Home remodeling and improvement services have a bad reputation with consumers. According to a recent survey, home remodeling and improvement services ranked only slightly above government services for meeting customers’ expectations. That’s bad news for remodelers, but it could be good news for designers.
Among a list of 11 key industries providing consumer goods and services, home remodeling and improvement services received an average score for overall customer satisfaction (4.5 on a scale from 1 to 7, lowest to highest), along with car sales and health care providers. But on the question of whether service providers met expectations, only about 1 in 3 respondents said yes for remodelers.
The survey, conducted by Planese, Inc., which operates an app for managing home improvement projects, collected responses from 1,000 homeowners between the ages of 35 to 55, married, with a bachelor’s degree and household incomes of $75,000 to $100,000.
Release of the survey results does not state the reasons for consumers’ dissatisfaction. Given the high ratings received by retail and grocery stores, Planese founder Dan Fritschen observed: “Home improvement and home remodeling have fewer consumers reporting that the product and service met their expectations frequently because consumers are inexperienced with buying these goods and services [his emphasis]. Therefore, they haven’t calibrated their expectations with the realities of the remodeling process and typical results.”
But is that really the case? A quick scan of complaints registered with state consumer protection agencies suggests otherwise.
Setting aside the many reports of home improvement and remodeling scams, consumers complain with repeated regularity that remodelers do not deliver on what they promise, that they substitute higher quality products with inferior ones, that products do not perform as promised, that they do not pay attention to details (e.g., colors do not match) and that they are slow or nonresponsive in addressing consumer complaints.
Certainly it is true that poorly-informed consumers shopping home improvement stores and online retailers for deals frequently choose lower-quality goods and are disappointed with their purchase, as Fritschen points out. And I want to emphasize that many remodelers receive high marks from satisfied customers.
But clearly the home remodeling and improvement industry has some work to do to earn consumers’ respect and trust. That provides an opportunity for designers, who do have the knowledge, experience and project management skills to meet and exceed consumers’ expectations.
Of course, designers receive their share of complaints, too. Overall, however, consumers rate designers highly for their professionalism and expertise. According to a survey conducted by the American Society of Interior Designers, nearly 9 in 10 consumers who had hired an interior designer for a recent home improvement or remodeling project said they were “very satisfied,” and more than half (54 percent) said they were “extremely satisfied.” Most said they would work with a designer again.
The trick to getting these consumers to call, as every designer knows, is communication. In short, they don’t know what you do. Designers are great at promoting their taste, their sense of style, their award-winning projects, but not as diligent about marketing their practical knowledge and project skills. Consumers want great design, but they also want reliability, responsiveness, certainty and follow-through.
If you want to get their attention, gather testimonials from clients that attest to your great customer service and attention to detail and flaunt them on your website, blog, social networking posts and other marketing materials. They might just be the edge you need to turn a potential customer into a client.
About the Author
Michael J. Berens is a freelance researcher and writer with more than 30 years of experience in association communication and management. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.