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Last Post 04/09/2008 8:58 PM by  butch sanders
Most common problems between homeowner and contractor?
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Byrd Dog
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03/26/2008 7:34 PM

    Howdy all.

    I have been googling for hours and I found this forum.

    I am a skilled carpenter and I love my line of work.  I have years of experience and some management/foreman experience on both the residential and commercial side. I have had my own remodeling/handyman service for a while and  I am trying to break into the restoration industry. I blew an interview as a project manager with one of the leading restoration contractors here in east tennesse because of 1 question:

    What would you do when faced with the "homeowner from hell" scenario? If they are complaining about the pace of the work not being quick enough, workers not there everyday, flooring couldnt be matched perfectly etc?

    I realize that the scenario as a tradesman/contractor is a bit different than normal i.e. you are not necessarily "invited" into their home as if they actively sought someone to do an addition or a remodel.   This fire/storm/act of god and the resulting repair and restoration is a major inconvenience to their life.

    So the question is what are the most common scenarios/complaints that may arise when a homeowner becomes aggrivated by the slow progress of work or WORST OF ALL aggrivated for no real reason at all and just wants to be a problem?

    This is not a question of CRAFTSMANSHIP mind you just purely a what do you do with someone that just wants to bitch and complain for basically no reason in hopes of setting up a lawsuit or getting more money out of the claim?

    What are some of the best remedies to deter and curtail this type of behavior from a homeowner when they display this type of behavior?

    What would you do and say  if you were in the "homeowner from hell" situation?

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    Doug
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    03/26/2008 11:40 PM
    Calmly letting them know that you are doing the best you can do with the supplies and resources at hand. Possibly sitting them down and reminding them of the positive sides of their situation, and a reminder that their kitchen/living room/ whatever else wasn't installed in 2 days initially, and it cannot be repaired that quick either.

    If they are still able to utilize the home and not live in a motel, you might reassure them that they are in the best possible situation for the conditions

    As well, i would attempt to provide a timeline for completion and let them know each step of the way what to expect (with the understanding that there may be material shortages, etc. as well in the tie of a major crisis)

    Alas -- none of this will work if its 6 months into a project that should take 2 months, or if it takes 5 days to replace a 35 sq roof, etc. etc.
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    Ray Hall
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    03/27/2008 1:31 AM

    Adjusters feel this is why you make the big bucks and the contractors who can do "insurance reconstruction". You must be an advocate for the insured on the scope as you must "punch out the job" and get all your money on the end of the job. You must smooze the mortgagee to give you some draws along the way on a very large job.

    No 1 is not to have any workers in the house for several days in a row. You are your foreman should visit the house several times a week and you will smell the " job from hell" before it get to this point. Never tell a  fib to ANYONE involved. Never walk off a job, if you go into the hole, finish the job.(If you are not to blame many adjusters will help you recoup, as they are catching hell also.)

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    Byrd Dog
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    03/27/2008 2:52 AM

    well played guys thanks.

    I am just trying to get a view from "over there" as it were. I have done a little bit of restoration for a guy for acouple of months but ironically, every single job we did went great and the homeowners talked our heads off and made us tea, the whole nine.

    Nonetheless I see the whole scenario being very unsettling to certain homeowners who did not invite this castrophe into their life and want someone to take all the upheaval out on, for no good reason.

    I heard a story of a guy who was such an unbelievable jerk to his wife and so mean to her that she set herself on fire as suicide and died in the garage and that was the source of the fire damage.

    Then the husband, a doctor, stayed home from his practice the whole time of the restoration  filming the work being done at close uncomfortable range and every 15 minutes or so would say, "I am going to sue your company and win" and he did and he did.


    What if work is going fine and the craftsmanship is great, but the homeowner just wants to bitch and cause problems for no reason about everything?  They just want to pass on the pain in the ass so to speak?

    this was an interview question for a foreman position with a really good restoration company. I am trying to break into the restoration business and I figure as a lead carpenter/foreman I have the skills and remodeling knowledge to get my foot in the door. I have a feeling I will hear this question again so I just want to be more prepared next time.

    great advice guys, well played  thanks so much.

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    StormSupport
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    03/27/2008 9:28 AM

    One of the most invaluable tools I've learned regarding customer service is to utilize your ears.  I was listening to a series of tapes about customer service and in one scenario a woman had contracted for a party at a hotel.  It was disastrous and she was justifiably angry.  The hotel manager took her aside and let her tell him everything she was angry about, quietly listening and taking some notes.  Her tirade went on for about 15 minutes and he patiently and quietly nodded and listened.  When it seemed she was just about finished, he calmly asked her "And what else?"  She looked at him, thought for a minute, and took a deep breath and said "Nothing".  It completely diffused her anger and once she was no longer angry they could begin open dialogue about the real issues. 

    It was very effective on many levels, The manager allowed the customer to completely vent, say everything that was bothering her and gave her his complete attention, making eye contact with her (which is very important when face to face with someone!).  He didn't try to correct her, didn't try to address any of her concerns, just allowed her to complain as much as she wanted, nodding and listening.  Even asked her for more, which gave her the opportunity to think about it, and make the statement that that was all, which is huge. 

