Remodeling professionals who’ve weathered many storms — both internal and external — have learned not to be braggarts.
Level-headed, down-to-earth, remodelers look askance at boasters. Braggarts are either too young or inexperienced to know better (or they’re not of sound mind). Instead, remodelers tend to understate successes and not get too wound up about tough times, either. But there is one exception to the no-bragging guideline: repeat business and referrals.
We hear it a lot at the magazine and our editors have been trained to follow up with questions when they hear: “We don’t market ourselves. We rely solely on word-of-mouth for our business.”
This is a remodeler’s way of bragging. The subtext is: “My work is of such a high quality that we leave every customer a raving, have-to-tell-all-my-neighbors-about-you fan.” Another possible subtext: “My business relies on such a small handful of customers each year that I get enough calls to fill out my schedule.” Make no mistake, among the thousands of remodeling firms in the U.S., many hundreds of them take a very laid-back approach to making their phone ring. But I would argue that most remodelers are neither entirely satisfied with the volume of their calls nor are they 100 percent satisfied with the quality of their calls (i.e. the number of real prospects with real money to spend).
Years of hardened business research shows that satisfied customers typically tell five other people about their positive experience. But the negative effect of a dissatisfied customer is documented to have twice the impact. The dissatisfied tell nine people about their bad experience.
Now, in the busy, production-filled summer months, is a very good time to try — client by client — to improve each interaction and each overall customer experience. Is each jobsite clean at the end of every day? Is each communication with clients upbeat, constructive, free-of-attitude? Are you communicating all of the bad news about slippage in your schedules, if there is any? Are you touching-base with those from whom you may have been absent without leave? There really is no time like the present to get up to speed on the ins and outs of customer satisfaction. This issue has three stories on the subject — our fourth remodeling satisfaction survey; an overview of customer relationship management, or CRM; and a take on satisfaction that specifically addresses the concerns of exterior contractors. There are also plenty of good books on the topic.
A new one Loyalty is Love by Beverly Koehn, CGR, CAPS, is a great place to start (www.bkoehn.com).
As you look to round out 2008, remember that the seeds of a good ’09 can be sewn now with a little extra effort to satisfy and manage the expectations of your customers. Ultimately, it will make your phone ring. And that is something you can feel justified in bragging about.