Lupberger: How to Manage Customer Fears

Dealing with homeowner fears also means creating an exceptional homeowner experience.

Custom remodeling is a challenging and expensive process. In many ways, I compare custom remodeling to elective surgery. Elective surgery is when the patient has a choice regarding the work being done and the timing of the surgery.   

Let us compare the two experiences: In elective surgery, there is a big emotional investment, prior to surgery, the outcome is uncertain, patients desperately hope that they pick the right surgeon. If a child or family member, expertise, not cost is what is most highly valued.

In custom remodeling: There is a big emotional investment (project imaging – wish list). Prior to remodeling, the outcome is uncertain as potential clients have all heard stories of projects that did not go well. Homeowners desperately hope that they pick the right contractor for their project. A contractor’s expertise and experience, over price are what homeowners are paying for to meet their remodeling dreams.

Let us review the physical as well as emotional homeowner experience. In this new COVID-19 working environment, what can we do to manage the homeowner experience to meet and exceed expectations:

Digital differentiation

Contractors today will set themselves apart by how they adopt and use technology: websites must be dynamic, engaging and interactive. Top contractors use cloud-based construction project management systems like Co-Constuct, BuilderTrend, and ProCore UDA Construction online. They also use video conferencing, messaging, screen share and chat—softwares like Zoom, GoToMeeting, Loom-Glide as well as video e-mail and text software have become essential today. Lastly, they use remote viewing and design tools like 3D-model virtual walk-throughs, 360 Cameras and Matterport.

Onsite worksite considerations, following CDC recommendations, are critical for remodelers who are trying to put clients at ease. These include high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters, dust walls to seal the work areas, hand wash stations, as well as hygienic wipes and face masks. These worksite recommendations protect both homeowners and employees. This is what good contractors do. Homeowners will also pay more for this kind of expertise. 

The emotional side of the homeowner remodeling experience

Homeowners, before any major remodeling project, are scared. They are filled with fears—usually unwarranted, frequently emotional, and sometimes irrational. There are many reasons that they feel the way they do, but here are five major reasons that I’ve seen.

1.   Crooks: Homeowners are afraid they will hire an unreputable company:

Almost every homeowner begins the remodeling process with some baggage.   If you watch television, read the newspaper, or listen to the radio, you will inevitably read or hear stories about unscrupulous building contractors.   In these stories, some unsuspecting homeowner was taken advantage of that cost them thousands of dollars.   Many homeowners do not trust building contractors.   They are afraid that they will hire someone that could “rip them off”.

2.   Money: Homeowners do not understand the real cost of remodeling.   They are afraid of the “hidden” costs:

Most homeowners do not understand how difficult it is, and how expensive it is to remodel an older home.   Most homeowners underestimate the true cost of remodeling. It is a difficult and expensive process to integrate the “new” with the old. This process is made even more difficult because of the uncertainties that arise during the remodeling process. Dry rot, termite damage, bad electrical wiring, and insufficient load bearing capacity are problems that are frequently exposed once a project has begun. Whether planned for or not, these problems must all be fixed.

3.   Disappointment: After extended design time, and a lot of money, homeowners can fear that “It’s not what I wanted!”:

In working with hundreds of homeowners over the years, I’ve made a very important discovery – homeowners can work with a set of plans for months, but with 90 percent of the homeowners I worked with, they did not fully understand what their project would look like until the walls started going up. The two-dimensional reality presented on building plans is not-enough for most homeowners to truly visualize what their project will look like when it is done. Most homeowners fear, that after spending all that time and money in the planning process that they may not get what they wanted.

4.   Disruption: Homeowners are afraid of the disruption that remodeling brings:

Remodeling is a tremendously disruptive process. A homeowner can be without a kitchen for weeks, or longer.   They can be without a bathroom for weeks, or longer.   A major remodeling project can disrupt just about every routine a family may follow.   It is also a very invasive process.   A psychiatrist I know, who himself went through a major renovation on his own home, said it was one of the most difficult times in his marriage.

5.   Control: Homeowners fear losing control of both their home and finances during the remodeling process.

Due to all the factors I have reviewed above, many homeowners express the fear that once their home remodeling project begins, that all of the unknowns involved leave them with a feeling of “being out of control.”  This is a very fearful time for many people. Their home is usually one of their biggest investments, and they are spending a lot of money. They want guarantees. Home remodeling involves unknowns. Remodeling contractors cannot always provide the kinds of guarantees that homeowners want.  They must trust their contractor.

Things a good remodeling contractor can do to help a homeowner through this process

1.   It is a process, not a product: A good remodeler understands they are not just selling a product-they are also selling an experience.   The best ones understand they must manage the process, as well as manage the project.   Homeowners need to be guided through their remodeling experience every step of the way.   They need to trust that their contractor will always be there for them, no matter what.

2.   The 4 elements of trust:  Homeowners desperately want to trust their remodeling contractor.   If a contractor understands the 4 elements of trust, and practices them honestly, most major problems will be avoided.   The 4 elements of trust are:

  • Consistency: Remodeling contractors need to set, and follow, consistent routines.
  • Honesty: Tell homeowners what is going to happen each week and acknowledge mistakes.
  • Promise Keeping: Contractors must keep their word.   They must fulfill on the promises they make.
  • Reassurance: Good remodeling contractors reassure homeowners on a regular basis.   Homeowners want to know their contractor will be there for them every step of the way. 

3.   Homeowners are emotional: Experienced contractors realize a major remodeling project is an emotional time for homeowners.   Good remodelers expect this.   They gear their efforts towards reducing homeowner fears and dealing with the inevitable upsets.   Emotional homeowners are not the exception-they are the rule.   It comes with the territory. QR

David Lupberger is the author of the book “Managing the Emotional Homeowner”.   For a free digital copy of his book, contact him at David@RemodelForce.com.   He will forward a copy of the book along with the Homeowner Emotional Roller Coaster.

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