“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
. . . George Bernard Shaw
Client communication. It’s a decisive factor in any construction job, and perhaps the easiest thing to get wrong.
Effective communication is a crucial aspect of most any business, but in the construction industry, it can’t be overstated. It can mean the difference between a project that’s finished on time and on budget, and an utter calamity.
What’s more, ineffective communication on site can lead to safety hazards, causing injury, even death.
Communication occupies a role in virtually every phase of a construction project. You’ll have to pull together input for planning and design and convert these into detailed requirements. You’ll need to talk over and speak to issues that emerge throughout the process and you’ll need to bring stakeholders together to come up with critical decisions when things don’t match up to plan.
Facilitating effective communication among numerous parties in pursuit of a shared goal should be a clear-cut task, but the truth is that while we might all be a whiz at many aspects of our jobs, not every person is the “great communicator.”
Even top-notch construction managers have discovered themselves fighting the gap in understanding between themselves and the client. Does the client fully comprehend the costs, timelines and details of their project? Does he/she discern why delays arise or acknowledge the would-be risks involved? Are they feeling at ease and confident from the initial meeting through to project conclusion? Do they comprehend that you have no control over the weather?
If you answered “no” to any of these questions, chances are you need to work on your client communication.
In this blog, we’re going to review a number of steps to help ensure happier clients and repeat business.
Establish credibility immediately
“Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say infinitely when you mean very; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.” . . .C.S. Lewis
Your initial get-together with the client ought to be the basis of trust. They need to feel absolutely sure that you’re the best person for the job. This is undoubtedly not the moment to be meek and humble – make certain you reveal comparable projects you’ve succeeded on. Show off your portfolio and make clear how these previous successes relate to what you’re going to build for them.
The significance of these initial impressions can’t be overemphasized. The trust you instill in your client here and now will create the climate for the entire project. If they’re certain of your know-how, they’re more apt to deal with future glitches in good faith. Conversely, if you come across as amateurish or lacking confidence, you’ll end up with a fidgety, stressed out client peering over your shoulder for the duration of the project.
Once the project has begun, continue building trust with your clients by showing them how you took certain measurements and explaining why they are accurate. Taking the client “behind the scenes” and showing them how you arrived at decisions can also be quite helpful.
Also, always maintain a positive attitude. As a professional, you carry a number of responsibilities. As stressed out or overwhelmed as you may feel it’s important to show a positive face to your clients. Project the energy and self-assurance that you want your clients to feel about your work. Excitement and zeal are appealing behaviors that people like being around and clients enjoy working with.
Tip: When getting ready to meet with a client, do your homework. Do as much research about the client and their needs as possible until you’re completely familiar. If it’s a long-standing client, review their fil and talk to anyone else in your company who may have dealt with them.
At all times, be open
“The most important thing in communications is hearing what isn’t said.”
. . . Peter Drucker
To develop a strong, long-term relationship with clients, they need to be able to have faith in and count on you as an authority. That’s why it’s necessary that you keep up a strategy of openness when it concerns your professional views and assessments relating to the wellbeing of the project.
Sure, it can be tempting to be agreeable and sidestep awkward disagreements by always telling the client what you assume they would like to hear or holding back your real opinion about their project.
However, such routines are not only counterproductive, but can also harm your standing with the client, lessening the likelihood of a lasting relationship. By communicating your candid, straightforward opinions, clients will appreciate your resourcefulness and desire to get the job done properly.
Acknowledge your client as an individual
“We are smarter when we listen and smarter when we share.” . . .Rania Al-Abdullah
While your connection with your client is of a professional character, acknowledging that you regard them as a person – more than just a paycheck – can go a long way. The extent to which this personal connection is appropriate will differ resting on client type and the specific client’s personality.
If, for example, you are aware your client is a parent, you might simply ask how their kids are doing. If you’ve established a closer relationship with your client, something more personal such as emailing them a news article about their favorite musician might be welcome.
For loyal clients, a token of appreciation and thanks after key business milestones or around the holidays can be an unexpected pleasure that reinforeces your professional relationship.
Avoid industry jargon and buzzwords. Speak in layman’s terms
“You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.” . . . Lee Iacocca
Speaking in layman’s terms simply means being able to explain something in terms that the client can understand rather than using construction jargon and buzzwords. While this applies to all industries, you’re particularly at risk in highly specialized fields like construction. There are hundreds of words that appear common to builders, engineers and contractors that could boggle the mind of any normal person. This is especially true if the client lacks experience with construction.
