At mark IV Builders, our weekly client meetings help avoid angering clients over small issues. But during the weeks of construction, something will inevitably go wrong (see below for examples of the “small” things we’ve forgotten). It’s how you handle these problems that clients remember.
How To Respond
Involve the client: We try to avoid these issues by involving clients in the solutions for interruptions to their services. We’ve found that clients are more likely to buy into the solution if they’re part of the decision. For example, we ask clients to think about how they’re going to do laundry during a longer project. Most opt for having us reconnect the washer/dryer every Friday so they can be used over the weekend, but one client preferred to use a Laundromat.
Make communication easy: Rules for communication are defined during the pre-construction meeting and hand-off to production. This helps set client expectations. During the weekly meeting, we ask that clients hold their questions until the end because we find we usually address their concerns as the meeting progresses. We give all clients our cell, office, and home numbers during the pre-construction meeting, instructing them to only use the home number in emergencies. I also program clients’ numbers into my phone, so when I get a call at 6 p.m. on a Friday, I know it’s them and it’s probably important. However, we also tell clients that our crew has permission to respond to a call by saying, “I’m sorry, but this is not an emergency. I’ll put it on the list and take care of it the next scheduled workday.”
Respond promptly: If we do make a mistake, we take care of it right away, even if it means having a superintendent, a sub, me, or the company owner respond to fix the problem after-hours. Even once we’ve resolved the issue, we will address it and apologize again during the weekly meeting.
Show you care: Our company culture is all about building relationships with clients and treating people as we would want to be treated. Most clients just want to know you care. We’ve put up a client in a hotel because we couldn’t get their whole-house power back on. Through these efforts, we build strong, trusting relationships. We have spare keys for many clients, and they come by to borrow them if they’ve locked themselves out of the house.
—Andy Hannan is production manager of Mark IV Builders, in Bethesda, Md.