Chris Gash

A few years ago during the height of remodeling fever, when a customer would report low satisfaction with his or her remodeler it was most likely due to communication, scheduling, and punchlist issues. “Since 2007, those same three areas correlate most strongly with an unhappy customer, though schedule has fallen to the third spot and problem resolution [which closely relates to communication] has risen to the first,” says Geoff Graham, CEO of GuildQuality, a customer survey organization whose clients include nearly 600 builders and remodelers.

Graham analyzed 10,000 customer satisfaction surveys from 2003 to 2006 and has reviewed about 6,000 surveys since 2007. Ten different reasons for customer dissatisfaction were ranked (see list below). While communication and scheduling, in particular, would seem to be obvious stress points, it’s surprising how many remodelers lack processes and procedures dedicated to those two areas.

Regular Check-In

Graham correlated that about one out of every five businesses that deliver a poor customer experience — those with a recommendation rate below 80% — fail, whereas just one out of 50 superior performers fail. “Said another way,” notes Graham in a recent blog, “superior service providers are [10 times] more likely to stay in business than poor performers.”

To remain on top, remodelers such as Peter Michelson, CEO of Renewal Design Build, in Decatur, Ga., and a GuildQuality client, says that consistency from the first sales call to the end of the punchlist is key. The company’s design team makes an appointment and follows up with a posted letter and an e-mail. During the design process, there are a lot of regular check-ins. “We don’t want people going a whole week without hearing from us,” Michelson says.

When remodeling clients are under contract but have not yet broken ground on their project, Renewal Design Build gives clients its “expectations book,” which describes the company’s communication process. Finally, during the project, the project manager sends weekly e-mails of what happened and what’s ahead. “You can never overcommunicate,” Michelson says.

—Stacey Freed, senior editor, REMODELING.