According to a multitude of surveys, there are few areas of a
remodeling project that have the impact on customer satisfaction
that an orderly, on-time conclusion has. For that reason, this
month’s column will take a look at the client’s perceptions and
preconceptions when it comes to kitchen and bath remodeling; how
you and your staff can influence the client’s experience; and what
steps you can take to make sure that the entire process goes as
efficiently as possible.
Your client will come to you with a history of experiences and
“war stories” about remodeling. These can, and usually do, come
from a variety of sources. They may have done prior remodeling
projects with other contractors, they may have friends who have
shared their remodeling experiences, or they may have watched
numerous television programs that show a project going from start
to finish in the one-hour time of the show.
All of these perceptions are the result of decades of
information and, often, misinformation, about the design and
remodeling process. For too long, designers and remodelers had a
reputation for being long on promises and short on performance,
often over charging and delivering shoddy work in return.
Over the last couple of decades, things have begun to change.
Trade organizations such as National Kitchen & Bath Association
and National Association of Home Builders have instituted
educational and credential processes that have encouraged their
members to advance their level of expertise. At the same time these
same organizations have mounted marketing campaigns to promote a
more professional image of our business to the public.
One reality that cannot be ignored is the ability of the modern
consumer to obtain information. The Internet has opened the doors
of knowledge to the products and services that our businesses deal
in. That means it’s no longer possible to “shoot from the hip” in
answering a client’s questions and assuming that any answer will
The first step along the road to creating a positive experience for
you and your client is to begin the process of education. Under the
best of circumstances, your client has done a project with you in
the past, the project went well and your client has the utmost
confidence in you and your company. If your client has not done a
remodel project with your firm, you have the opportunity to provide
a framework for evaluating the experience.
That educational effort begins with your marketing efforts. It’s
at this stage that the client gets his or her first impression of
your company and its capabilities.
One of the most effective tools for getting out your vision of
how the remodeling process should proceed is your Web site. A
well-constructed Web site allows you to communicate your company’s
process, define a realistic set of expectations and provide the
visitor to the site the opportunity to become familiar with as much
detail about your business as you are willing to share.
Another way to get your message out is through the showroom
experience. When a client first visits your showroom, he or she is
usually curious about how the design and remodeling process works
and what can be expected as the project moves forward. It’s
important that your sales staff be prepared to walk the potential
client through your company’s view of the kitchen or bath
remodeling. This is also an excellent opportunity to define the
criteria that should be used in choosing a remodeling firm.
The next step in the educational process is to completely define
your client’s project through clear and concise plans and
specifications. Your ability to finish any project expeditiously is
dependant on these; it’s important that you and your client are in
agreement on all aspects of the contract.
The Total Experience
Years ago, General Electric used the marketing phrase, “Progress is
our most important product.” This is a slogan that we should all
take to heart in our own kitchen and bath firms. If you look around
your local market area, you’ll probably have to acknowledge that
you have many competitors who are capable of producing project work
that is pretty comparable to the work done by your company.
Over the years we’ve found that our clients judge us more by the
remodeling “experience” than by the quality of our work. That is
not to say that quality isn’t important but, rather, excellent
quality has become a given in terms of what clients expect, so the
public now differentiates among design and remodeling firms using
more subjective criteria.
Among the things our clients find of greatest concern are: the
perception of how organized we seem, how well our staff relates to
them and how concerned we seem with their needs during the
remodeling process. Did we prepare them for the discomfort and
stress that would come with the project? Did we keep them informed
of changes in the schedule and warn them when we saw delays coming?
Did we respond appropriately when problems arose? Did we respect
their home during the process?
How does this relate to the timely conclusion to our client’s
project? The answer is that there is not a “cut and dried”
definition of finishing on time. If we have established the correct
relationship with our clients, properly described and defined what
can be expected from the project, included them as part of the
“team” that is established to accomplish the project and then given
our best effort to meet their needs, we will have happy
Did we finish the projects on time? Usually we are reasonably
close to the estimated completion date we give our clients at the
start of their projects. However, the more important point is that,
when we finish the project, this is no longer the most important
issue to our clients.
The lesson, once again, comes down to communication. You have to
do good work and run your business effectively, of course, but if
you establish a rapport with your client and create a relationship,
you will have a client and referral for years to come.