If you read the business press today, you’d think innovation is the ultimate business goal. But, innovating for innovation’s sake can take you on a dead-end journey. Instead, focus on what’s important to your clients and innovate to provide new solutions for them. Consider innovations to reduce these three client challenges.
Surprises (other than the pleasant type)
This is a troublesome category of client heartburn as they are bound to show up in every area of a project. The bad ones almost always cost money and time. Some, like unknown conditions, exist across all projects. You already know that many clients do a cursory investigation into existing conditions. There’s a tendency to hope for the best.
Load-bearing walls, galvanized plumbing, rusted gas fittings, and leftover pollution stay out of sight and out of mind until discovery. By then, there’s no way around delivering a surprise to your client.
This is where you can make a difference for you and your client.
The faster you manage to find surprise existing conditions, the better. You’ll be able to deliver more accurate cost estimates. The client, on the other hand, benefits as they are able to see the reality of the project, both in time and cost. Reducing these surprises also leads to less rework and fewer change orders.
Nobody likes spending money on things they can’t see and that describes accurately approximately half of a building’s components.
Many people dislike change even though it’s the only constant. Clients tell horror stories about construction companies making their profits by drumming up changes. However, in the long run, such an attitude to business takes a lot more work and guarantees a bad reputation. With careful planning, proper discovery and good estimating, you can keep changes in line. Clients will thank you for your efforts to hold the line on these budget busters.
Make your project budgets real. Do that by providing enough detail so that the client gains insight into what they’re actually paying for. Nobody likes spending money on things they can’t see and that describes accurately approximately half of a building’s components. A client might be spending $60,000 on wood framing, but if they can’t see that $10,000 is going towards architectural beams they wanted in the main room, they’re not getting an accurate picture of where the money is going.
To perform consistently on any project, you need to make consistency part of your everyday operations. When you build consistency into each part of your business, it can’t help but transfer to your projects. So, start with your processes.
Every construction business has behind-the-scenes processes that support every project. Make your business methods consistent by putting them in writing, and use those written operating procedures for training. You want people to perform business functions in a consistent manner. A lot involves documentation, and both your business and your projects run on documentation.
Without it, specifications become vague requirements while schedules float on a sea of uncertainty. Make your documentation consistent by using a project management solution like Procore’s. Your customers and partners will feel more confident in your abilities when your documentation is uniform and predictable.
The client should see completions happening when you predicted they would. They should also see the quality they expect.
Your clients always have a project completion date in their plans. Completing each project requires a schedule. While you don’t have to share every little detail about what’s happening and when, the schedule you give to the client should accurately predict each phase completion, right from the very beginning. The client should see completions happening when you predicted they would. They should also see the quality they expect.
The first step in delivering consistent quality is making sure the specifications match your client’s idea of quality. There’s no better way of doing that than by talking about them with your client. Perhaps don’t share everything all at once; you should cover the specifications with the client a week or so before starting a new phase.
Clients often rely on designers to specify. It sometimes happens clients realize they don’t like an element after it has already been bought and installed. In order to avoid such situations, use mockups and plenty of conversations to let the client know exactly how things will look. Help them know how the quality will feel. Ambiance and comfort tell a big part of the quality story. Use models, digital walk-throughs and augmented reality to convey the quality you plan to deliver.
Insensitive Customer Service
This last one is more common in construction than it should. That’s mainly because construction was always shrouded in mystery, and it seemed the only people who knew about it were the people doing the building.
Ignoring clients because you don’t have answers or being hard to reach increases customer pain.
Well, you can thank (or not) DIY television for making construction a commodity. So, don’t talk down to your clients—today’s customers may know as much as you do. Worse, they often think they know as much as you do. They just don’t want to do the work themselves.
Ignoring clients because you don’t have answers or being hard to reach increases customer pain. Keep the communications open and resolve issues quickly. Sensitive customer service means never having to apologize.