Those of us in remodeling have experienced, at one time or another, clients' anxiety attacks. Our company likes to refer to them as “remodeling fever” — panicattacus. You know, when the client says “All is fine. No, really, it's just great,” then the eyes roll back in the head, which spins around spewing pea soup; from the mouth comes vile language.
Treat the Symptoms I am joking, of course, but remodeling fever is a condition that many remodelers may fail to recognize the symptoms of until too late.
The best medicine is to be proactive and consistently follow standards that will meet or exceed a client's expectations. Sound easy? Not always, and every now and then the bug will come in under the radar, and we are ready to combat it.
From introducing the company, qualifying the client, making the sale, and finishing production, to turnover and closeout, best practices must be followed to inoculate the fever.
- Be clear and set reasonable goals and expectations. Our salesperson explains the project's phases in detail. During the briefing, a clear explanation of the time needed, what delays from subs or something else would mean, and dirt and noise issues are put on the table, so that the clients may respond at that time to any concern they may have.
- Keep the line of communication between clients and the lead wide open. In this age it is unlikely that a client cannot communicate with the lead or the office in a timely manner. I use a cell phone, e-mail, voice mail, office voice mail, fax, snail-mail, landline phone, and a wireless PDA.
- Have a step-by-step turnover procedure that includes the client, lead, sales, and production. When the job folder comes to production, I insert the job start-up checklist, which includes information on meetings and contracts, new construction and remodeling problems, lines of communication, change order policy, trash removal, an accuracy check for prints, client selections, and “before” photos.
- Have courtesy and respect for the clients' home and lifestyle. We use carpet protection and “zip” walls to keep down dirt and dust migration. We alter our start and stop times in order to “flex” around the client's schedule.
- Institute regular checkups with the client and the lead. Once a week I visit each lead to collect a job update sheet. This update allows me to correct scheduling problems and update job notes. The lead also can project any subcontractor and manpower needs for the following week.
- Make sure to have great documentation and timely change orders. It is likely that in a conversation the client may change the job scope and in a day or two forget the details of the conversation. The lead, sales, and I back up the details with job notes.
- Make sure that everyone in the company is aware that although they go home each night to regular routines, the client must live with the disruption of the small or large project. This will undoubtedly cause stress or anxiety.
Remodeling fever is not a plague on our industry, but it is a real, treatable, and curable condition that will test the best minds. Our treatment follows no particular written standard, but these policies allow us to sleep comfortably. This is how we strive to have our clients sleep. If we have sold the job, accounted for unforeseens, and gained the client's confidence in our integrity, then we can treat the bug as symptoms arise. Your countermeasures may vary but they all have the same one goal in mind —the client comes first! They are our Gold List, our lifeblood, now and for our future. —Bryan Scott Absher is production manager at Pritchett Brothers Construction in Bedford, Ind.