Qualified Remodeler Magazine

JUN 2018

Qualified Remodeler helps independent remodeling firms to survive, become more professional and more profitable by providing must-have business information, namely best business practices, new product information and timely design ideas.

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rian Peterson sat through another meeting when his phone rang. On the other end, a distraught homeowner told him between sobs that one of his workers struck a wa- ter line during her interior renovation. Peterson immediately excused himself from the meeting, listened to everything she had to say, explained what he would do, and jumped in his truck so he could be there momentarily. "No one likes getting these phone calls, but I do believe that if you have the correct process in place, handling them can be less stressful on both you and your customer," says Peterson, who was a general contractor at the time. "I've always stressed that it doesn't matter how many jobs we have going on, we have to treat every single [one] like it is the only job that's taking place." e catastrophic leak soaked all the drywall on the first level and caused the hardwood floors to bubble, he recalls. Workers had completed about 80 percent of the project before the mishap, so the company needed to salvage as much material as possible and perform the labor again. ey finished the job nonetheless, and the client even contracted them to remodel her upstairs as well. STOP TALKING AND START LISTENING Customers put their house, money and peace of mind on the line when they opt for a remodeling project, so contractors have an obligation to hear what has upset them. e homeowner might be angry and accuse the company of wrongdoing, but remodelers must keep an open mind and give clients the opportunity to explain the problem and voice their frustration, says Peterson, now the director of operations for East Coast Roofing, Siding & Windows in Mays Landing, New Jersey. "Let your customer vent and empathize with them. When you took the job, you didn't want any problems either—this affects both parties," he adds. "Understand that this may be one of many jobs you are handling at the moment, but to this person it is the most important—and only one. Treat it this way. Never argue your case or get defensive. Be humble and put their interest first." A conflict usually indicates a misunderstanding or a difference in opinion between the client and contrac- tor. Before reacting to a situation, remodelers should remain calm and try to comprehend the issue. Otherwise both sides can become self-righteous and just talk past each other, explains George Papaheraklis, the president of Finecraft Building Contractors in Gaithersburg, Maryland. "It's very tempting to sit there and tell the guy to take a hike," he adds. "But if you assert your viewpoint, then you're not listening to the other person's viewpoint. [And] they always have a viewpoint. Sometimes it may be a valid viewpoint, or it may be based on ignorance; it may be based on misunderstanding. You really have to take a look at any extenuating circumstances." Once remodelers understand the root of a problem, they can refer to the original contract and see if the language there covers the issue. "It's very simple: You show them," Papaheraklis says. "If it's a little bit grainier than that, I try to get them to communicate and help me understand better, and then I can offer to take a particular course of action that would be a fair way of handling it." PUT DOWN THE PHONE AND DRIVE Email and texting have become primary sources of com- munication because these methods allow people to in- teract at their own convenience. But they fail to capture emotions that can facilitate a productive discussion and, ultimately, a better understanding between two sides. Even telephone conversations cannot convey important visual cues; therefore, contractors should always offer to meet with customers personally and show they want to resolve the issue promptly, Peterson says. "It is very easy to end up in a battle over conjecture when facial expressions and body language are not part of the conversation," he adds. "Sometimes the home- owner might be talking about something completely different than what you're picturing. Getting on site, letting them point something out to you [and] letting them actually show you what they're talking about, you can get a completely different look on things once you're there." "If you've got a customer who has a concern, don't kick it down the road. Don't ignore it," says Joanne eunissen, the owner of Howling Hammer Builders in Mount Pleasant, Michigan, and the 2018 NAHB Remodelers Chair. "Address it immediately, which means setting up a time to go to their home to look at it and sit down and talk about it. Sometimes it's something small that can just be adjusted; sometimes it's an unreasonable request. But it should be addressed, and it should be addressed as quickly as possible." B If you've got a customer who has a concern, don't kick it down the road. Don't ignore it. Address it immediately, which means setting up a time to go to their home. Joanne Theunissen, Howling Hammer Builders QualifiedRemodeler.com QR June 2018 31

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