Lack of consistency in company performance is a troubling issue across many industries. In construction, it creates surprises in every aspect of projects. Here's how to make consistency a hallmark of your business, and how to do it consistently.
There are more ways for inconsistencies to manifest delivering a construction project than, for instance, selling merchandise. Inconsistent work quality, even from a subcontractor, directly affects the schedule. When client communications aren't consistent, you end up with mistakes and disputes. Vendors and fabricators set you up for delays and rework when they deliver inconsistent quality in materials. If you are a subcontractor, GC’s inconsistent requirements and performance create multiple problems.
Your Customers Long For Consistency
Consistency is all about improving your customers' experiences. If you think about all the interactions between a client and your company, you can begin to see the typical customer journey. And customer satisfaction is determined by all those interactions. So, it's more accurate to measure customer satisfaction across the whole customer journey instead of looking at individual interactions.
McKinsey found that if you can increase customer satisfaction across all touch points, you stand a good chance of boosting revenue by 15 percent. It also leads to lowering what it costs you to serve customers by 20 percent. If you take some time to define what's important to your customers at each step of their journey, you'll have identified where to focus on when developing and measuring consistency.
Customers might not think about consistency all the time. However, if it's missing, that's all they can think about.
Goals Keep Everyone Focused on Consistency
Once you know where to focus your efforts, it's time to set some goals. Suppose you've been asking your clients questions to discover what's most important to them whenever they interact with you. You might have done this with surveys, by simply talking to them in casual conversations, or when problems cropped up.
You discovered that clients disliked having to adjust their schedules to accommodate your inconsistencies in scheduling. Workers showing up at widely varying hours wasn’t causing delays. It was, however, affecting your clients’ time management.
What if you remove this customer pain point by improving job scheduling so that your crews show up when they're supposed to? You've set a goal for improving consistency that's measurable while addressing exactly what's important to clients. Now, what about all those other customer interactions? By setting goals to eliminate inconsistencies in performance, you also keep the emphasis alive.
Consistency Makes For Happier and More Productive Employees
Some leaders maintain that employees are more important than clients. After all, since your business relies heavily on employees, your customers won’t get served without them. How consistently your employees perform their roles when interacting with your clients is another measurement of customer satisfaction. Happy, loyal employees also perform better and provide positive word-of-mouth.
So, when it comes to how you treat employees, consistency is quite important. Your people need to know exactly what's expected of them. They should also feel they’re treated fairly.
Allowing double standards for different employee types is inconsistent. You need standardized policies that don’t allow for any vagueness, and they need to be in writing. When making consistency as important for employees as it is for customers, you are modeling the behavior you expect in your business. You are also sending a strong message that you value your employees.
Trust and Reputation Depend on Consistency
Make no mistake, consistency is tough to achieve in construction—projects have many moving parts and supply a constant stream of surprises. But, to operate inconsistently only adds to the difficulty of managing your jobs. When crews don't hit quality standards the first time because they of their lack of training in consistency regarding the materials and methods they use, you end up with more rework. Worse, your clients start wondering whether they can trust your company to do it right.
After several instances where crews fail to deliver consistently, your reputation starts suffering. It's not long before word-of-mouth turns against you, which often spells difficulty in getting new work. Consistency creates a foundation for trust and reputation.
Consistency Needs Regular Verification
When you are blindly consistent, you can end up with outdated and ineffective processes. So, try validating consistency by periodically comparing your results to your goals. For instance, personnel changes might cause you to miss your goal of returning substandard materials because you no longer have trained people making those decisions. Plan to regularly review your consistency goals against reality to verify you are using the most effective tactics.
Finally, understand that consistency is a journey without end. Buy into it for the long haul, and for its cumulative rewards.