Peter Hoey

A bright spot in this tough market for Mitchell Construction has been the company’s long-term clients. “We recently finished a home for a client who we have built three homes for and remodeled them as well,” president Tom Mitchell says. “We watched their six children grow up during projects. I feel good about having a long-term relationship.”

This was the company’s fourth project in 12 years for that client. But those repeat clients are not alone: Many of the Medford, Mass., remodeler’s clients return for successive projects.

Mitchell Construction employees spend months working inside a client’s home, so they make it a priority to nurture the relationship throughout the process.

Right From the Start

At the company, the remodeler-client relationship starts with the first call, with the person who answers the phone, and it continues with being on time at the first meeting and following up on any promises about providing information or estimates. Once the job starts, project managers update clients daily if they see them on site, but they also conduct a formal weekly meeting. During each meeting, the manager is attentive and asks clients if there’s anything they’re not happy with. Is the jobsite clean enough? Have any safety issues been overlooked? Quality issues? Communication?

Back in the office, the team also meets weekly to review job progress, going over notes from the weekly client meeting. “If a client is not [rating us] 9 or 10 out of 10,” Mitchell says, “then some sort of action is needed.”

The production manager and Mitchell both try to regularly stop by jobsites and check in with clients. Though the staff encourage clients to let them know about any issues, many homeowners are reluctant to do so. “Sometimes we don’t find out [that there was an issue] until the end,” Mitchell says. He tries to stay outside the process so he can have a relationship with the clients, hoping they will be more likely to confide in him. He says the key to happy clients is having them feel they’re being listened to. “It doesn’t matter if it’s important to you, it’s important to the person who is telling you,” he says.

For Mitchell Construction, the staff are essential to nurturing long-term client relationships. Mitchell seeks honest, respectful people, but also “people passionate about what they do or who they do it for.” In the past, he says he wasn’t quick enough to remove staff who didn’t fit the company culture. But over time the company has developed detailed job descriptions for all positions and has systematized its hiring process.

That process starts with all the staff who would work with that person contributing their assessment of the need for a new hire. Potential employees go through a phone interview, an on-site interview, and, if needed, second or third interviews with several staff.

—Nina Patel, senior editor, REMODELING.