Every construction job is a machine with many moving parts. Teams have to be in sync to stay on track with the projected timeline, but client happiness is also crucial. Not fully understanding what's happening and why could lead to distrust in the company.
The average client won't grasp the complexities of construction, so managers and team leaders must take responsibility and hone their communication skills. When clients know the realities of costs, risks and potential technicalities, the project will be easier for everyone involved.
Here are seven essential tips for client communication in the construction industry. They'll help every company work with happier clients and earn repeat business opportunities founded on trust.
1. Skip the Buzzwords
When a person's life and job revolves around construction, the buzzwords and jargon become a second language. Girders, I-beams and balloon framing are a natural part of the business, but clients will likely never have heard these terms before. When they come up in discussions about a project, the last thing anyone wants is glazed eyes and repeated questions.
If there's no way around terms and industry phrases, pausing to ask for questions is an invaluable tool. It opens the door for clients to seek clarification, especially individuals who would otherwise remain silent out of embarrassment.
2. Reference Your Credibility
Trust is a major part of communication. When a client doesn't believe a contractor or manager has the skills to do the job, they'll question every conversation. When meeting with new clients, display a digital portfolio of past jobs similar to what they want. This will reassure them they've hired the right crew.
3. Teach Active Listening
Listening and active listening produce very different results. Every team member should learn how to listen actively, which helps them retain information and hone into client concerns. Ask nonjudgmental questions about what they want, maintain eye contact and paraphrase what they've said at the end of meetings to ensure everyone is on the same page.
4. Assign One Team Member
Construction managers are no strangers to juggling multiple teams at one time. It's an industry reliant on employees and contractors coming together to finish a project, but that may mean clients work with multiple people at once. Since everyone has different communication styles, essential details could get lost along the way and frustrate everyone involved.
It's smart to assign one team member as the point of contact for each client. They'll keep in touch with their needs and concerns, then translate them to everyone else. This person will navigate the business hierarchy so the right information always gets to the people who can make executive decisions.
5. Remember Basic Terms
Refreshing the team on basic terminology will help everyone get on the client's level. It prevents miscommunication or misunderstandings. Review any related construction terms the client may not know and ensure that everyone understands the basic design styles, so customers can confirm or adjust their expectations with the right terminology. Some people may need a brief, informal education on the basics to communicate what they want from the final project.
6. Make Things Visual
Visual technology breaches the gap when clients don't understand something. Show them that they've invested their money in the best team possible with 3D representations and CGI graphics. The futuristic software programs offer free trials and paid upgrades, so after management finds their preferred software, they can use it to show clients exactly what they're paying for.
7. Establish Engagement Rules
Another communication issue that may arise is when a client expects frequent updates and the team doesn't provide them. At the beginning of any new project, team leaders should establish engagement rules that clearly define what the client can expect. They may prefer daily email updates over phone calls or specifics on one part of the project instead of another.
Ask what they want to know and how they'd like the information presented so they have control over communication standards.
Remain Transparent and Reachable
Whether everything goes well or the smallest complications arise, transparency with a client should always be a top priority. If they trust that their point of contact is reachable and honest, they'll understand if delays occur because of weather, no-show contractors or a lack of supplies. These seven essential tips for client communication will provide a solid foundation for every project and a path forward in any circumstance.