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Resolve to Avoid Client Regrets

“In this season of resolutions, kitchen designers should resolve to leave as little money as possible on the table in 2018.”

authors Eliot Sefrin 

This is the season for New Year’s resolutions – and if there’s one resolution kitchen designers should make, it’s to leave as little money as possible on the table in 2018.

Regrettably, that’s apparently not the case in many kitchen remodels, as evidenced by an illuminating survey conducted by the Research Institute for Cooking & Kitchen Intelligence (RICKI).

Indeed, RICKI’s survey found that a large percentage of kitchen-remodeling consumers would have spent more money, even in the face of budget constraints, if they could do their project over again. Consumer “under-spending” is not only commonplace, RICKI revealed, it’s likely resulting in far too many dissatisfied homeowners and millions of dollars in lost revenue.

Those are homeowners who could have been made happier. And it’s revenue that could have helped boost design firms’ bottom lines.

According to RICKI, regrets about under-spending typically coalesce around the disappointment homeowners experience when their kitchen project doesn’t live up to either their expectations or their investment. Homeowner regrets, RICKI found, span the gamut from layout, storage and space considerations to choice of cabinetry, appliances, countertops and other products. Under-spending, RICKI noted, is usually a product of rushed, fear-driven client decisions – or worse, a failure by designers to help clients overcome their fears, spend more, and avoid post-installation regrets. Some homeowners, for example, told RICKI they didn’t know they could add square footage until after their kitchen was completed and regret crept in. Similar regrets were expressed time and again.

In many cases, RICKI notes, these lamentable, profit- draining mistakes can be avoided through an enlightened sales approach. Among the most effective tactics design pros can employ are these:

  • Help homeowners understand ROI by focusing on how getting what they want in their new kitchen will provide added satisfaction over the multi-year lifespan of the space. While most designers tend to stress the pros and cons of particular decisions, savvy sales pros convey what clients will be missing if they cut corners. For example, in the case of hardware, work to educate clients that upgraded hardware can help achieve maximum storage and access, something homeowners often regret not including. Similarly, for cabinetry, illustrate how quality of construction and durability of finish truly matter. One designer suggests using time-lapse photos illustrating wear as a way to demonstrate the risks of compromising on quality.
  • Encourage clients to take the time to decide. While this may seem counterintuitive, the major challenge most kitchen consumers face involves sifting through the overwhelming number of options available to them. Designers who position themselves as a “go-to” source for information and expertise can help homeowners navigate the otherwise-daunting remodeling process and make more reasoned decisions.
  • Stress that clients get what they pay for, emphasizing their potential unhappiness in compromising on what’s potentially a once-in-a-lifetime project. Counter the often-misleading portrayals of project costs communicated by TV and social media, so that homeowners can establish realistic expectations, and inform them about the additional cost of adding features and upgraded products down the road.
  • Focus on client needs rather than on keeping the price low. Most designers use the “good/better/best approach” in selling, but far too many focus on product features rather than on the benefits a new kitchen will provide in homeowners’ everyday lives. Designers say homeowners frequently find the money to make their “dream” kitchen come to life once it’s shown to them. They just need to be made aware of the possibilities.

With the housing market continuing its upward trajectory, and residential remodeling poised for continued growth, 2018 promises to be another very good year for the kitchen and bath industry. It can be even better if designers remember to ask for the money, and help clients feel comfortable about spending more. ▪

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