If you’re not educating your clients during the process, you’re wasting time and leaving money on the table.
Client education is a necessary part of the remodel process. Clients don’t know what they don’t know. They don’t know trends, code requirements, NKBA standards, construction standards, etc. They also do not know what materials cost, what labor costs, or where their dollar would go further. It falls on us as Designers/Consultants/Remodelers to walk them through every step of the process. After all, we are the experts in our field and should know how to help them navigate through this process.
Doing so allows you to control the design process, keeps the clients on decision-making schedule and within project budget. There’s nothing worse than being hired to assist a client with their remodel and realizing you’ve lost control of the situation. Losing control could cost you, AND THE CLIENT, money when scope creep and job delays occur.
But when does the education begin? Almost immediately.
The Discovery Call
This is the call we all have with the client to determine if all parties will be a fit. This call should be considered a first step in education. It is during this call that the conversation of “ballpark estimates” will come in. In a July 2015 article of The Journal of Light Construction, the author describes his process to deliver, what he calls, a comprehensive project price. The client should know, up front, that you do not offer free estimates, but instead, have a process to obtain a project price.
You should also be discussing any fees associated with design or in-home consultations during this call. If the client does not agree to pay for your time to hold a consultation meeting or to design their project, they are not the client for you. How much is your time worth?
Finally, a conversation of next steps is vital. What comes next? A client questionnaire before you visit the home? An in-home consultation that will include a client interview to obtain goals, budget, share ideas, measurements, etc.? The more information you provide, the better prepared your client will be for your next step. Figure out what that process looks like but, make it client-friendly.
The In-Home Consultation
In my previous life as a kitchen and bath remodel consultant, I started the meeting by reminding them of the goals for the meeting. I would begin by conducting the interview to determine the client’s goals for the remodel (their wants, “must haves” and needs). This is a crucial step as you are determining if the remodel involves changing current footprints(i.e. taking out walls, adding islands, removing tubs to enlarge a shower, etc.). Many questions need to be answered here, not only for the scope of work, but for investment amounts.
After taking comprehensive measurements and confirming the scope of work, I’d bring the meeting back to how much the client is looking to invest in the project. Changing existing footprints affect budgets. Many times, architects and structural engineers have to be retained, not to mention, pulling permits. I will be unpacking this meeting in a future blog. There are a ton of details to get into here regarding investment amounts and scopes of work.
During the Design Process
Education during the design process is ongoing. You are educating your client to give them the best results but also to give them the best bang for their buck. Here are some areas in the design process where education happens:
- Material selection—Costs and lead times vary depending on whether materials are stock, semi-custom or fully custom. Full custom cabinets typically have a 10-12 week lead time, whereas a stock cabinet typically has a 10-15 day lead time. Lead times have to be taken into consideration and are a key piece in setting expectations. Also, how materials are arriving at the job site is important to consider. Where will they be stored during construction? Does the client’s garage need to be available to hold materials? These are important details.
- Decision-making timelines—What are the costs incurred if decisions are not made timely? How do these decisions(or delays in making them) affect construction? Clients need to know the importance of making decisions quickly…especially if THEY are on a self-imposed time crunch(but for the LOVE OF PETE, do not agree to take on any kitchen remodel project that starts in October and has to be completed by Christmas! Just don’t do it!).
- During the scope of work fine-tuning—Why do we need to know all the minute details up front? How does going from a mosaic on mesh backsplash to a herringbone pattern using porcelain subway affect the scope? Well, ultimately, the scope of work dictates the labor price. Herringbone pattern requires more material, more cuts and a specific way to install. All that changes the total project price.
- Material warranties and labor warranties—What do the different manufacturers cover in their warranties and for how long? What is covered under the labor warranty? How long is labor warrantied? This is an ongoing conversation and knowledge you need to have to advise the client properly.
The Construction Process
During this phase, you are setting expectations. According to this article from Houzz, heading off unrealistic remodeling expectations at the pass will make for a more seamless project. A client with zero remodeling experience will be anxious about timing and delays, inconvenience of dust and noise to them and the family(and the family pet), and many more concerns. It behooves us, as the professionals, to anticipate the questions and concerns and educate them before construction begins, and sometimes, during construction, to limit the amount of anxiety the client will endure during their remodel. I will be unpacking this area further in a future blog. Again, there are a ton of details such as communication, tradesmen schedules, possible delays, and so much more.
At the end of the day, we all want a successful project and a happy client. That happy client turns into referrals for more work and great reviews, which is the goal for all of us as designers and remodel professionals. Educating your client from the beginning may seem like a ton of work but when it’s all said and done, it will be well worth the effort and time you put into creating this education process. We love what we do and we love creating these spaces for our clients.
About the Author:
I have a passion for helping others reach their full business potential. When I’m not doing this, I can be found enjoying this life’s journey with my husband of 27 years, loving my two sons (ages 26 and 23) and their significant others and letting my doggo and three cats run me ragged! My hobbies include going camping(but especially drinking the coffee and cooking the food on camping trips), reading good books, listening to 80s and 90s music, cooking for family gatherings, and watching Downton Abbey re-runs (please don’t judge me too harshly).