Construction Project Management, Managing Customer Expectations

We’ve all been there—you meet a prospective customer for the first time and it seems like a perfect match.  You’re both excited for the project to start (more so for it to be completed on the customer’s end).  Proposal and bid phase work out well, and you’re hired!  If they were all this easy you think…then you arrive at either a project bump or customer decision time—and the relationship between you and the customer is tested.

Challenging Change Orders

I think the question isn’t whether most projects have change orders but rather how many change orders you receive on average.  From changing a stain color our counter top to moving electrical boxes or plumbing, adapting to change is or will become the most desirable skill of general contractors and project managers.

Receiving change requests from customers is to be expected—when you conclude a project you move on, yet the customer lives or works in that space day after day, so preferences are refined and redefined with every step of the project.  The difficulty begins with the timeline and budget discussion.  Moving from marble to formica countertops, or a downgrade in hardware will generally reduce costs, but adjusting the design or moving infrastructure already spec’d or installed will always come at a price, and may extend the project timeline.

The best time to set expectations is right at the outset of the discussion, before a re-bid has taken place.  Communicate with the client that the changes requested will require more work or have a lead time on a made-to-order materials such as finished surfaces.  Then, once you’ve had a chance to talk with your vendors and subcontractors and receive updated bids, put the changes—original and revised—in writing for them, and it’s helpful to also email the document to them to receive a date stamp on that change.

Subcontractor Availability

When a change is made to the project, it will likely impact the timeline of the subcontractor(s) involved in that phase.  Most general contractors opt to find quality specialist subcontractors for various trades, from framing to plumbing, to electrical, to HVAC.  Since they are most commonly independent or small businesses as well, you’re probably not the only general contractor they work for.  Shifting more than a couple days can mean your project is now slotted after another customer of theirs.  Communicate this impact to the customer, not to frustrate or steer them from making the change, but rather to set the expectation for that phase of the work to be completed.

At the end of the day, your job as a general contractor and project manager becomes less about the building and more about orchestration and managing expectations.  As we’ve said in the past, it’s helpful to find and hire dependable vendors and subcontractors to keep your job site running smoothly, on time and on budget.  If you’re looking for a dependable construction fence rental company in the Chicagoland, So. Wisconsin or NW Indiana region, give us a call or request your quote online.

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