Art Stinson, president of Trace Ventures, in Nashville, Tenn., receives a 97% referral rating from the third-party surveys that his clients complete. This means that 97% of his clients would feel comfortable referring Stinson to others.

Rankings like this can mean the difference between winning a job or losing to a competitor, so achieving and maintaining this ranking is important. Trace Ventures’ high rankings didn’t come without effort, though. Art and his wife and business partner, Martha, have worked for years to put processes in place to ensure such high results.

The Process

Make the client survey an important element of the remodeling project every step of the way. “At the very first meetings, we’re already telling clients they will receive a survey from GuildQuality — our third-party survey firm — and why it’s important for them to complete it.”

Set client expectations early. Start with a thorough pre-construction conference. “Again, we stress the GuildQuality survey and that we really want the client’s input on what parts were wonderful and what parts need improvement,” Art says. “We’re getting them thinking about our desire to know, right from the beginning.”

Have the project manager hold a weekly client meeting with a defined agenda. At the meetings, Art’s PM reviews the schedule with clients so that they know what has been accomplished and what’s coming up; they discuss the selections that need to be completed, which helps make clients aware of their responsibilities and cuts delays; change orders are reviewed, and the PM makes sure that they are signed, approved, and paid; and the PM invites clients to share their concerns. “The atmosphere is very open,” Art says. “In this way we and the client stay current with the project, and this is done with a personal touch specifically for their project.”

Have the owner periodically contact clients throughout the project. Art can see if there are issues that the client may be reluctant to discuss with the project manager. At these meetings, Art says, “I also ask them where they are on the satisfaction scale. If it’s not a high ranking, I dig until I uncover the issue. Leaving an issue unaddressed can allow it to fester and turn into a bigger problem. We want to avoid that. A small bit of discomfort at the beginning is nothing if it means we’ve diffused a larger problem later on.”

By continually talking to the client, being totally up front about the progress of the job, addressing potentially touchy issues, such as change orders, systematically and often, and setting expectations with the clients from the beginning, Trace Ventures has built a client base that loves the company. And this client love will pay off for years to come.

—Victoria Downing is president of Remodelers Advantage, a national consulting firm specializing in the challenges of running a remodeling company, and home of Remodelers Advantage Roundtables. 301.490.5620;