Mike Cook, production manager of Matt Plaskoff Construction, Tarzana, Calif., knows that misunderstandings can ruin the relationship his company has worked so hard to create with his high-end clients. To avoid this, Plaskoff project managers provide their clients with written, detailed minutes from each weekly meeting. "The benefits are many," Cook says. "First, these notes help us keep track of what has been done, decisions that have been made, and what items are still open. This serves as a reminder to the client that they have responsibilities, too. Second, it gives the client a chance to catch something that may have been misunderstood by either party or change their minds before tasks have begun. Third, because the salespeople only attend every other meeting, they can review the minutes for changes or unresolved issues and be prepared when they are at a meeting.

"And fourth, each week we gauge our client's level of satisfaction by either asking them to rank their satisfaction on a scale of one to 10 or by asking, 'If we were to ask you for a referral right now, what would you say about us?' Their answer goes right into the notes so we have a history of their attitude about us throughout the project."

Because Plaskoff projects typically last 12 months or more, Cook likes to have this ongoing rating. "If something goes wrong, that's what the client remembers. By keeping an ongoing record of their satisfaction level, I can go back in the notes and say, 'No, the whole project wasn't terrible. You were very happy throughout, except for that one week period.' It brings things back into perspective."

Before the meeting, the project manager comes into the office, creates an agenda, and works from that. After the meeting, the project manager is responsible for typing up the minutes and delivering them to the client via e-mail, fax, or hand delivery. "With this system, our clients feel we're on top of things at all times. And it's helped tremendously in making things go smoother and creating a better experience for our clients."

--Victoria Downing is president of Remodelers Advantage, Fulton, Md. (301) 490-5620, victoria@remodelersadvantage.com.