New Year, new clients. Follow these eight guidelines to cultivate successful client relationships and increase homeowner satisfaction.
By Kacey Bradley
With the New Year comes new challenges in the industry, new projects, and new opportunities to keep clients happy. The ball drop heralds a new season, and your clients will have all kinds of ideas about home improvement and remodeling. Some of these ideas are closely tied to their personal dreams and resolutions, but the projects won’t always go as they desire and you plan. For 2017, make it your resolution to deepen your relationship with your clients and help them realize their goals by literally building the infrastructure and providing the tools to help them get there. What you’re doing on the job has major value to the homeowner on many levels, and now is the time to show that you get it.
- Find Out What They Really Want
It’s imperative that homeowners know what they want and what they expect when it comes to a remodeling project. Underneath those desires, including the gray area of expectations, is what’s most important to the client. Is it aesthetic? Is it function? Will they use this project to reach a goal? Asking the client about what the remodel means to them will connect you to the project and the client more deeply. It shows that you really care about what they want.
- Keep Important Details in View
Attention to detail in any craft is crucial to keeping clients happy. A client’s desires will include specific details, some of which may not be possible but that may be difficult to convince them to release. Don’t dismiss those important details outright. Take into consideration the overall design goals objectively at first. There may be challenges: There are likely ideas that the homeowner feels at a loss to express or explore. Even if the project is larger in scale, help the client focus on the overall design area by area, detail by detail. You’ll understand their way of thinking and navigate their needs better.
- Understand Their Needs
There is a difference between wants and needs, and finding the middle ground is important to meeting project goals. What a homeowner thinks they want may not best meet how they will operate in the space. It’s good to step back and observe the site of the project. Do you see how your client functions in the space? It’s vital to understand their needs through this type of observation. For example, if remodeling an artist’s studio, you’ll need to know about how their process, how they store tools, and what’s changed to warrant the remodel. An artist needs a good light source and may need new storage or a bigger space. Needs may change as new realizations about aesthetic and function arise. Be prepared to regularly check in.
- Don’t Underestimate the Power of Communication
Most issues that arise can be solved through communication. Check in at various stages of the project, because desires and needs do change. Practice active listening skills to understand what the client is saying without interruption, and repeat what you heard back to them the way you understand it. You need to make sure you’re on the same page to satisfy the customer and exceed expectations.
- Individualize Solutions for Each Customer
Do your best to provide solutions that are individualized to meet each client’s expectations. There will never be one size that fits all customer needs. If you use the same solution in every scenario, you may exceed some expectations but you sacrifice more. Providing a detailed and individualized approach to every project’s challenges will give your client a memorable experience. You’ll create a loyal customer who will return and provide recommendations.
- Realize there will be Dissatisfaction
Some clients are particular people, and even if you excel in your trade, personalities sometimes clash and factors outside of your control will interfere. It’s difficult to not take dissatisfaction personally, as a reflection of your work. But there are always areas of improvement, and mix-ups happen. Focus on solutions: needs change; supplies are delayed; homeowners’ emotions fluctuate. Accept that dissatisfaction will happen, and redefine complaints as an opportunity to build a good client relationship. The true test of how your company operates and deals with clients is in issues of resolution. Remind the homeowner of milestones achieved, focus on the positive, and take feedback to heart.
- Be Unobtrusive as Possible
In an ideal scenario, neighbors won’t be bothered while a client is undergoing a remodel. Be considerate of the homeowner and their daily routine. After hours is a good time for prep work to be done. Inconspicuously, tuck away what may be moved without affecting the job. Inform your client when their day will be affected by work more than usual; keeping the client’s daily routine in check keeps them happy. Needless to say, always label and make homeowners aware of tripping or safety hazards.
- Reward and Involve Loyal Clients
Communication and check-ins need to happen beyond the project’s completion. Follow-ups are standard business practice these days, but you should always reward and involve loyal clients. Of course, don’t bug them. Personally call to check in. Include updates about community fundraisers, projects, articles, and special promotions in your newsletter or mailings.
Taking time to personalize the project with the homeowner, while earnestly and deeply listening to their wants, needs and goals, will build happy and professional relationships in the upcoming year. When all is said and done, reach out on a periodic basis and involve the client in your professional life as well. Here’s to a great 2017 for your client relationship and development goals!