To your client, terms like “T-channel” or “flange” might sound like another language.
If you can do this, not only will you appear smarter, but clients will respect your input more and you’ll be able to get your point across clearly without annoyance, misunderstanding or back-and-forth. It may feel like you’re dumbing down the conversation, but your client will feel more confident with the project if they understand what you’re saying.
Just as important, clients won’t have the sense they are ignorant or feel too awkward or insecure to stop and ask you to clarify things. Even if you’re doing it unknowingly, excessive construction jargon can also seem deliberate, like you’re almost trying to look as if you’re more well-informed than your client. More likely, however, you’re going to come across as arrogant or thoughtless.
Listening is also a skill
“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”
. . . Epictetus
Active listening is possibly the biggest issue influencing effective communication. Our body language can clearly reveal whether we are actively (or half-heartedly) listening. Eye to eye contact is indispensable to active listening. It demonstrates you’re truly interested and involved when someone is talking to you.
Establish your channel of communication
“Precision of communication is important, more important than ever, in our era of hair trigger balances, when a false or misunderstood word may create as much disaster as a sudden thoughtless act.” . . . James Thurber
We communicate in various ways, both verbally and nonverbally and construction communication is certainly no different. We text, we talk on the phone and in person, we send emails and some of us mysteriously still use a fax machine.
All methods of communication have their advantages and drawbacks. Choosing the right method can speed up and streamline the exchange of information.
As a busy construction professional, you might prefer a specific type of contact, such as phone calls, emails or even a particular software you are using.
At times, a quick email is all that’s needed whole other instances may demand a phone call or face-to-face meeting.
For example, if you can’t convey your email message in one or two short paragraphs, or if there ends up being a lot of back and forth, it may be time to pick up the phone or arrange a quick face-to-face meeting.
Additionally, for companies working on large industrial or commercial projects, you might want to pair up a client with a principal contact to make sure that both parties’ lines of communication are clear-cut and reliable at all times. One of the most frustrating things for a client is not knowing who to contact when things go wrong. “I’m panicking about the floorboards leaking . . .do I call Matt the carpenter, Nick the general contractor, Dale the plumber, or the moustache guy with the clipboard?”
With clients often finding it annoying in struggling to get a hold of a contractor or project manager, a primary contact removes the glitch and, more importantly, helps ensure both parties will stay accountable.
Use your smartphone to communicate when necessary
“Constantly talking isn’t necessarily communicating.” . . . Charlie Kaufman
In today’s technology-filled world, it probably comes as no surprise that there are tools you can use to help you communicate more effectively.
Before and after photos on your smart phone or similar projects help create reference points so clients can better appreciate the overall scale of the project.
Consider using short videos you shot on other jobs to describe complex parts of the process. For example, if you plan on removing a wall, showing the client a time-lapse video of one coming down helps them envisage what’s involved.
Don’t overlook apps that enhance your photo and video presentations. HOVER’s app lets anyone generate accurate, digital, 3D home reconstructions. Simply by taking a few photos with your smartphone, you can show clients what new siding and windows will actually look like and can even help determine how much material is needed.
Keep them in the loop
“Communication works for those who work at it.” . . . John Powell
Selecting the right communication channel and boosting the client experience with technology offers you the ability to keep clients in the loop.
During a long construction process, delays and setbacks should come as no surprise. The key to delivering the finest customer service for your client lies in regular communication and repeated updates.
An added facet in this step is being aware of the client’s needs when it comes to communication. Some customers fancy daily updates, while others favor less frequent chats. It’s up to you to discover what scheme your client likes better, and then to always be constant with this timetable throughout the complete construction process.
For added tips on effective client communication, visit http://customerthink.com/10-tips-for-effective-communication-with-customers/
As you can see, there are many reasons to really work and focus on your client communications. By listening, being proactive and personable, you are sure to be on your way to a fruitful client relationship. The only way to get better is to practice, practice, practice and your communication skills will inherently progress along the way.
PDDM Solutions invites you to contact them regarding most any issue you might face in your next construction project. Contact us at (724) 788-4040 or visit us at https://pddmsolutions.com/contact/