Filed under: Homeowner Information, News and Notes, Remodeling Industry
National Association of the Remodeling Industry article:
Tuffinâ€™ It Out: Watching the time impresses clients
by Morgan Zenner, marketing and communications coordinator
To Neil Parsons, of Mark of Excellence Remodeling in West Long Branch, N.J., respecting your clientâ€™s time is important. After careful research from a select group of clients, friends and family, Parsons developed his top five complaint list.
â€œWe wanted to develop a complaint list to recognize certain things that were of biggest concern and figure out how to overcome them in order to set ourselves apart from our competitors,â€ Parsons says.
The list consisted of cleanliness of the job site, pricing, surprise extras or changes, payment scheduling and finally, the No. 1 client complaint of time. More specifically, the complaint included being on time for the work day and having the project finished on or before the estimated completion date.
Parsons understands why scheduling and timing is the main client concern. A remodel is typically considered a major inconvenience and requires a major change in oneâ€™s lifestyle.
â€œWhen you tell your client that the project will be completed by a certain date, they mentally prepare themselves for that time frame,â€ he says, â€œalmost to the point where people ask themselves, ‘Could I live without a kitchen for five weeks?’”
If the answer is yes, then the client prepares themselves for the struggle. When projects run late, it can be very hard to take.
â€œIf you get half-way through the project and it is not on schedule, clients get upset because they were not expecting it,â€ he says.
An offer they canâ€™t refuse
Parsons started to think about ways to address this issue that would make the most sense for the company and the client. He is a homeowner, just like his clients, and could understand this concern just as well as anyone else.
â€œI sat on the other side of the table and began to think about my wife, who happens to be a very tough client, and what she would want to hear from a contractor,â€ Parsons says.
The end result is the On-Time Completion Policy, where Mark of Excellence Remodeling promises to pay clients $500 per day for every day the project is not finished by the estimated date. In addition, the company pays $1 for every minute an employee is late to a meeting.
So far, the policy is working, and the client reaction has been great, in part because money talks.
â€œThis not only sets the tone in regards to the clientâ€™s time but to the entire process that we are going to take the project seriously until the end,â€ Parsons says.
Here is how it works: After clients and the sales department agree on the job and the design, Parsons asks everyone who is contributing to the project how long their portion of the project will take to complete. Once the estimations are confirmed, the project leader works out the scheduling.
â€œI do factor in a few typical bad weather and sick days, but for the most part, we know how long something is going to take,â€ Parsons says. â€œWhere it starts to get sticky is when clients start to change orders.â€™
To avoid the conflict, Parsons requires clients to make 90 percent of the project decisions before work starts. If some decisions canâ€™t be made at that time, there is an agreed upon deadline for when decisions are made. If a clientâ€™s decision changes during the project, Parsonâ€™s makes a note of it in the project records, and it is pushes back the completion date.
â€œWe donâ€™t pay clients $500 per day if the are responsible for the delay, but we do pay clients $500 a day for delays that are in our control,â€ Parsons says.
In the event that the project is delayed, the money is extracted from employee bonuses, which are based on a percentage of the projectâ€™s profits. These bonuses are only granted if the job is done on time and on budget. Otherwise, the bonus money goes to the client.
An argument against a system like this is that it could decrease the quality of work because employees are rushing to complete the project. Parsons has found ways to prevent this.
â€œWe have weekly progress updates with the clients where we discuss the work and the scheduling,â€ he says. He also established a 13-period payment plan to allow customers to give feedback throughout the project.
â€œEssentially, if our customers have an issue with the work quality, they will probably hold their payment. That forces us to address issues right away,â€ Parsons says.
Although most clients are mindful of the $500 bonus, they donâ€™t use it as a way to get a free remodel, they leverage it as a way to control the work that is being done because they know that the project manager will be held accountable for time, budget and quality.
Parsons notices that clients appreciate the ability to exercise their control during the process by holding back a payment. They also appreciate Parsonâ€™s concern for their home, families and their quality of life during the project and after.
You better pay up!
So, how much money has Mark of Excellence Remodeling had to pay? â€œThe most money weâ€™ve had to pay was $1,500 for a three-day extension, but it was a $120,000 job.â€
Of course, with a project that size, Parsons has a greater risk of running into problems so in retrospect, three days is not too bad. For employees, it is enough money to motivate them to get their work done on time.
The homeowners wanted to update and enlarge a 1970â€™s kitchen in their Cape Code home in Lincroft, New Jersey. Considering the size of the family, lifestyle, and their propensity to entertain,Â Mark of Excellence RemodelingÂ designed a 15â€™ by 15â€™ addition to open up the kitchen and create a sitting area, enlarged the existing cramped three fixture bathroom, and added a 600 SF paver patio. In addition, we replaced the roof and rebuilt the bulkhead access to the basement.
Our first goal was to develop a kitchen that the homeowners, who are avid cooks, could prepare gourmet meals for family and friends and be able to interact with them at the same time. Secondly, having two daughters and one bathroom on the first floor, the homeowners wanted to add a second sink and an air tub to the main bath. On the exterior, our goal was to use materials and craftsmanship that would blend the new space into the old and make the addition look as if it were originally built with the home.
The location of the basement access prevented us from adding new space to increase the size of the bathroom. In addition, the homeowners needed to live in the house during the renovation, did not have a secondary shower.
We utilized some of the existing kitchen space to increase the bathroom square footage without affecting the flow of the new kitchen. We located and installed a temporary shower in the basement that ran off the washing machine water supplies and drained into the basement utility sink.
We used Andersen 400 series windows, Pella sliding door featuring internal blinds, Kohler bath fixtures, Bain Ultra air tub, Cuisines Laurier custom cabinetry, Thermador Appliances, Glen Gary brick, Timber Tech decking, Fairway railing, Leaf Guard Gutter system, GAF Timberline Natural Shadow shingles.
The final result blends the new space with the old, inside and out, plus provides a kitchen that is designed and equipped to prepare for and host indoor/outdoor gatherings that the family enjoys hosting.