Bell establishes a daily dialog that includes any questions a customer has about what the remodeler is doing on their project, or why. The NAHB Research Center considers his proactive approach to customer service a benchmark in quality practices and awarded the company a 2000 National Remodeling Quality Award honorable mention.
"The success or failure of a project is the communication with the customer," Bell says. "It can either smooth it or create rough spots. I stress communication with the customer as the most important part of the remodeling process." Bell makes sure communication happens daily, either personally or via telephone. Bell uses several tools to ensure ease of communication, and he’s training his employees how to manage it, too.
Bell’s Remodeling employs two people and works on one job at a time, a strategy Bell says works to maintain excellent communications. "I’ve kept it small because I want to emphasize to the customer that when I start, I’ll stay until it’s done"
Clients are told up front that asking questions is not only all right, but also expected. "Our goal is to have them satisfied when we’re done," Bell says. "Sometimes people are afraid to ask questions. If they see something they don’t understand, they won’t say anything. Then it builds, and you go in one day and all of a sudden they unload on you."
Daily contact is the goal, and Bell tries to stop by the project two or three times a week. Although the primary reason for the contact is to answer client questions, Bell also takes this opportunity to talk with the client about the progress of the job. "This time is also used to suggest changes that might be made to improve the project that will increase their satisfaction, "Bell says.
An on-site notepad enables clients who work or who aren’t home when Bell drops by to leave questions. He also encourages telephone calls to his house. "I don’t care what the question is, if you don’t see me during the day, you call me at night," he says. "I want to make sure they understand what’s going on. I have had customers call me two or three times a night. I want them to call, because I want to put their minds at ease.
"I follow up if they haven’t called me," he says. "I make sure they understand it’s OK." Bell likes to time his personal visits near the end of the day. He’ll stop by after 5 p.m. or call the client in the evening. "I don’t like [the project] to get too far without talking with them."
Employees have seen Bell in action, and he’s training them how to communicate on the job. "I’m trying to bring them into it more as far as dealing with customers and answering questions," Bell says. "They’re not too comfortable making changes, but they’ve seen me with customers enough to know how I want to deal with them.
"They’re shy and young," he says, "so it’s personality and lack of confidence. We can be a more efficient company [as they] learn and develop more communication skills and decision-making processes to plan and execute the projects in a timely manner to meet our quality standards and the customer’s satisfaction.
Most of Bell’s clients are mid- to upper-middle income, and they have a "better appreciation for professionalism."
"They’re not afraid to ask questions" Bell says. "The whole things is the communication"
For an application for the 2001 National Remodeling Quality Award competition, call (800) 638-8556, Ext. 714, or fax your request to (301) 249-0305. Deadline: June 1.