McCadden: Details Make a Difference to the Right Customer

by Emily Blackburn

Have you noticed customer service has been tanking to new lows these days? Things have gotten so bad most of us just come to expect poor service from many of our vendors and service providers. Often we have no other better choices in the marketplace. The good news? Many consumers are fed up and are willing to pay more to get what they want and expect.

This holds true in the marketplace for remodelers. There are many remodelers who are able to do the work, but their poor service and support frustrates those who sign contracts with them. This is a huge opportunity to stand out from the crowd.

Showing Versus Telling

Back when I was working on advancing my business and career as a remodeling business owner, someone shared with me a quote that dramatically changed my perspective regarding how best to stand apart from the crowd. The quote was from Maya Angelou.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”

From that kernel of wisdom, I established my goal of building a sustainable business and brand that would attract my target clients. I took the wisdom in that quote to heart. I decided my remodeling business would provide a positive and memorable experience for those with whom we worked. It would be so positive and memorable that they would tell others.

In order to accomplish this goal, I knew I could not just tell others that we were different. I knew my business needed to live out our key differentiator—a heightened customer experience in all our actions, everyday. Our customers needed to feel the difference in the way my company operated and served them compared to their previous experiences working with other remodelers.

Once we identified all the elements of our customer experience, and once I felt that we were truly living it, I made sure this difference was a centerpiece of our marketing strategy. We nurtured our past customers to tell their story of how we were different and why that mattered to them.

Targeting the Right Customers

To take advantage of this strategy, you must recognize that your business cannot serve everyone. For example, those who are first-time homebuyers probably have no experience yet working with the wrong remodeler. It’s easier to recognize, appreciate and pay for a different experience after you know what you’re missing. A first-time homebuyer may just see the work they want done as that—just work. With that mindset, they may simply choose the cheapest option.

The sales process you use can help you target the right customers. To simplify the difference I’m trying convey, consider the two main types of sales methods. The first is to convince someone why they should do something. In this example, it’s to buy from you. With this method, you could end up making a lot of assumptions about what your customer wants. So, you offer a lot of reasons to say yes. The risk here is that just as there may be one reason to say yes, you may give them a reason to say no.

Another sales method is more consultative. With this approach, you use questions to find out what a potential customer is seeking. At the same time, you are listening to see if there’s a match with what your business can offer. For a prospect who has worked with the wrong remodeler, you can help them realize what should be different about the next company they work with. Then you can decide if you can help them or not. If there’s a match, then it makes sense to explain how the way you do business will meet their expectations.

Manage Expectations

Earlier, I pointed out that your business can’t and shouldn’t serve everyone. Before you take on a client, you need to manage expectations—both theirs and yours. They need to be clear about what you are selling them, and how you do business. It’s important to write a very detailed proposal in layman’s terms, not contractor speak. Use their own words to describe the project and their reasons for pursuing it. This can help confirm you are on the same page before you let them sign the contract. If they want all this, they must also agree to your payment terms. My business expected payment for each phase of work before it started, not after it was completed. If they can’t agree to those terms, it’s just not going to work out. They shouldn’t be allowed to sign the contract.

High Expectations

If your remodeling experience is truly different, and if you charge more than other remodelers, those who buy from you will be expecting good results. Again, before you let them buy, be sure to manage expectations and to put those agreements in writing.

To protect yourself, it is wise to be very specific about what it is you will be delivering. For example, if replacing a roof, be clear about whether you will strip off the existing roofing or will be covering over it. If you will be stripping it, how many layers are you assuming to strip off, and what will the charge be if you discover two layers when you assumed only one? If you are committing to completion by a certain date, include what responsibility your customer will have to support that promise and the consequences should they not deliver.

Being different can give your business a huge advantage. Being different is also about the details that matter to your chosen target customer. Make sure your customers feel the difference.

Shawn McCadden is a speaker, business trainer, columnist and award-winning remodeler with more than 35 years of experience. He can be reached at

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