Things invariably go wrong during remodeling projects, and the more complicated the job, the more fragile the client's emotional state. Although you can't control the weather or the arrival of materials, you can win and maintain the client's trust by establishing a few basic expectations during the sales process — then remaining good to your word.
“Remodeling is like parenting,” says David Lupberger, a former remodeler and now president of The Remodeler's Turnkey Program (www.turnkeyprogram.com). “There's an emotional component to both.” And just as kids count on their parents to take care of them, “the homeowner is completely dependent on the contractor. You must show them you'll do your best and be there for them,” he says.
Commit to these four practices, and you will eliminate 90% of the issues that unravel clients' faith in their remodelers, Lupberger says.
Honesty. Never sugarcoat the truth. “Tell them how it's going to be,” Lupberger says. Ask them, “Wouldn't it be easier to move?” Getting clients to think through their decision lets you establish some realistic expectations that the process will be difficult (and dusty) at times, but that you and your systems will help them get through it.
Consistency. Explain the routine. For example: The workday begins at 8 a.m. Tell them who will be there, where they'll park, how they'll protect the home, what they'll clean, when they'll leave, etc.
Promise-keeping. Stick to your routine and your word. Update clients on the schedule and alert them to issues that might arise.
Reassurance. “Check in” with the client at weekly meetings. Lupberger advises pulling out a copy of the “homeowner's emotional roller coaster” (shown) and asking them to indicate where they are. Let them vent. Nod and say you understand, and ask how you can help.
Protect yourself as well, Lupberger says. “Some clients have selective memories.” He suggests taking notes at every client meeting and giving clients carbon copies to keep, along with the contract and other documentation. Will this eliminate problems? Probably not. But “you can't win an argument with a child, either,” Lupberger says. You can only prove that you've done what you said. They'll appreciate you later.