It Should Be Focused On Helping the Customer Realize THEIR Dream
Over the last few days I have been reminded of how important good communication is. There are two separate instances that have come to my attention that confirm this. One situation is of an individual who had been given a price for a project and then after they were already started doing their part (pouring the concrete) found out the price for the building was more than expected. The second was someone who had a project done with no agreement in writing. Once the project was almost completed there were some quality issues. This left them (both the customer and the contractor) in a place where they felt cheated. The contractor billed for work done and wasn’t getting paid. The customer felt that the work is below standard and couldn’t get the contractor to come back and fix it. As is usually the case there are several extenuating circumstances in both of these situations and both sides had legitimate viewpoints. Both projects could have had less problems if there had been clearer communication in the beginning.
It has been my experience that there are differing opinions on how much detail should be included in the communication between customer and contractor. The bottom line is that it needs to be enough so that all parties involved know what to expect. Rarely have I known small to midsized contractors to spend the time and effort to include very many details. I understand, it takes time, sometimes a lot. The question I think we should ask is; is it better to spend the time communicating before the project starts or wait until later when there’s a problem and everybody’s upset?
On the other side there is the possibility of too much information and the customer being confused and feeling lost (I know, it’s hard to believe that I just wrote that). Often large commercial contracting firms and architects are on this side (not that this is necessarily wrong). I recently was aware of a commercial project that I think the communication was overly complicated. There were forty-one pages of drawings and a spec book over 1” thick. With all of that information the customer was overwhelmed and unclear about the project. Don’t get me wrong I like details and information. I think it is essential to good communication. The problem is that if there is too much or it isn’t clear the customer still is uniformed and lost.
Ultimately this process should be about helping the customer to find, know and get their dream project done. I have lost count of the number of times that I have heard customers say that a building project they had done was the worst experience they ever had. How sad is this? They were looking forward to having some new exciting project done and then they are left with feelings of regret. I think there’s a balance between the two extremes. I think that balance is different for different people. This is where the real challenge is, finding the sweet spot for those involved.
There is a lot to take into account for good communication, but the first thing is, ask some questions and listen to the answers. As a contractor don’t go into a project with your preconceived ideas of what the customer wants. Find out what THEY want and HELP THEM BUILD IT.