The Emotional Homeowner 2: Building Trust

Keep your clients' confidence through the stressful experience of kitchen and bath remodeling
By David Lupberger
August 27, 2010

Homeowners desperately want to trust you, and to be successful in this business, you must build trust with every customer. If you understand the basic elements of trust (consistency, honesty, promise keeping and reassurance) and practice them honestly, you will eliminate the most common problems that arise on projects.
You need to create a consistent routine with your customers and stick to it.  The homeowners you work with crave consistency.  Their worst nightmare is a pack of unorganized workers dragging in at all hours on Monday morning, spilling coffee, wondering where to start.  You've got to let everyone know that consistency is the cornerstone of how you handle your customers.  

For example, if you tell a homeowner there will be no workers in his home until after 8 am, stick to that.  If you tell him work will end at 4:30 that afternoon, make sure that takes place.  If you agree that the work area will be cleaned up every day, see that it's done, or do it yourself to make sure it happens.  Let your customers know there is a consistency to how you handle every project.  Let everyone know the rules on your worksite.  You are the expert.  Every customer will appreciate this kind of consistency.


Here are two simple rules:

1.  When problems arise, face them quickly and squarely.  Most of your clients will always respect an honest admission of guilt.  For example, if you have a custom kitchen order and you discover a cabinet was left out, say, "I made a mistake." The sooner you let the homeowner know the better, because that missing cabinet could affect the time of completion.  Some service professionals don't want to look bad.  Forget about looking bad.  Let’s look honest.  Your integrity is worth more than trying to appear you are always right, and it's this kind of integrity that your customers are looking for.

2.  Let homeowners know what is happening on a regular basis.  For example, if dust is going to be a problem during demolition or during drywall sanding, give them the bad news up front.  If anything is happening on the project that could have a negative impact on their quality of life, you want them to know.  You are managing their expectations.  


Keeping promises is so easy to accomplish when you start out in little ways.  Be on time for the first appointment, no matter what.  Call to let the homeowners know you'll be on time.  This timeliness represents promise number one.  Make little promises that you know you can keep from there on.  “The installer will be here at 8 am on Monday”.  “Yes, I think I can have that estimate back to you in 10 days.” Keep these initial promises, and you will build trust that will help every project run more smoothly.


In my experience you can't tell a homeowner often enough the job is going to come out all right.  Every homeowner desperately wants to believe all through her project that you are not going to quit on them, you're going to work with her and help her and you're going to manage her job from the beginning all the way through to the end.  She wants to know that you're going to be there for her.  

Follow these simple steps, and the payoff will be apparent.  Satisfied homeowners have neighbors and friends who need your products and services.  Done correctly, you will create a steady stream of referrals and satisfied customers who will keep you busy, even during the slow times.

—David Lupberger is ServiceMagic.com’s Home Improvement Expert. With more than 20 years of experience as a contractor, Lupberger reaches out to consumers and trade contractors, providing them with insight on a wide variety of home improvement-related issues. He educates consumers on how to avoid home improvement fraud and how to hire the right contractor for the projects that are too big to handle by themselves. And when a homeowner decides they can do it themselves, Lupberger’s articles and "Ask The Expert" column on ServiceMagic.com are a tremendous resource for "how-to" information.


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