Best Practices for Communicating With Customers
Construction projects change rapidly. Effective communication with your customer can make or break your relationship and affect your business.
Communication is one of the key components in making sure customers and contractors are happy with the result of a project. Construction projects may change rapidly as progress is made, and hiccups are to be expected along the way. Consequently, communication between both parties is vital.
Savvy construction professionals know that communicating effectively with customers and keeping them updated can prevent expensive mistakes, increase repeat business opportunities and lead to overall better financials for the company. Here are some of the best practices for contractors when communicating with customers.
Establish Clear Goals and Expectations
“The most essential component when communicating with your customer is making sure that you’re both on the same page before the project starts,” says Nick Miller, a home construction contractor from ContractorAdvisorly.
“One way of ensuring you’re both focused on the same goals is by scheduling a pre-construction meeting where you go over the materials, timeline and goals of the project. By making sure that both you and the client have a clear outline of how the project will proceed and what it’s goals are, you set yourself up for success.”
Setting expectations with your customer is key, says Rachel Street, TV host of Philly Revival and president of Hestia Construction, LLC.
“You should tell your client how you expect to find a jobsite before you even begin,” she says.
“We’ve all been there: You show up to demo and find that the client never removed their furniture and belongings. It’s important to address this before you even begin by putting a provision in your contract that the client must remove everything before you begin. If not, you will charge a fee to move the items for them and you are not responsible for damage to anything left on site.”
By setting expectations and guidelines at the beginning, you help prevent any unwelcome surprises for both sides.
Establish One Line Of Communication
On any project, designate one person as the customer’s primary contact. Alissa Thompson, vice president of Cornerstone Managing Partners, a construction management company, says, “One of the most frustrating things for a client is not knowing who to contact or having something they told one person not be shared with someone else. There are typically several people involved on a project and by choosing one point of contact, you avoid any miscommunications between yourself and the client.”
Street adds, “I write into my contract that all communication regarding the job should go through me directly and not through my employees or subcontractors. This is a very important point because sometimes clients may speak to an employee about additional work or a change but it never gets communicated to you. The easiest thing is to give the client one point of contact that is responsible for handling all of their concerns, whether that is you or someone else that you designate.”
Use Construction Software
You can find software to help you do just about anything in the construction industry. You can use it to impress your customers and win projects, make accurate estimations on your bid, and keep customers informed on the progress of their project.
“Technology is there to use to our advantage,” Thompson says. “While sketches and blueprints used to suffice, clients’ expectations are much higher now. Provide 3D renderings of the project in the beginning to really wow your clients and help secure projects. This little touch will be what sets you apart and ensures the client fully understands how everything is going to look.
“Also, take photos as things progress. This is especially great if your clients are not in the area and lets them see firsthand how things are going.”
Adds Miller: “By using construction project management software like BuilderTrend or Procore, not only do we make life easier for ourselves but it also helps show customers how a project is progressing. With this type of construction software, we can create profiles where our customers are able to view the progress being made for their job and see visual updates on it. They don’t have to take our word for it, they can easily see it for themselves, giving them peace of mind.”
Use Proactive Problem Solving
Jennifer Fiorenza, a project director for TheEnglishContractor, suggests, “Don’t be alarmist in communications. If and when an issue arises, approach the client with well-thought-out solutions, not just problems.”
Fiorenza recalls a home project where workers noticed the furnace was about to go out. “That adds a big expense to an already extensive project,” she says. “However, we didn’t just approach the customer with the news that there was a big line item to add to the budget, but had a plan on relocating the furnace from the first floor to the basement, and turning the old utility room into a room for the customer’s dogs. We were able to use some extra flooring and materials from the kitchen and the bathroom to complete the new dog room, so it didn’t require much more investment from our customer.
“Thinking of potential solutions beyond the big problem that we’ve identified goes a long way. Our customers see that we’re problem solvers and there to help them, not just to make a buck.”
Keep Customers Updated
In the world of construction where things can change daily, keeping your customers up-to-date is key to maintaining a strong relationship with them. If they have any concerns or complaints, routine communication helps avoid any drastic changes in requirements later on.
“Our projects are managed by project directors, who keep in constant contact with homeowners during the building process, keeping them informed every step of the way,” explains Fiorenza. “A home improvement project can be disruptive and stressful. We like to do all we can to make sure our homeowners feel comfortable. At the end of each week, each homeowner receives an update email that includes all work completed that week, outstanding issues, and next steps.”