“We’ve evolved over 16 years, particularly in how we work with our clientele. As we grew to be a larger company with several project managers and more processes and systems, I wasn’t always able to be the front man who—for lack of a better term—schmoozed with the clients and made sure everything was going well on each job.”
Contant relates he put a system in place to get a sense from clients after the job was completed about how it went, but he soon believed he wasn’t getting a good response and feared the results might be somewhat biased. His solution was to engage an outside firm to conduct third-party satisfaction surveys.
“We felt it is important to know how we’re doing within 30 days after a job is complete. What feelings did we leave behind? What good dollars did we place in their happy bank? It really helped us define and tweak some of the things that we’re doing today,” Contant says.
Making the Customer Happy
Contant says he understands craftsmen in the field are not always the best communicators, and they don’t want to do paperwork and keep track of communicating with homeowners. “They just want to demo and build back beautiful stuff that makes the customer happy,” he explains.
Accordingly, Contant shifted some of the responsibility for communication back to the office—letting homeowners know when the drywall crew was scheduled or when the tile contractor was coming, for example. “l don’t think you can ever overcommunicate,” he says.
Contant put together a jobsite notebook, which he says has been effective. “It’s a communication log between the homeowner and my lead carpenters and me or whoever the job supervisor may be. It helps communicate with people who might be at work all day and have forgotten to ask something. Or we might tell them we had to turn off the breakers, and they might have to reset their alarm clocks.
“Some folks don’t use the notebook at all; they prefer to communicate by email and text, and that’s OK,” Contant says. “We let them know we keep a mailbox at the office full of their emails if that’s their favorite way of communication.”
Contant says he has looked into electronic or virtual alternatives to the notebook system but isn’t going to rush into it. “Some clients are not [comfortable with electronic communications] yet,” he says.
Most remodelers think they’re great at customer service, but having a satisfaction survey, particularly a third-party survey, can help confirm their belief or show areas that need improvement. “It’s not sugar-coated data,” Contant says. “We can’t sway an answer and can’t ask a question in ways to get the answers we want; it’s just better data.”
One of the things that has made customer satisfaction more problematic is the amount of information available to customers online—and not necessarily accurate information, Contant adds.
He tells a story of a customer who found tile online at 15 cents less per square foot than he could provide but failed to take into consideration the cost of freight or whether it was all from the same dye lot.
Information overload, indeed, affects customer satisfaction. “I wish I could only have customers who were trusting, who really wanted to work with a professional and didn’t feel like they had to micromanage every penny,” Contant says. “I understand we’re all trying to save a buck now, but sometimes we’re looking for savings in the wrong places.
“Thank goodness for referrals and repeat customers. They already know and trust us; they really don’t question a lot of things. They just want to make sure they’re getting a great price, and we work hard at that,” he says.
He describes one client who wanted to revisit and rethink everything after the design and selection process had been completed and the job was about to begin.