mind will help you understand their point of view. Simple guidelines for all client interactions help employees and customers alike.

Make it right for the client. Whenever you're helping clients choose product for their home, make sure that selections will match the home's style and neighborhood. Calling in a designer, even if one isn't available on staff, can be a big help.

"I meet in the office to kick around ideas with the clients first," says Ted Deschaine, head estimator for Martin Contractors. "I then call in the designer to help with last-minute decisions and to handle the final drawings. This works on all types of projects that need drastic changes, including kitchens and bathrooms."

No hard sell. "I let the client make all the decisions, and I never rush them. You need to maintain a comfort level, so you don't want to push or go too fast," says Deschaine. Relaxed, nonconfrontational dealings with clients lead to a comfortable working relationship. Deschaine uses the Internet during client meetings to help homeowners understand all their choices and give them tools to help them feel more in control of the project. The company's Web site, at www.mtmgc.com, will soon include links to suppliers and manufacturers so clients can continue to search and make decisions in privacy.

Honesty policy. Be up front about problems or delays that each project might face. Honest relations help everyone on the project coordinate and builds trust with clients. "We call it the way we see it here," says Deschaine. "It's never a problem to talk with our clients truthfully about what is going on."

Open communications. Keep in mind that remodeling projects disrupt clients' lives and often make the clients nervous or anxious. Dealing with their questions in a timely manner can be the key to keeping relationships positive. "Now that everyone's equipped with cell phones, it helps communications," says Deschaine. "All our superintendents have radios, and no one is ever out of touch. There's always someone available with an answer, and our office is always open. I get some late-night calls, but it doesn't bother me. I'd rather be in the know."

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