I’ve been talking for a long time about the importance of a great client experience. I got some insight recently that reinforces what I’ve been trying to get across to Production teams all over the country.
I was with a contractor who’s having his own house built. He is subbing it out, not trying to have his team build for him. We walked up to the site on a Friday afternoon, after the crew had left for the day. The lumber, I-joists, and various other materials were spread across the yard. We went inside, walking on a 12-inch I-joist laid flat, propped in the middle with a 2×4. There were a lot of nail strips left all around — so many I wanted to pick them up! I saw an LVL header in the second-floor floor framing that didn’t completely span an opening below.
Looking for Problems
We started discussing the problems. This led us to look deeper into the construction, questioning any number of things. I’m concerned about what is to come, and will advise the contractor to get a level out and check every wall for plumb, check the square of every room, nail patterns, and everything else!
All of these concerns can be fixed, but what’s the cost in client confidence? As we drove away, he said, “I guess I have to be more diligent in my inspection of the work.”
This made me think of our clients.
Erasing Doubt Up Front
We often complain about how clients pick at and question everything. In many cases we are the cause. Perhaps we think the client doesn’t know much about construction, so we can let things slide. Or our standard practices leave a little to be desired from a client’s perspective. The client sees or feels that something is not quite right — and begins the process of thinking “I guess I have to be more diligent in my inspection of the work”.
After they brood on this for a few days, especially if the work is not corrected quickly, they become an inspector of every detail. This culminates in an ongoing punch list!
Every client has a friend, relative, or acquaintance that “knows about remodeling.” No matter if we like it or not, we have to please the client and that other person. Complaining about that person does very little. After all, he’s just an engineer!
In my case, the contractor does have a friend that really knows what he’s talking about. Me. We can’t afford to dismiss the impact of the job-site visit by a friend — it’s going to happen. Who will the client listen to? Always the friendly voice in the ear, not the person he hired. That starts the worrying, and the client’s thoughts are now on everything that could go wrong — regardless of how good we are overall.
The lesson here is everything on a job has to be top-notch, every minute of every day. YOu can’t allow the doubt to creep in. Quality of work, job site conditions, and communication all must be the best you can do, or you may ignite the “inspector” in your client. Or worse yet — in their friend!
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