    I've found that although no one likes to be yelled at, complained to or bitched at, we're in customer service situations all the time and we are going to get the angry end of the stick in many cases.  Its better to address things up front and get them out in the open, allowing them to vent their frustrations and assuring them that you care and are there to help.  A few minutes at the beginning spent listening to them is well worth it in the long run, as it sets up the whole tone of your time with them.  They will know you care about their issues, will take the time to listen and allows them to completely dump out their frustrations at the start, (none of which are personal toward you, by the way!) opening up a fresh attitude toward you and the job you're doing.  At the start of the job tell them that you want to take a few minutes to go over their concerns.  Sit down with them let them know that after you start you're going to be busy and might not have time later to go over things when you're busy working, and that you want to take a few minutes in the beginning to get on the same page. 

    Think about how you'd want things to be if you were in their position and how important it is to you when someone takes the time to let you know they're on your side!

    Good luck to you!

    ~M~

    Do the right thing, ALWAYS
    ~Meg~
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    JohnB
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    03/27/2008 6:37 PM
    Byrd Dog, This is my 4th post.The folks here are helful and friendly.The replies to your question have all been correct. I found this thread 10 minutes ago and seen it is right up my alley.I worked whole house restoration and commercial roofs in Polk County FL. with restoration estimates/claims running from 7,000 to 820,000 dollars. Ive been mainly doing roofing,siding,gutters,patio covers,sunrooms,awnings since 1984 with insurance related work since 95. I own my own company and also work as a subcontracted estimator in certain states with certain products depending on my ability to warranty the work.

    The jist of an answer is this. I have been IN your situation and pulled through just fine even though in my early days I had the nightmares.It boils down to a matter of attitude and thats it. I CONTROL THE CLAIM from the beginning. This protects you from those that want something for nothing or wants upgrades/betterment on your dollar. I've walked away from sizable claims when I smelled trouble. Profits are not as important as reputation!

    In Polk County doing residential whole house losses I would ask for the scope of damages from the insurance company. I would let them know up front my prices dont change regardless of it's prices and also an insurance claim is to return them (homeowner) to preloss not to make a profit on, the carrier doesn't owe for betterment,the mortgage company WILL do inspections before releasing the next stage of funding, and I need the mortgage company information also. I know it sounds like a lot to ask for BUT if a prospective customer isn't willing to help you help them in the beginning it shows signs they have motives that don't align with all the parties involved. Without TRUST there ISNT a healthy relationship.

    From years of sales I learned a few things. folks only hear half of the story the first time through, they only hear what they want to and/or they only want to hear what benefits THEM. If they apear totally self centered from the beginning...RUN.
    Otherwise..... Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, then summarize what you told them. I would sit at the table and go through EVERY line item with them in detail, explain betterment is out of THEIR POCKET, explain staged funding from either them or the mortgage company and why it's done that way,explain in detail it takes 4 to 8 weeks to get from start to finish depending on things beyond MY control like building and/or mortgage company inspections, write 2 to 3 work orders out concerning the trades or phases involved with each stage between progress payments and final punch out BEFORE the work starts. This way the homeowner understands the MONEY and where its's going,the work schedule and why it's that way, and what YOU EXPECT of THEM up front before the first nail is removed.


    Hope this helps


    John E Blakesmith
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    JimWil
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    03/27/2008 6:53 PM
    Ms. Watts has the right idea for you. Yet, for such a question to be so important during an interview leads me to wonder about this company. You might want to look at complaints on record before you move to quickly.
    Too many times you hear about restoration companies taking on more work that can be done and let scheduling work it out. Collecting contracts, name of the game.
    Back in the day before any pricing, measuring, and construction lingo. We sit down at the table and I let them dream about it all. Usually within minutes you get a real solid picture of the personality you'll live with for days/weeks. There is an old saying, "You know Mr/Mrs. I don't think our company is right for this job, it was certainly a pleasure meeting you and thank-you for thinking of XYZ Remodeling. You have a nice day".
    Check them out throughly, very throughly.
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    Davidad1
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    03/27/2008 10:26 PM
    I have been a estimator/ project manager for 12 years. I also have walked from jobs if I feel the customer is up to something... The one thing I was taught from the start. Communication, Communication, Communication... The most commom complains from most contractors is what you have and others have stated... Jobs taking too long, no one shows up, etc.... The more communication that is done up front to explain the process and what is going to occur - the better... I never had any one complain for too much communication with the customers... Most people have not had a insurnace claim and do not know the process and what to expect... Second is Customer service... Getting customers emails is a great way to keep the lines of communication open... I have a blackberry and use it all the time to answer questions emailed to meand it is on 24/7 .. I usually do not give my cell number out as I do not want the 6 am calls on the weekend, But I could call the insured back if they emailed and needed something ..Good luck
    Estimating is living on the edge between greed and fear
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    JohnB
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    03/30/2008 7:18 PM
    You are correct about companies outselling their ability to biuild a job in a timely fashion. I did 12 whole house claims, one 2400 sq flat roof, one 684 sq church in lakeland FL,5 residential reroofs(Charlie/Fran/Jeanne) and one 3400 sq condo community in Boca Raton(Wilma). two of those claims were from property owners that got tired of the excuses they were recieving from the salesman that "signed em up". One has to realize that ALL home improvement contracts are "performance" contracts and normally fall dead in either 30 to 45 days. This is all the work I wanted because it enabled me to "pay attention" to the customer and the job itself. Anymore work would have resulted in being tagged as a hit and run for the money as so many contractors were there.



    John Blakesmith
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    butch sanders
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    04/09/2008 8:58 PM
    This is somewhat of a rant, but that being said.
    Let them know that our labor pool has been depleted, people do not grow up in the trades anymore, and projects take longer.
    We have done this to ourselves in the quest of cheap labor & higher than normal profits.
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