After nearly 25 years in the business, I thought it might be safe to say we’ve seen and experienced almost everything. However, the events of a couple of weeks ago left me with mixed feelings, prompting me to share this story and discuss its implications.
The story begins with a referral from one of our trusted partners, an organization with whom we’ve cultivated a strong working relationship. This partner knows that our commitment to our clients goes above and beyond. They also know that anyone they recommend to us will be treated with the utmost care and professionalism. We will do some silly things from a business perspective to be good partners and to solidify trust within our relationship.
The Initial Contact
Our normal process upon receiving a referral is to reach out to the potential client. It’s a brief, friendly, and informative call, aimed at gathering some essential information, such as contact details and the nature of their project. However, in this instance, things took an unexpected turn right away. The potential client’s response to our initial contact was far from pleasant. It wasn’t in a “I’m having a bad day” kind of unpleasant, but more in an “I’m just commonly mean to people” type of tone. They expressed their unwillingness to engage with our standard process and insisted that they simply wanted someone to visit their house without further discussion. This abrupt and somewhat harsh attitude left our employee taken aback.
A Challenging Conversation
Given the unpleasant interaction, our employee indicated to the potential client that she would discuss the situation with me, the owner of the company, before proceeding. I decided to take the initiative and make the return call to the client myself, aware that this could be a challenging conversation, but also at the same time knowing I can get along with just about anyone. Approaching the call with politeness and patience, I introduced myself as the owner of The Lifestyle Group and acknowledged my employee’s prior conversation with the potential client. After a brief exchange, it became clear that this individual was going to interact with me exactly as they had with my employee. They were curt and demanding in their tone. (That’s the professional way to describe it.)
The Unpleasant Truth
I attempted to explain the reason for our initial conversation, which was to ensure that we respected their time and understood the nature of their project better. I pointed out that they had already shared valuable project information by providing effective project details, as well as pictures of the space, and that, based on their description, I could provide a rough estimate, ensuring we were respectful of their budget. However, the potential client responded with skepticism and challenged my assertion that we could gauge their project’s scope without visiting their home. I countered with specific project details that they had provided, showing that I was well-informed about their needs. I then shared the projected project price range based on our experience. While our budgets aligned, this only seemed to escalate the tension.
The Three Criteria
At this point, I felt compelled to clarify our criteria for taking on projects. I emphasized that we prioritize three key factors in our decision to take on a project: Is the client nice? Does the client seem reasonable? Do our budgets align relatively based on what we know at a very early stage? The potential client’s project seemingly fit within our budget range, and reasonableness was a possibility relative to actual project details, but there seemed to be an ongoing issue that lay with the first criterion: niceness. I openly addressed my concern, informing the client that they had not been nice. You can imagine the response I received. I cited their rudeness toward my employee and their edgy behavior during our conversation. The reaction was incredulity, but I stood by my assessment, stressing that we valued positive client relationships… and life is simply too short to engage in any lengthy project where I had this depth of concern in the first interaction.
The End of the Conversation
The client’s response was abrupt and dismissive, leading to a quick hang-up. In all my years in this industry, I had never told someone outright that they weren’t nice. While I wasn’t angry or confrontational during our “matter of fact” conversation, the situation left me with a sense of doubt and introspection. Had I just thrown away a good business opportunity or stood on some moral high ground where I had no business passing judgment?
The Importance of Niceness in Home Remodeling
A fundamental principle in our business is the importance of simply being nice! We understand that as contractors, we enter our clients’ homes, becoming a part of their lives and their families for the duration of the project. Our goal is not only to deliver exceptional craftsmanship, but also to maintain and strengthen great relationships throughout. Some people think our product is the kitchen or bathroom we renovate. We believe our product is our process and our people that deliver the kitchen or bathroom. I want homeowners to recognize that not every project is worth pursuing. Over the years, I have seen the toll that people who are “less than nice” take on my employees who are trying to work in their homes for weeks and months. These experiences have made me more aware of the importance of our relationships, but I would always take my queue from my employees who engage in these conversations firsthand.
While we strive to bend over backwards to serve our clients, we hope you also choose your next remodeling partner based on the very same criteria we utilize to evaluate you. Niceness, reasonableness, and budget alignment should be at the top of everyone’s list. Be nice to others and have a great day everyone!