Communication and Planning Key to Customer Satisfaction

quote marksTo provide the best possible building experience for your customers, open communication and planning are the best strategies to reduce conflict, manage expectations, eliminate costly errors and gain trust.

This was the message delivered to builders who attended an International Builders’ Show seminar earlier this month that focused on managing customer expectations.

Ed Earl, the principal of Priority 1 Projects in San Diego, said that he uses a collaborative approach, in which the entire building team is chosen at the onset of the project. The team consists of the architect, the builder, the decorator, the construction project manager and the client.

In this approach, the client states up front how much they want to spend on the project, enabling their budget to drive the design process. The construction project manager is the team leader who manages project costs and with input from the builder, ensures that the architect does not design something that the client can’t afford. The design is completed with real pricing for all materials, labor, supervision profit and overhead.

“In other words, the project is completed before it started,” Earl said. “Projects following this process almost always come in on budget and on time, while maintaining positive relationships between all the parties involved.”

Joe Stoddard, principal of Mountain Consulting Group in Lawrenceville, Pa., said that quality should be built into the process.

A builder should not rush a closing if a tile isn’t grouted or if an appliance is missing, Stoddard said. “You have to get the house done before it is delivered and come up with a quality control process where you are missing no items. This will get you plenty of referrals.”

Taking callbacks for warranties years after the project has been completed is also well worth the effort, said Earl.

“Clients will be happy and give great word of mouth, helping to build new referrals,” he said.

John Crabbe, a manager of Crabbe Homes in Clarksville, Tenn., said it is critical to get all communications with your clients in writing.

“There can be mix-ups on phone conversations,” said Crabbe. “If it is not in writing, it did not happen.”

Stoddard agreed. “Two reasonable people will hear a conversation a different way,” he said. “Selective memory kicks in and you can wind up with a lawsuit.”

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