Lindsley Baker-Baum

You’re a contractor in the last few days of a project. The client comes home and says, “This isn’t what I wanted.” You’re a K&B dealer. The phone rings. You hear: “This is all wrong.”

You just went from being a superstar to having your competency and integrity questioned. Act fast to recover. Delay will cost you.

Focus First

Start at the beginning. Were you focused on the finished project — or just your part? Were you thinking about selling cabinets or doing an installation — when the clients thought they were buying a whole new kitchen? Did you see what they did in that magazine picture? Did you even see or, more to the point, discuss with the client the level of detail in that picture?

Your client isn’t nuts or wrong. You screwed up by not establishing proper expectations. Did you explain the process and controlling documentation that articulates and verifies that the homeowners are getting what they paid for? Did you hear what was said, or were you waiting for another opportunity to talk your way out of the sale? If you can’t repeat what was said, you probably have your answer.

Delay will make things worse. Buying your way out with a discount or pointing to fine print in the contract won’t help.

Stage a Comeback

Schedule a meeting, apologize for not managing communication better, and move forward. Take notes. Don’t patronize your clients, ridicule them, or cut them short. Review what was said, recommit to the project, then make it right.

Next, assemble your staff and develop procedures for better communication. There is value and profit in professionally managing expectations — yours and your clients’. Periodically reviewing project progress is what gets you paid and keeps you in business.

Or, consider the possibility of another line of work. 

—Jeff Kida owns DDS Kitchens in Villa Park, Ill.

Related articles:

Managing Expectations: When the the job’s budget rapidly escalates beyond the initial ballpark figure, what steps should you take?

ByLaw: Ways to build “reasonable expectations” into your sales and remodeling process

Setting Reasonable Expectations: Those of us in remodeling have experienced, at one time or another, clients’ anxiety attacks. Here’s how to reduce or prevent them