Asking the Right Questions
By Chris Stebnitz, CAPS, Stebnitz Builders, Inc.
It doesn’t happen often — or let’s say it only happens in certain instances. But, I have to admit there are times in my life where my head starts spinning and I temporarily lose all ability to respond to outside stimuli.
For instance, when my three boys (ages 7, 5 and 3) are running around like animals right before their bedtime and I’ve reached my limit for chaos, I tell them it’s time to settle down and go to bed. Inevitably they reply, “But why do we have to go to bed?” For at least a few moments, the pressure in my brain spikes, my eyes roll back into my head and I lose all ability to speak, frozen in time by the inability to choose from the multitude of reasons why they must be in bed — now.
A similar moment occurred the other day when I was stopped by a colleague of mine, asking me about what he should do to help his client’s home become more accessible to some new physical limitations he was now facing. Needless to say, I felt another spell coming on.
The one thing I’ve learned over the last dozen years in dealing with accessibility, barriers and physical challenges is that there is no such thing as “THE” answer for these issues. So much as it’s virtually impossible for my mechanic to assess the issues I’m having with my car over the phone (although I can do some pretty good impersonations of the clunks and creaks my car makes), assessing the issues facing a person with new-found challenges without an in-depth analysis of their situation is futile.
Sometimes as builders and remodelers, we tend to focus our attention on the barrier itself. “How am I going to fit a ramp in these tight quarters?” or “How can I get these grab bars installed without any backer?” Instead of solving the problem — which is what we all do so well — we need to understand the person first.
Far more than just knowing a ramp needs to be installed or that help in and out of the tub can be achieved with some grab bars, to truly be experts, we first need to understand the client and exactly what their limitations are. How do they live their lives? What is important to them and how have things changed that makes those important things in their life difficult to accomplish?
It is our duty to explain to them why this step is so critical to the success of the project and their ability to live the way they want to live. By asking the right questions and even asking them to try and perform the difficult task, you can be certain as to what might be the best options for them.
Understandably, some obstacles are more obvious than others, but it’s important you understand it fully. The key here is asking the right questions and listening to the answers. Don’t presume you know how to eliminate their obstacles until you’ve heard the client confirm it.
There is no formal list of questions or list of solutions we as remodelers and builders can present to our clients. Instead, we must go in with the purpose of investigating their needs and abilities as well as their wants and wishes. The questions we ask will vary to the same degree as the answers themselves. Show them what you’ve heard by giving them your notes and ask their permission to move forward with this information.
After you’ve walked through a day in the life of your client and you’re absolutely positive you’ve heard what they’ve told you, then it’s time to work on the solutions. Show them products. Explain how they work. Give your client options and the benefits to each. Now is where all your hard work at the beginning will pay off.
There is no price tag for independence. By asking the right question and actively listening to your clients, you’ll not only help them clear these new hurdles and get back to doing what’s important in their life, you just might also become their hero.
Stebnitz Builders, Inc is a nationally recognized and award-winning remodeling firm based in Delavan, Wisconsin. They provide kitchen and bath remodeling, additions and whole-house renovations in and around Walworth County and southeastern Wisconsin. Stebnitz Builders, Inc. was founded in 1972 by Stan Stebnitz and purchased by his sons, Dave and Dan Stebnitz, in 1985. Stebnitz Builders continued the tradition of family ownership through a third generation as Chris Stebnitz, Dave's son, became an owner in 2005. Chris is the 2007 Lakeland Builders Association President and a Wisconsin Builders Association Board Member.
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