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Building Relationships: Educating Customers for Successful Contracting

Contractors discussing plans

Interacting with customers can be one of the best - and worst - parts of being a successful contractor. On one hand, you get to see the delight on your customer's faces as a hulking framework of lumber, masonry and steel is transformed into the beautiful architectural rendering of their dreams. On the other hand, however, are those less than pleasant experiences that threaten to test the wits, and patience, of even the most dedicated contractor.

If you are a contractor who finds they are nodding along while reading this, here are three of the most common causes of tension between contractors and their customers, and some helpful advice on how to deal with it.

Unrealistic Budgets and Timelines

Left to their own devices, customers often set unrealistic timelines and budgets for their building projects. Often, these are set as an attempt to make other areas of their lives mesh more easily, such as trying to ensure that one house is ready for occupancy before moving out of another.

While these situations are understandable, they may not take into account issues that directly affect the construction project. Timely delivery of materials, sub-contractor schedules and weather are just a few of the problems that can cause significant delays in the completion date.

Likewise, unexpected changes to the original agreement, such as design changes or wanting to use different materials can cause both delay and added expense. 

Helpful Tip: Contractors can help prevent complaints and lessen changes that will cause delays by by having a frank conversation with the customers before agreeing to take the job. Add specific language to the contract that outlines what work is to be done, what materials will be used and what measures you will take to address delays, so that all expectations for both contractor and customer can be formally agreed upon prior to starting the project.

Keeping the Site Clean and Quiet

Recycling drywall or gypsum boardThe normal dust, dirt and debris generated by a building project can surprise and annoy customers who may not be familiar with the process. This problem becomes even worse when customers live on or near the site while the work is being done. In addition, the noise of hammers, drills and machinery at all hours of the day can be unsettling.

Helpful Tip: This is another area where contractors should openly discuss how the site will look during each phase, and what measures are being taken to keep it as clean and quiet as possible. For example, explain how using rollaway dumpsters and good housekeeping policies on the site will help to ensure that workers keep the area as neat and clean as possible during all phases of construction.

To help alleviate concerns about noise, consider the customer's needs when setting work hours for the job, if at all possible. Often complaints about noise cease when customers know that nights and weekends will be quiet, but be sure to let them know that scheduling issues may require working Saturdays or longer days later, if a problem arises during the project.

Dealing With the Helpful Customer

While contractors typically welcome interaction with their customers and look forward to their site visits, customers who insist on becoming one of the crew can be difficult to deal with. In addition, this can be a liability issue for the contractor, should the customer or one of their friends or family become injured on the job site.

Helpful Tip: Have an open discussion with the customer about site safety and what your crew needs to operate safely and efficiently. Explain your concerns about allowing non-employees to assist or handle machinery and tools on the site. Consider having your insurance agent draft a notice that explains why this type of help is not a good idea, and give customers a copy with their contract.

Setting proper expectations for the entire project during the first meeting with customers is the best way to ensure a pleasant and profitable building project for the contractor and complete satisfaction for the customer.


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Photo credit: USACE Europe District / Foter / CC BY

Sources:

https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3252/3252.html

http://theconstructor.org/practical-guide/general-safety-issues-in-construction-site/5684/

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Wallboard Supply Company is a third generation, family run business that has been serving New England's building needs since 1970. Bob Filion started the company with a commitment to provide quality drywall and finishing products with unmatched customer service. The company has grown over the years, expanding its' product range, but never wavering from its' core values.