My dentist's office is closed Fridays. Many medical professionals take a day off in the middle of the week, usually Wednesday, as the joke goes, because golf courses are less crowded midweek. My dentist doesn't golf (he rides motorcycles and scuba dives), so Friday is as good as any other day.
Like most medical professionals on their day off, my dentist is impossible to reach on Friday. When you call his office, the voice message informs you that the office is closed, and explains the regular hours of operation, then closes by providing an on-call number for emergency use. This is good customer service, of course, as anyone who has ever had a dental emergency can tell you. The on-call number probably belongs to a dentist who takes Wednesdays off. I haven't researched this, but I'm fairly sure that it's a reciprocal deal: My dentist covers his colleague's Wednesday emergencies; his colleague covers my dentist's Friday emergencies.
You might think that my dentist takes Friday off to create a three-day weekend, but that's only half right. Two Saturdays each month his office is open all day. And even though he's closed on major holidays, such as July Fourth and New Year's Day, he's open on all minor holidays, such as Washington's Birthday and Columbus Day. And he works till 7 p.m. one night each week. When I asked him about this schedule, he told me that it makes it easier for patients who can't arrange to take time off during the work week.
I bring this up because for years I've listened to remodelers talk about how important it is to project a professional image, a point with which I heartily agree. More to the point, however, I've heard them insist that one essential element in this strategy is to meet with clients only during business hours. It sends a message that you are a legitimate business, they say. You wouldn't expect to make an appointment with a dentist on weekends, they say. Or after 4 o'clock in the afternoon.
BANKER'S HOURS I think true professionals do what they need to do to accommodate their clients. It comes with the territory.
Even banks have figured this out. In the good old days, when someone arrived late to work and left early, co-workers chided them for keeping “banker's hours.” Not any more. The 10-till-3, take-it-or-leave-it banking schedule has been replaced by a new, client-focused culture. I don't know about your bank, but mine is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, and a half-day on Saturday. I've never asked anyone why, but it's a good guess that the relaxed hours make it easier for their customers to do business with them.
The other reason, of course, is competition. There are a lot more banks these days, and they offer a lot more than checking and savings accounts. To retain existing customers and attract new ones, they've had to become more accommodating.
So, too, in the remodeling industry. It's much more competitive out there right now. Remodelers are no longer just taking orders, they're re-learning how to sell and are looking for ways to make their companies stand out from all the others. I think that requires making some accommodations for our prospects and clients.
Let's be clear, though. I am not advocating making sales calls five nights a week and pumping out estimates on the weekend. Those are the bad old days. But I am suggesting that you look at everything you do in your businesses to see if it makes it easy for clients to do business with you.
Is it less professional or more professional to set aside one night per week for sales calls? What if you took Wednesday afternoon off but opened your office for a half-day on Saturday? I'm betting your lumberyard is open Saturday morning, and hasn't it saved your bacon more than once?
Remodeling is not about the “stuff”; it's about the experience. What kind of experience are you providing for your clients?
Sal Alfano, Editorial Director