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By Duane Craig
November 21, 2016
Customer satisfaction and quality control are dynamically linked. As quality rises or falls, customer satisfaction usually follows. But, when it comes to clients with whom you have continuing business, the opposite can also be true. If the customer was satisfied in the past, that will influence his or her perception of quality delivered in the present, or in the future. In other words, you get points that carry forward in your customer relationships when the quality you deliver meets the customer’s expectations.
The advantages of having quality control that satisfies customers while also enhancing your reputation as a quality contractor are the type that boost your competitiveness and create a stable business because you foster the following:
Fewer project headaches stemming from rework and claims
More new customers
Increased business with existing customers
Losing fewer customers
Better resistance to other companies that are competing based on price
Increased profits and market share
The secret to harnessing these advantages is to exceed your customer's’ expectations.
When it comes to quality, the most important aspect is the customer’s perception of the quality you deliver. It’s always great when the quality meets the specifications, but you can meet all the standards and specs and still not meet the customer’s expectations.
Customer satisfaction is very difficult because it means different things to different customers. That’s why customer satisfaction often goes beyond standards and specifications, and instead is measured more by customer perceptions. If you meet a client's positive expectations, or you don't meet a client's negative expectations, it's the same thing. The client is moderately satisfied. It’s very difficult to differentiate your business from the sea of others by delivering moderate customer satisfaction.
To exceed your client's expectations you have to ensure the final build performs better than the customer expected. That’s why there is no substitute for really knowing your customer’s quality expectation beyond the specifications.
Another important area where quality can help you, is reputation. When your construction business has a reputation of delivering quality, customers are more likely to perceive that you actually do deliver quality. The quality reputation precedes you. And, it even precedes the work, creating a greater level of trust flowing from customer to you.
Just as having a reputation for delivering quality helps improve customer satisfaction, it also improves the acceptance of your solutions to the inevitable changes that occur on construction projects. There are many different ways to meet project specifications, but as the one doing the work, when you can influence how changes are addressed, you are in a better position to reduce risk and improve project outcomes.
For many construction businesses repeat customers make up the majority of their new projects. Customers return for many different reasons. In some cases, it's just easier to deal with someone they’ve worked with before. In other cases, you might have mastered the estimating and bidding process necessary to deliver the bid amount the customer desired. Customers will also often re-hire a contractor for a particular type of project the contractor successfully completed for them previously.
When it comes to customers who only have a single project to complete, the importance of your reputation is just as crucial as it is for repeat customers. These one time customers are the people who can deliver a steady stream of new potential clients. In many ways, the reputation you have with these one-time customers sets the stage for business survival if your business is based on customers who only need your services one time. For other construction companies that depend on a mix of repeat and one-time customers, your reputation with the one-time customers will not only affect new one-time projects, but will also help in developing new customers with continuing construction needs. Once again, delivering quality that exceeds your customer’s expectations is the cornerstone of developing the best reputation.
Very few modern construction projects get delivered by one contractor these days. Whether you hire a host of subcontractors from all the different specialty trades, or you hire spot subcontractors for very special jobs, your reputation for quality, and customer satisfaction is going to affect the types of subcontractors you can engage.
Just like you, subcontractors want to be involved with projects that will not only advance their bottom line, but will also help them to maintain or build a reputation that will sustain the level of business they need. By carefully choosing to work with contractors who have strong reputations, subcontractors can strengthen their own reputations.
Staying competitive and profitable requires a lot of work on all fronts. But, if your customer satisfaction and reputation are lacking, everything else you do won’t build an enduring business. When you have quality control that meets not only the specifications, but also exceeding customer’s expectations, everything else will fall into place.
The Anatomy of a Request for Information (RFI)
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