Henry ‘The Fonz’ Winkler once said, “Assumptions are the termites of relationships.”
The heart of any business can be found in the many relationships it has with its clients, and this is especially true for construction.
However, should these relationships ever turn sour, construction companies too often blame the customers for the decline when, in fact, it might have been possible to maintain the relationship by keeping the client’s expectations in check.
Client expectations in the construction industry are notoriously challenging to maintain. After all, the work is complex, projects tend to cost a lot of money, and they can take several weeks, months or even years to complete, and the customer is typically deeply invested in the project’s successful outcome.
Due to this, construction companies must find ways to keep the customer constantly in the loop throughout the entire construction process, from the initial planning phase to implementation.
Raken’s digital construction reporting software helps construction companies collect real-time data from the field and organize it in a way that can be shared with internal and external customers, allowing users to focus on problem-solving issues on their construction sites.
“Customers’ expectations always differ slightly due to massive or miniscule variances in their current processes, and every company has different data priorities,” said Raken’s construction specialist Nick Pettengill. “We’ve come to learn that minimizing the impact to their current process can make for a much smoother transition, and the customization capabilities in data capture and reporting in Raken makes these transitions seamless.”
Pettengill points to three things construction companies can do to manage client expectations, build trust and establish a reputation for success.
Honesty is always the best policy. Construction companies must be realistic, transparent and upfront regarding construction timelines and budgets, and recognize that it’s sometimes okay to say no.
It is better to under-promise and over-deliver than to over-promise and under-deliver, If the client asks for something that isn’t feasible, construction companies need to take the time to explain clearly why it cannot be done and then offer solutions that will address the client’s needs; without over-promising.
Exaggerating capabilities may win the contract, but if the terms of that contract cannot be fulfilled, in the long run, it will only hurt the construction company’s reputation.
“Equipment and tools will break, accidents happen and the weather doesn’t always cooperate, and this is why it’s so important to be realistic with your timelines at the very beginning of a project during the planning phase,” said Pettengill. “Every contract should hold values for the unknowns and issues that might arise that are out of our control, and it is imperative to always be honest and open about any and all issues that arise, whether they are a result of your team’s decision-making or of no fault of your own.”
Working methodically and proactively, rather than reactively, can improve safety and the overall quality of the finished project. As part of this, Pettengill suggests that construction companies document any and all issues in real time to ensure that any plans can be efficiently adjusted to avoid any excessive project delays.
The devil is in the details. While it might seem wise to provide the big-picture perspective of a project to avoid overwhelming the client, by offering a more comprehensive breakdown right from the start, construction companies can help protect themselves from misunderstandings and disputes in the future.
“Any small issue has the potential to snowball into a larger concern if it is not addressed as quickly as possible,” said Pettengill. “This is why a real-time connection between field and office teams, like the one provided by Raken, can be priceless. And giving office managers the ability to quickly resolve issues before hours and resources are wasted is crucial to effectively managing project budgets and owners’ expectations.”
It is also important to remember that most clients will not have much construction experience under their belts, and their expectations may not be based on the realities of the job. This is why construction companies need to take time to explain their estimates and projected schedules thoroughly, ensure the client is aware that parts of the project are apt to change and give them ample opportunity to ask any questions about the project before it is too late.
Communication is key
Creating open channels of communication helps to increase customer satisfaction and, more importantly, gives the construction company the chance to correct any miscommunications before they devolve into disputes. This includes sharing progress reports that detail any changes – good or bad – to the project’s timeline or budget, and having a willingness to ask for feedback or clarification.
Ensuring good communication throughout the entire construction process will allow companies to better ensure the project delivers as expected, especially when things like weather events, supply chain disruptions and other unavoidable factors inevitably strike.
“The most important aspect of managing expectations comes down to communication,” said Pettengill. “Office folks rarely get the privilege to walk a jobsite and understand the true progress of their team’s efforts. Keeping office managers, and most importantly, owners informed of project progress will enhance the relationship and experience for all project stakeholders and increase the likelihood of winning repeat business.”