Even before the first client meeting, Ed Cholfin wants to provide homeowners with tools to help them participate in the design and planning of their project. “The more knowledge they have, the easier it is to work with them,” says the president of Atlanta’s AK Complete Home Renovations.

When Cholfin’s assistant sets up the initial consultation, she sends the client an e-mail with a link to the company’s website, which provides a page of resources and tools; a list of references; articles about the company; and the URL for Remodeling’s Cost vs. Value Report. The e-mail also asks that clients cut out and save any pictures of designs and projects they like. Clients who do this homework enable Cholfin to focus on specifics during the first meeting.

Cholfin says that most customers are reluctant to share their information and budget. “But the more information they give to us up front, the quicker we can get to the ‘pain.’ [We provide] tools [that] help draw them out.” These include: a list of appliance brands, to help clients make selections; bath and kitchen planning questionnaires; a step-by-step guide for how to measure a kitchen; and downloadable graph paper, all available on the company’s website.

—Nina Patel, senior editor, REMODELING.