Anyone who has been in this business long enough knows that remodeling is not a product business, it is a service business. It is not just that we do our jobs but how we do our job that makes or breaks a client's experience and satisfaction. A kitchen remodel may be award-winning, but if the project was over budget, behind schedule and riddled with issues, clients will remember the bad experience long after they grow accustomed to the beauty of the space and will be happy to tell everyone they know, too.
As remodelers, whether we know it or not, we deliver experiences first and projects second. So now you are probably expecting me to list ten things you can start doing today to solve all your client satisfaction problems. You'll get those tips in Parts II & III of this three-part article.
Keep in mind, client satisfaction is critical and to get there I want you to take a long, hard look at your company culture.
Company culture is an incredibly powerful force that determines how your employees see and treat problems, opportunities and all the people that your organization comes in contact with: vendors, subcontractors, and, most importantly, clients! Culture is like mood — but the mood of the company can be either upbeat or depressing, respectful or belligerent, empowering or stifling — with many shades in between.
You can design processes to make clients happy, but if those processes are out of sync with your culture you will miss the desired result every time. How many times have you received services from someone, and they said all the things they were trained to say and did all the things they were trained to do, but it was automated and impersonal or, my favorite, they acted as if they were doing you a favor by serving you? The only way that person can remain employed is if the company culture allows and reinforces that behavior.
Does your culture empower and reward employees who deliver excellent client service? If not, why not? Now don't get me wrong; I realize there are many important components to a viable company, but few can have the long-term impact of a devoted client base committed to using only your company and, even better, who would pester their friends to use you! A client-centric culture will empower your people to make your clients not just satisfied, but really, really happy. If your client-centric culture is firing on all cylinders, your clients will feel the love from the first time they call your company right through the warranty work.
Creating the culture you want does not happen without effort. This is especially true if you already have a culture you don't want. If you are not happy with what you have, look in the mirror first and determine how YOU are shaping your organization. Then ask your employees to help you define and shape a revised culture — if they are part of the solution, you will have a much easier time gaining compliance. Incentives, rewards, recognition and, most importantly, respect, will build a culture over time that supports your goals.
OK. I said I wouldn't pass on any tips this time, but here comes one anyway: We have found that one of the most powerful ways to deliver raving fans is through spontaneous service throughout the project by the people on the job. This is not something that can be regulated or dictated. Our employees are constantly looking for opportunities to pleasantly surprise our clients, like bringing a birthday gift to a child, taking care of a pet, bringing in the newspaper in the morning, helping with the groceries, letting the kids join the crew for lunch, etc. These touches rarely cost any money and often have nothing to do with the project we are building but everything to do with building caring and respectful client relationships.
In Parts II and III, I will provide more tools to help build on the concept of developing a client-centric culture to help you create clients for life.
|Dave Bryan, CGR, CAPS, is the president and CEO of Blackdog Design/Build/Remodel in Salem, N.H. He is also a facilitator for Remodelers Advantage. Contact Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org.|