For all the nails pounded, siding replaced, and kitchens renovated, remodeling is still a service-based industry. And yet the basics of customer service, like having a strategy and selling it, are lost on far too many in the business.

A dozen high-end remodelers in Charlotte, N.C., commissioned the Executive Leadership Institute (ELI) of the McColl Business School of Queens University of Charlotte to help them with this crucial aspect of running a remodeling company. The participants ponied up $1,000 each for the program, which ran over a three-month period earlier this year.

Professors from the business school taught classes on sales and marketing as it relates to high-end remodeling, as well as conflict resolution and related topics.

Two of the six daylong sessions were devoted to discussing the results of a survey ELI conducted specifically for the seminar. The institute identified more than 80 people in affluent ZIP codes who had permits pulled for remodeling projects and asked them open-ended questions designed to get their opinions on what constituted good service. ELI also asked respondents what aspects of a company were most important to them at different stages of the remodeling process.

The results of the survey are proprietary and must be kept under wraps, but according to participant David Tyson, of David A. Tyson Inc., a local design/build firm, "they threw some guys for a loop." Here's a hint: Price was not as high a priority for clients as many of the remodelers thought.

Karen Geiger, ELI's director, says a second seminar is already in the works. Though it's still in the planning stages, it will expand on the highlights of the first go-round, and the participating remodelers will probably again get their discounted price of an even grand apiece.

Tyson says he's already applied some of what he learned in the seminar to his business strategies and adds that the knowledge gained was "well worth" the cost.