First State Building & Design

by Emily Blackburn

Chadds Ford, Pa.
GQ All-time Recommend Rate: 95%
GQ 2021 Recommend Rate: 96%
Number of Jobs in 2021: 312
Type of Firm: Home improvement/Replacement
CEO: Joe Oakes

Business technology and business software are offering new ways for remodelers and home improvement professionals to improve client experience and customer satisfaction. In what ways are you using software or technology to improve client experience?:

We don’t just want to be another ordinary contractor. We want to be extraordinary. We not only want to provide quality workmanship, we want to give people a quality experience from start to finish with their home remodeling projects.

Creating an excellent client experience and customer service satisfaction is a top priority for us.

FSBD prides itself in staying in contact with its clients with multiple communication touch points throughout their project. Here’s how we utilize technology to help us create an excellent customer service experience:


Within the past several months, we began utilizing HubSpot – a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system. HubSpot allows us to integrate our marketing, sales, and customer service initiatives.

We’ve created several fully programed email communication sequences through a series of carefully crafted email templates that our team wrote and designed from scratch. We’ve mapped out each communication flow to simply send these emails at the press of a button, starting with the very first time a prospect reaches out to us, to throughout the sales phase, and continuing all the way through production after they’ve signed with us. We have fully automated our sequences to go out at certain key intervals. Our goal in doing this was to create a series of multiple touch points throughout the entire project cycle to provide continuity with our communication by staying in contact with our clients so that they’re kept informed about what’s happening next.

This series of email communications includes: appointment confirmation and reminders, a welcome email after they’ve signed, a notification that their project drawings are underway, permit submittal notifications, a permit approval notification, material delivery notifications, an introduction to our production team including their project manager and a “Big Thanks” for your business project end email.

Customers are investing a lot of their money, and we don’t want there to be a “dead silence” after they’ve signed with us, have given us a deposit and until their project starts. We want them to know that we care and appreciate their investment with us by staying in touch with them to keep them well informed.
In tandem with HubSpot, we also utilize a home remodeling project management software system called BuilderTrend as another key means of staying in touch with our clients.
BuilderTrend gives us the ability to further enhance the “staying in touch” aspect with our clients by acting as a centralized tool that provides a means of supplemental communication.
Our clients are provided with a login after they’ve signed with us and then from there, they’re able to take advantage of the many features and benefits BuilderTrend has to offer. Things like…
• Ability to view and approve their project proposal.
• Ability to make materials selections to finalize their design and track their budget allocated against each item.
• Ability to view and approve project drawings to sign off on to go into production and allow materials orders to be placed.
• Ability to access, view and approve change orders and invoices.
• Ability to view daily progress logs and photos of their project as it’s being worked on.
• Ability to make payments.
• Ability to send messages with any questions or concerns where all project communication history is stored in a centralized location for easy reference.
BuilderTrend is an excellent tool that helps us streamline all the communication, “To Do’s”, and management of our clients’ projects. It makes things simple and transparent to our clients so that they have an easy way of seeing and knowing what’s happening with their project every step of the way.
We’re really focused on not only our quality craftmanship but also being very customer service oriented. We want to not only build great projects but also great relationships with people. Using technology, we are effortlessly able to set out doing exactly what we want to achieve, which is creating an excellent customer service experience from start to finish.
Our goal and our motto is…we want to change the way people feel about contractors!

CAD – Computer Aided Design

We often find that many people have an idea of what they would like to have done but have difficulty in being able to fully articulate their big picture ideas. By utilizing technology with design systems like Realtime Landscape and AutoCad for our exterior projects (decks, patios, porches, entrance porticos, full-blown outdoor living spaces) and 20/20 for our interior projects (kitchens, bathrooms, basements, and other interior living spaces) we can help guide our prospective clients through the initial design process.

Realtime Landscape creates professional detailed 2D and realistic 3D renderings that can be put into motion as a movie with sound effects and 3D characters to provide clients with a virtual walkthrough of their project. They can see their design as to how it would look during the day as well as at night and we can also show them how to take their project to the next level by incorporating lighting and fire features to further enhance the overall ambiance. We want to give them the opportunity to really get a sense of how their outdoor living space could LOOK and FEEL.

AutoCad is used to generate our structural drawings for permit applications and referenced during the production phase of their project within field files that are created to ensure that all construction details are properly executed.

After preliminary renderings are generated with 20/20 for our interior projects, we incorporate those renderings along with other inspirational photos within PowerPoint and then prospective clients are invited to join us at our showroom for a special presentation of their project.

No matter what the project is (either exterior or interior), every job begins with our dedicated team of designers lending their expertise to help bring our prospective client’s vision to life.

With any of the technology we use, we want to show clients what the possibilities are and what we can do to bring their dream project to life. We want to send a message that’s loud and clear that we are full design and build company and we take care of all aspects of your project from A to Z. We are one stop shopping.

With customers potentially spending tens and thousands of dollars, providing them with a visual of what their project could conceptually look like can make a big difference and can really help them grasp the full vision of their dream project. Helping our customers to “see the vision” of their investment by providing them with quality imagery is an important aspect of their front-end customer service experience when they begin working with us.

Rising costs for labor and building materials along with higher inflation on everything else is forcing remodelers and home pros to raise prices dramatically. Tell us about the most effective ways you are passing along these rising prices to your clients?:

It is no secret that prices everywhere are soaring so in general, most people have a somewhat realistic understanding and expectation.

Here are our best methods of contending with rising prices with our clients:

Transparency and Honesty – The best thing we can do as a business is to be completely honest and open from the first moment we’re in contact with a new prospect. Our team will always discuss their budget and inform them of potential price increases that could occur after they sign with us. We also include wording in our proposals and contracts that details these potential price increases as well, which essentially states that the owner understands that the price of materials may escalate prior to the start of work. Should cost escalations occur, these will be addressed through a change order. Our transparency is based on both informing our clients verbally through upfront conversations and through written documentation so that nothing is hidden.

Offer & Deliver More – To counteract the potential unpleasantries of cost increases, the best thing we can try to do is to offer and deliver more through our customer satisfaction and workmanship. By focusing on not only delivering quality workmanship but also going the extra mile to provide top of the line customer service and giving them a great experience with the hope of lessening the sting of those potential cost increases.

Supply shortages have required you to ask clients to go back and pick another finish or building material. What are your tips for handing these product trade-off conversations?:

While it’s never ideal to inform a client that they need to reselect something because it’s either not available or has an extended delivery lead time, here are our best tips for how we’ve been able to successfully contend with this supply shortage and delays:

To mitigate the impact of the potential frustration by the client, we simply try to be extra diligent with our communication, our responsiveness, and once again, our transparency.

We try to inform them as quickly as possible that there’s an issue with an item or items they’ve selected, and proactively work to provide them with the best alternatives to fit their wants and needs.

We strongly feel that upfront communication, responsiveness, and transparency are the key ingredients to not only contend with the supply chain shortages and other industry challenges, but ultimately go a long way to serve our clients well and successfully build relationships.

It has been said…

“Ultimately, these supply chain issues are likely to be short-lived. The impact of how you handle these delays, however, could have long-term consequences.”

So, for this reason that is why we choose to be highly responsive and transparent in communicating with our clients because we want to build great projects and great relationships with people.

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