It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has worked in or with the remodeling industry that we live and die based on case studies, testimonials…and, of course, reviews.

All of which have served STRITE design + remodeling well over our 40-year history. Very well, indeed. So much so, that when asked how we differentiate ourselves from our competitors, we typically defer to our clients’ experiences. It is not hyperbole to observe that those experiences are stated far more eloquently than anything we say about ourselves (at least publicly). They are, in fact, representative of what we like to call “the STRITE experience.”

Such is the ubiquity of that experience that of the many reviews posted on the industry association website, Guild Quality, 97 percent stated that they would refer us to a friend or family member. Of the 3 percent that would not, it’s worth noting that none of their reviews were based on a failure to fulfill our contractual obligations. Instead, they were based on a negative experience of the fulfillment process.

To think of our “approval rating” more colloquially, image being in a room of 100 people, all of whom have done business with you. Now, imagine that 97 of those people would unhesitatingly recommend doing business with you to a loved one. With that amount of collective endorsement, you might wonder how the other three could have had such a conflicting experience. It would be easy to dismiss this minority as some dubious anomaly — or an affirmation of the conventionally accepted truth that you can’t be all things to all people.

Instead, we find the 3% to be the exception that proves the rule: the rule being that you deviate from proven processes at your own peril. When you do, you risk something more important than falling short of your clients’ expectations. You fall short of your own.

The most recent case in point is a review we received on the residential construction and remodeling website Houzz. There amidst all the five-star reviews is a scathing one-star criticism that is, hands down, the worst thing a client has ever said about us. It hurts…but there it is…and it’s hard not to get defensive about it. But a client’s experience is their experience — and when that experience fails to reach the five-star level we base our brand on, we have to look hard at when and how the disconnect took place.

At the heart of any client experience — good or bad — is communication. How well we keep our clients engaged in the remodel process is critical to their experience of it. In the case of those experiences that fall short of our goal, we typically find a disconnect between how we communicated with a client and that client’s communication style. In the case of our one-star review, our project manager provided the client with twice daily project updates by phone, at her request, rather than generate written reports following each communication. In retrospect, it would have been far better, when it came to resolving subsequent disputes, if we had maintained a more rigorous “paper trail.” Memories of what is said in verbal conversation can, after all, be faulty on all sides of the exchange.

The repairs referred to in the Houzz review had to do with dust that infiltrated the client’s wardrobe — for which we were presented with a nearly $4,000 dry cleaning estimate. We should here state for the record that we were not given the opportunity to assess this damage first hand. Although mitigation of demolition and construction impacts on a home throughout the remodel process is something on which we pride ourselves — and despite having isolated the construction area from the rest of the home — we took the client at her word and credited the amount requested in full.

One of our takeaways from this experience was a re-evaluation of our dust protection methods. Tools and techniques change over the years, and part of our job as an industry leader is to constantly improve on how we do what we do. In the case of our techniques for dust protection, we came away from this one-star project with a mitigation scheme that is far more rigorous — which only goes to show that people who cause you to do better work are to be appreciated, regardless of what they may say about you.

And this brings us to a final reflection on the other 3%. Yes, you can’t please all the people all the time — but as long as you make that your aim rather than dismiss it as a unrealistic objective, you’re more likely to end up with 97 out of 100 people who would refer you to a friend or family member. In the end, it’s what we learn from the three percent of folks who weren’t completely satisfied about working with us that makes the other 97% happy they did.