With An Eye-opening Process to Hold Contractors to a Higher Standard
I read a study years ago that ranked building contractors below used car salesmen. This might not be a bad thing if used car salesmen didn’t have a reputation of…shall we say…not putting the customer’s needs first.
For builders to have been ranked below used car salesmen was very confusing and more than a little disturbing.
Then realized that I viewed customers differently than a lot of builders. For me they aren’t just customers, a project or just a way to earn money. These people have put their trust in me to build them their dream.
Over the years as I have discussed building projects with a lot of people, the number of times that I have heard construction customers say, “It was the worst experience of my life” is unacceptable.
A construction project should be among the best experiences, not the worst.
Many people only get the opportunity to experience a construction project once, especially if it’s a large one like building a new home. This makes it even more critical that we as construction contractors serve every one of our customers in a professional manner.
In a previous post about construction contractor etiquette, I shared a story of a friend meeting with a plumber. While they were in the kitchen discussing the project, the plumber who was chewing tobacco spit tobacco juice in her sink. Not just once mind you, but 3-4 times! He at least had the courtesy to turn the water on and rinse out the sink.
When the customer told me this story, she was still surprised about this and the plumber…he didn’t even realize he had done anything wrong.
This kind of behavior is a problem and it’s no wonder that contractors have a worse reputation than used car salesmen.
Considering some situations that I’ve seen or heard, it is apparent that this problem needs our attention.
Whether it’s –
- Standing in a customer’s upholstered chair using it for a ladder
- Leaving an electric circuit turned off over the weekend which had a customer’s freezer plugged in to it
- Laying down after lunch and taking a nap on a customer’s couch
- Throwing food trash in the void behind a wall and leaving it
- Or…spitting tobacco juice in a customer’s sink
These kinds of things are unacceptable.
The level of expectations for construction contractors has gotten so low that these kinds of actions have become the norm.
The problem is the unawareness that there is a problem.
If this is going to change, we need to raise the bar. We’ve got to hold ourselves and each other, to a higher standard.
We need construction contractor etiquette.
The word etiquette doesn’t sound like a construction term. However, I think the definition of etiquette speaks to this issue perfectly. Etiquette is a code of ethical behavior regarding professional practice or action among the members of a profession in their dealings with each other and customers.
What would this code of ethical behavior look like for construction contractors?
It would be things that a professional builder would be expected to do:
- Communicate – Let the customer know what to expect. Return calls, send contracts in advance, sign papers in a timely manner. Remember that they don’t do construction everyday like you do.
- Listen – This is the most important part of communicating. You need to hear what the customer is saying. This is more than just their words. It means really listening to their hopes and desires and understanding their dreams.
- Be on time – Show up when you say you will. If you’re going to be late, call and let the customer know. Respect their time.
- Be responsive – Return communications in a reasonable amount of time. They just want to know that you hear them and care.
- Be accountable – If you or someone on your team make a mistake, own up to it. Don’t blame someone else. Keep the job site “clean”. Pick up your lunch trash and water bottles. Dust will be expected, but use plastic tarps, if possible, to contain the dust and/or clean areas if it gets out of hand. Be aware of landscaping. Don’t park in yards or walk on flowers or other plants. If it’s necessary to work in these areas, do it with respect.
Some of this content is from Construction Etiquette by Stefaney Rants.
We need to use the Golden Rule for contractors and treat construction customers the way they should be treated, not the way they normally are.
GOLDEN RULES FOR CONSTRUCTION CONTRACTORS
- If you open it, close it.
- If you turn it on, turn it off.
- If you unlock it, lock it up.
- If you break it, admit it.
- If you can’t fix it, call in someone who can.
- If you borrow it, return it.
- If you value it, take care of it.
- If you make a mess clean it up.
- If you move it, put it back.
- If it belongs to someone else and you want to use it, get permission.
- If you don’t know how to operate it, leave it alone.
- If it’s none of your business, stay out of it.
- If it will brighten someone’s day, say it.
- If it will tarnish someone’s reputation, keep it to yourself.
As professionals it is up to us to do something about this.
So, what are we going to do?
The first thing is to be aware of the problem. If we ignore it, it won’t go away; it will continue to get worse. This means that we need to hold each other accountable for our actions. As professionals, if we see something unacceptable being done, we need to call each other out with respect and in private. This isn’t about public humiliation. It’s about raising the bar. It’s about the customer.
In the second part of this series of posts, we’ll begin to look at the process for holding ourselves and each other to a higher standard.
Contractors get ready…the BAR IS BEING RAISED.