To keep up with change orders and to address client issues, Halsey Platt asked his project managers to meet with clients every two weeks. These meetings address the bigger picture, beyond the day-to-day details covered in weekly meetings. The president of Walter H. B. Platt Architect-Remodelers-Cabinetmakers ( Big50 2000) in Groton, Mass., says that adding these meetings has increased client satisfaction and spurred his project managers to be timely with their communication and paperwork. At weekly meetings, project managers cover specific details about the project such as location of outlets. Big-picture meetings take place every other week about a half-hour before the weekly meetings. After the meeting, project managers write a summary, sign it, and send it to the clients for their signature. At big-picture meetings, the team addresses four items:
- Is the client pleased with the work so far? Platt points out that many contractors are uncomfortable asking this question. “[With a meeting every other week] if a client says ‘I'm frustrated about this,' you can address it and only 2 weeks have gone by,” he says.
- Has there been anything in the last 2 weeks that the client or we, the contractor, expects will change the cost of the project? Asking this question helps clients understand how weekly change orders add to the bottom line.
- Has anything occurred that will affect the schedule? This question reminds project managers to communicate. “If they know the plaster is delayed by three days,” Platt says, “they address it with clients instead of just hoping to make up time in the end.”
- Is the client up to date on product selections? This helps clients stay on track, address any product issues, and reminds them that selection delays cause project delays.
Platt points out that if project managers were consistent about paperwork, these meetings would not be necessary. On larger projects, the director of production attends the meeting to add a higher level of review.
Platt believes it is the contractor's responsibility to set and re-set client expectations; otherwise the client may be rightfully frustrated. And his clients appreciate addressing the same four questions. “There are so many details,” Platt adds, “it's easy to get mired down and lose sight of the big picture.”