Every business owner will tell you that it’s important to meet, and do your best to exceed, client expectations. Yet, what does that really mean or entail?

There is a major difference between good and great when it comes to meeting those expectations, and it often comes with a hard case of expectations meeting reality. “Good” isn’t good enough. Great is when you offer up results that show the homeowner you got their project on a level they didn’t think you’d comprehend.

Whether you’re new to the remodeling business or you’ve got decades of experience under your belt, everyone gets a hard or seemingly unreasonable customer at times. Client expectations are a tough nut to crack, but the right tools and determination will set you on the right path.

1. Navigate Client Expectations and Deadlines with Transparency
Keep showing the client you are on their side by being transparent with your communication. Clients seem to come in two broad categories: hands on and hands off. It’s important to get to know their communication style early, and try to see the project and its nuances from the client’s perspective. How much information is too much?

This is why you go over a general timeline with the homeowner in advance. Be transparent, and let them ask any questions and feel comfortable to ask questions during the process of remodeling. Transparency will keep your business and team accountable and on task within the frame of the project, without missed deadlines or overwork. Explain every step so there are no unwelcome surprises, and be straightforward:

  • Set realistic deadlines: Don’t rush, and if the client needs you to, be honest about what that will take in terms of finances and materials.
  • Provide regularly updates: Regardless of how well you’re sticking to the original timeline, you still need to check in with the client. Celebrate milestones with the homeowner, and communicate areas of concern upfront. Be honest about factors you can’t control.
  • Encourage questions: Remind the client that it’s okay to ask questions. Keep the lines of communication open.

2. Get it Right with the First Impression
First impressions matter, and your job depends on them. You must ask open-ended and detailed questions to get at what the homeowner needs and why. Look to their present needs and assess what’s being done now to help them prepare for the future. When it comes to winning the client over, be practical and to the point, and focus on problem solving.

No matter if the job is considered small, the scope of most projects will scare some clients due to budgetary concerns. Offer suggestions to save them money without cutting major corners. For example, getting window treatments done now can save homeowners money, preventing up to 25% of heat loss in the winter and up to 45% of heat gained in the summer, according to the Department of Energy. By offering a remodeling tip that saves the client money in the long run, you show them you’re working in their favor on many levels.

3. Be an Active Listener
It’s amazing how much listening goes into doing this job. It goes beyond words, and this can’t be stressed enough: Be an active listener.

Active listening means understanding the client and their needs on multiple levels, and those needs will shift. Listen to what the client is saying, and repeat back what you’ve understood in your own words to confirm project goals and needs. This will also make you a better leader.

Beyond words, you must anticipate but never assume what those shifting needs are—so don’t be afraid to offer up suggestions. An active listener is a responsive remodeler. Put those words into action.

Show up for the homeowner on more than one level. Be transparent and listen for the needs the customer isn’t articulating. Offer up suggestions that save the client money and solve multiple problems with one great idea, where possible.

Remember: Good isn’t good enough. Whether your client is the hands-on or hands-off type, the reality is that shifting expectations come with the territory of this business, and great service happens when you offer expertise that speaks to the client and their needs on a deeper level.