Improve Client Satisfaction and Operations with Communication
authors Dan Taddei, MS Ed. BCA
Clear and direct communication is the key to a successful remodeling project. The most often cited complaint homeowners express is lack of communication on the part of the contractor. On the flip side, successful projects tend to cite ongoing communication with the remodeler as a key component.
Project updates and progress reports ensure homeowners are in the loop with what is happening on the project. In today’s high-tech environment, effective communication is even more complex. Adding to the complexity is the need to communicate with other project stakeholders, which may include trade contractors, product suppliers, designers and building inspectors who require timely and accurate communications. Use this three-step plan to strategize, document and deliver effective project communications.
Key Contacts and Preferences
Step one is establishing a contact list. You may already have a general contact list that includes all of your standard contacts, including employees, trade contractors and/or suppliers. Additionally, every project should have a contact list. This document provides information for anyone involved in a project, including the homeowner, designer, suppliers and trades specific to this project. List all stakeholders and their preferred communication mode (text, email, phone, etc.). Identify the primary contact person if it is a company, along with primary and alternate contact numbers or email addresses.
Internal Team Communications
Once contact information has been documented, step two is to determine how and what to communicate—equally as important as who. For trade contractors and employees, your methods may be well established and presumed by each, but take the time to discuss the process and what is expected from both you and your team. Confirm, for example, your lead carpenter will need a status report of materials scheduled to arrive each morning, and your project lead knows to provide a progress report at a specific time. Communicating to the homeowner is more challenging.
The third step is to establish who will be the decision maker and the primary contact person because they may be different. If not determined before, the preconstruction conference is the place to establish it. This is also the time to learn the preferred mode of communication your clients select to receive their updates. The more flexibility you have the better. Some clients will love email; others will despise it. Some will insist on a daily phone call update; others will be happy with a weekly progress text. It is also important to understand how the client wants to receive information regarding challenges or schedule changes (i.e. bad news).
Part of this process will be to establish who on your team will be the primary communicator with the client. There should be a single point of contact for the client. This provides consistency to the client and allows a measure of control on your part. Let your client know which standard reports to expect and the frequency—whether weekly, bi-weekly or ad hoc. Determine how and when you’ll communicate things, such as if you will not be on the jobsite for a day or two, or how you will inform them of schedule changes. Establish this upfront and avoid surprises so the project may progress with less stress and anxiety on the client’s part.
Embrace Digital Communications
In today’s world of high technology, the cell phone has become your communication hub. Tablets and laptop computers are commonplace on jobsites. Paper plans may be on the way out, and hand-written change orders should be a thing of the past. Most contractors have adopted email, texting, FaceTime or Google Hangouts. But each of those systems are standalone tools. Consider a more integrated approach depending on your needs. A centralized product can streamline communications and ensure critical communications—either with the team or client—are not missed. A few that come to mind are Buildertrend, CoConstruct and Slack. However, no matter how long the list, there are new products coming to market almost daily.
Consider the following before taking the leap to one of these products:
- Before you start, understand the problems the software package will solve and the cost/benefits that you expect to see. Consider and explain how adopting the product will help in your project management/construction.
- Develop metrics to test as you go. If the package will not save you time or money, it is not something you should embark on.
- Identify a program champion on your staff. It should be a tech-savvy person who can lead product adoption and demonstrate the program’s benefits to his/her peers.
- Accept that any software product will have a learning curve. Include a training plan and time for your team to learn the tool, key features and options.
- Implement the software package in stages, one function at a time. Get your staff and related stakeholders comfortable with the changes, then move on to the next module or function.
Cultural shifts and new technologies evolve how we communicate with each other. To remain competitive, business owners will need to leverage the available technologies and develop effective strategies to keep clients informed, trade schedules current and inspectors on time. QR
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