Are your customers telling you the whole truth?
Design/Build firm, Architectural Building Arts, puts client satisfaction firstMay 26th, 2016 by
Architectural Building Arts, based in Madison, Wisconsin, is an award winning design/build firm with a very clear mission, “deliver excellence through our Design/Build process that embraces environmental integrity, quality construction and efficient timelines.” They have developed a team (pictured below) that entirely supports this mission, which is why they see such high levels of satisfaction from their clients.
As the winner of our first Build the Guild contest and having been members of GuildQuality since 2010, we wanted to learn more about their business and how they’re using authentic client feedback to become even better. We were excited to talk with Melinda Monroe, President of Architectural Building Arts, about what makes them so successful in the realm of client satisfaction.
Q: What it was like when Architectural Building Arts was just starting out?
A: We were a very small company when we first started out in 1989 as a design/build firm, which wasn’t as popular back in the early 90s as it is today. We actually started in the basement of one of the owners. From our inception, we made it a point to establish our core values and principles around being new and innovative from the beginning. We’re now up to 14 employees, including the two owners and are in a wonderful office space that our team built.
Q: What do you think has been the driving force behind your success?
A: Our continued success as a company can be attributed to a few things.
First off, our process itself is something our clients really appreciate. We’re known for having really beautiful designs and put a lot of effort and resources into the front end, design aspect of our projects. We get that feedback at home shows and expos and have also won many awards for our design work.
We also work hard to ensure that we have really well-run projects. Our goal is to not go into a project with so many allowances and we make it a priority to not get into lead time issues with products that can hold up schedules. Aaron Monroe (Operations Manager) works really hard to build our production team and our team of subcontractors with companies who will honor the schedules we put in place. We also try to stay 2-3 subcontractors deep in different areas because we want them to be an extended part of who we are. They’re in our client’s home as an extension of our team, so we expect them to honor timelines and treat our clients the way we’d treat them.
One thing we’ve found challenging in our market is securing our trade partners. We put them on retainer to hold dates prior to a project start. Doing this helps us keep our projects on schedule. Meeting deadlines and staying on schedule is something we do really well with and are competitive on, so we do everything we can to make sure we keep to that commitment.
Another key component of our process that we feel sets us apart is we have a dedicated project manager for each project from start to finish. This make the project run much smoother and helps make sure everyone shows up when they’re supposed to and does what they’re supposed to do.
“We want clients for life, so we do everything we can to make the experience as smooth as possible.”
Kitchen remodel completed by Architectural Building Arts
Q: How do you ensure that your team delivers the best possible client experience?
A: The ABA team is aligned with our core values, which are to have integrity in all we do, be trustworthy, stay committed to excellence, be driven by passion, and to be solutions-oriented. We developed those values and the purpose back when the company was first founded, and now we’ve made it a priority to align the whole team with those values. Our values correspond with both quarterly and annual goals, because we know the importance of focusing the entire team in one direction.
We also place a high value on company culture at Architectural Building Arts. We have monthly meetings and outings that happen if we hit our quarterly goals to keep the team connected. We also try to do annual events and do things with family since family is such an important part of who we are.
Q: Do you have any hiring best practices or tips you follow to ensure your team maintains those high levels of client satisfaction?
A: We use the DiSC profiling system so that we know we’re putting someone in the “right seat on the bus.” Before we hire for a position, we sit down and discuss what the position looks like, what is the best fit for someone applying to be a project manager versus a production manager, and we have a really strong understanding of what that looks like for each position before we start looking for candidates. Also to help in our hiring process we use behavioral interviewing questions that are specific to how potential employees might handle customer service situations.
We also feel it’s important to have our own carpenters on staff. Trying to maintain that from a cost and resources standpoint is difficult, but we’re dedicated to having them be a part of our team because we feel it helps us maintain control of the project and the experience.
Yoga room completed by Architectural Building Arts
Q: You’ve received a lot of positive comments & reviews as well as high scores on your GuildQuality profile page. How do you maintain those high marks? What processes do you have in place to ensure clients are satisfied?
A: We provide an interactive sales and design process that focuses on listening to the client and their wants and needs. As I mentioned before, we also assign a dedicated Project Manager for each project that works with our team to produce results that enrich our clients’ lives and add value to their homes.
During the initial sales and design phases, we recognize that it’s all about the relationship between us and our client, so we make sure we’re a good fit and that they feel comfortable from the start. Listening is a key component in this process and we meet with the clients to find out what is important to their lifestyle. We make it about figuring out what they’re looking for and finding a way that we can honor what they want to invest in. It’s important to listen to the client and make sure early on we understand what they’re looking for and can make adjustments where needed.
Q: What is the biggest value or biggest company impact you’ve seen from surveying your clients?
A: We find value in the honest feedback given to us through GuildQuality because they are a third party. When you try to ask clients for their feedback, some are super honest and willing to give that feedback right to you. For those clients who are maybe a little less vocal with their opinions, it’s good to have someone who they can talk to outside of our organization and give their honest, unbiased feedback. This feedback helps us maintain clients for life.
We also use the survey results for team building. The lesson learned through the responses we receive are important for our employees to be aware of and learn from. We also like to make sure we’re honoring everyone on our team who did a great job on a specific project.
Bar and entertainment area by Architectural Building Arts
Q: Has your team received any surprising/unexpected responses? If so, how did you handle that feedback?
A: For the most part, the feedback we receive from our clients is pretty positive and we feel like we’re right on based on the responses we’re getting. Every once in awhile, someone might feel that something wasn’t communicated well during a project.
Communication is a big deal to us, so if we get feedback on that, we want to know about it and see how we can get better. We try to make it a point to pay attention to how people receive information and the ways our different clients prefer to communicate so we talk to them in the right way. Sometimes it’s nothing you’ve done directly; maybe it’s something one of your subcontractors did, so we’d never learn about it unless we ask.
Q: Who on your team reviews the survey feedback and why?
A: We review the feedback from each and every survey with our entire team for a couple of reasons. One, we feel it’s important to recognize our employees when they do great things, which they do every day. Also, it helps us become better leaders in the community and it raises our employees up and shows them they’re doing a great job.
Q: Tell us, why are you a member of GuildQuality?
A: Overall, we feel that GuildQuality is doing a great job and we appreciate and honor the feedback we’re getting. The honest feedback we receive from our clients is something we really value.
Client satisfaction is number one for us, and we consider GuildQuality to be one of our team members in doing that.
If you would like to learn more about Architectural Building Arts, visit their member profile page.
Are you putting clients first at your company? Download our guide: Lessons from the trenches: Becoming a customer-centric company to learn ways you can improve customer satisfaction.