Take product selection. Contractors are familiar with the products that go into remodeling projects. Homeowners, on the other hand, have little reason to know the difference between one faucet and the next. But they're disappointed if the final product doesn't meet all their expectations.

Open lines

Making clients feel good about what they're getting is not just a matter of doing superb work but of communicating the hows, whys, and whats of remodeling as they occur. For example, when it comes to product selection, you can take quite a bit of the pain out of the process. Studies show that the remodeling contractor ends up controlling the products selected for the job more than 85% of the time. To keep it that way, it's critical that construction companies research the types of products they sell most often. Select good, better, and best options in as many products or materials as possible to offer clients the widest choices.

The ability to show the client what the actual product looks and feels like also helps. Having your own showroom is an excellent way to do that, but a supplier showroom, vendor-produced demonstration materials, and the Internet all do just fine in its absence.

Lead carpenter advantage

Setting up a regular system of customer communication ensures that differences that might develop in the course of production are swiftly resolved. The lead carpenter production system goes a long way toward accomplishing this.

One of its advantages is the ability to communicate with customers on a day-to-day schedule. If changes or problems arise, the lead carpenter is responsible for making sure customers understand the consequences and are satisfied with the outcome. Without this level of client communication, the possibility of problems developing is high.

This also applies to the work of subcontractors. Because almost all of the specialty items are provided and installed by the specific trade, the lead carpenter needs to be involved enough to ensure that the product and installation is consistent with what was designed and sold.

Ensure customer satisfaction

Want to make your customers happy? Here's a checklist of steps you should take:

  • Make sure your contract is precise as to what's being done, down to the smallest detail.
  • Make all decisions on materials, including paint color, prior to the preconstruction conference.
  • Make sure all materials are in local stock.
  • Don't substitute materials without the customer's approval and consent.
  • Select all your subcontractors before the job starts and check to make sure their materials are in local stock as well.
  • Create an installation schedule for the entire job. Include your customers in the process so that they understand the timetable.
  • Explain the change order process so that clients fully understand it. Customers should know that after the preconstruction conference, there is a charge for processing change orders, that payment for change order work is due prior to installation (or just after), and that it's collected by the lead carpenter.
  • Demonstrate all products such as appliances, locks, thermostats, and more, that require customer use. One of the best guarantees of a smooth-running project is an on-site communication center, a place where customers and lead carpenters can leave or exchange messages. --Walt Stoeppelwerth is a publisher of management and estimating information for professional remodelers. (800) 638-8292; htbill@worldnet.att.net; www.hometechonline.com.