"Whatever it takes." That's the mantra that Kevin Franklin, co-owner of Consolidated Construction Group, and his employees repeat time and again. How does the St.Louis-based company make customers happy? How do they complete projects on time? How do they keep job sites spotless? Simple. They do whatever it takes. It's a policy that has paid off big for the company, ensuring that 100 percent of their 2003 clients were willing to recommend Consolidated to friends and family. Here's a look at the top five areas where the company differentiated itself from other remodeling firms in the NRS study:
Number of walk-through items identified for correction: Franklin has a sure-fire way for reducing the number of punch list items — he rejects the concept altogether. "We don't have the mentality of 'We'll save that for the punch list,'" he says. "Although quality issues are infrequent, they do happen occasionally. We usually catch these and correct them before the client raises the issue," says Franklin. "We set our own quality standards and do not allow marginal work." If a client does raise an issue, the company immediately fixes it to the client's satisfaction.
The other key to eliminating the punch list, says Franklin, is having quality employees working on the project from the start. To ensure that prospective employees are reliable, Franklin typically hires through word of mouth and prefers candidates who were formerly business owners. Franklin conducts background checks and asks more than one person to interview the candidate. And while Consolidated Construction Group subcontracts most site work, the company employs in-house finish carpenters to keep tight quality control. "Our guys take pride in what they do," says Franklin. "It's always done right the first time."
Adherence to production schedule: To minimize delays, the company has committed to a system called Single Stage Release, where all decisions related to the project must be made before it can be put into production. As part of this process, the company hired an interior designer to assist clients with selections. The designer fills out a selection sheet with the client and gets customer sign off on it before returning the sheet to the salesperson for inclusion in the final build agreement.
Time taken to correct walk-through items: For ongoing jobs, production manager Mike Dinzebach works with clients to correct problems. If the job is closed out, Kate Ryan, the company sales coordinator, manages service work orders and warranty claims. Ryan writes a work order for it, adds the work order to her task list in Microsoft Outlook, and gets that paperwork out to Dinzebach. He then schedules a visit to the client. Ryan follows up with Dinzebach on a weekly basis to ensure the work has been completed and calls the client to confirm satisfaction.
Franklin prefers not to pull personnel off an existing job for mundane things like nail-pops and paint touch-ups. Instead, these are worked into the overall schedule and attended to within a week or two. "If it's an emergency, we have someone right on it," says Franklin. "Our other customers know that they can expect the same service should it happen to them."
Communication of progress: Dinzebach's regular communication with clients — in person, on cell phone, or via notes at a designed communication spot in the house — manages changes to the project and minimizes potential delays that might bring down the schedule. If the issues relate to design or additional work, Dinzebach calls the office on a two-way radio and then relays instructions to the carpenters.
Cleanliness of work site: Cleanliness ranks high on Consolidated Construction Group's priority list. "It's something we're really big on," says Franklin. Ideally if there is enough room to accommodate a Dumpster, one is brought in because that works the best. If there's no room for a Dumpster, workers put trash in a designated area. Either way, the company removes trash weekly, so there's not a lot of debris around, both for safety and the sake of aesthetics.
The company has daily clean up and sweeping on every project because most of their clients live in the houses through construction. Even though they're not living in the areas being remodeled, odds are they walk through those areas. "We're concerned about their safety and that of their kids, and even just curious neighbors," says Franklin. If the company has no personnel on-site, the production manager will go by at the end of the day or send an employee to make sure everything has been tidied. Even the company's subs have been trained to pick up after themselves. If subs have to go through a part of the house that's unrelated to the work being done, there's a stack of tarps at the door with a sign instructing them to protect the floors.
Consolidated Construction takes great care to protect living areas from the work zone, putting up plastic partitions and using zipper doors. The company recently completed a family-room project that lay between a bedroom wing at one end of a house and the kitchen at the other. In order for the family to safely walk from one wing of the house to the other, the company built a covered hallway from framing and plywood through the construction area. "We isolate the customers in such a way that allows them to live their lives as best they can on the other side of the plastic or wall while we're doing our thing," says Franklin.
And that goes a long way. A dirty jobsite is usually the last straw for customers if they've had a bad day, they're living through the stress of the remodeling, and then they come home to a dirty home, according to Franklin. If a crew is making the effort to keep the home clean, it goes a lot further than if there is no effort being made.