How to Set Proper Expectations with Clients
Change orders shouldn’t be the bane of your existence as a builder, but they often are. A single change order that falls through the cracks or one misunderstanding with a client could end up costing you. In the custom home building and remodeling space, you could be dealing with tens of thousands of dollars in lost profits.
It’s inevitable, change orders are going to happen. But the good news is they don’t have to be bad experiences. Instead of cursing every time a change order comes in, relax and set yourself up to save time and money while boosting your reputation as the builder who is easy to work with.
Here are six pro tips from experts in the industry who have been managing change orders for decades:
1. Bad News Does Not Get Easier with Time
Your clients probably dislike change orders almost as much as you. In their minds, it means their dream home just got more expensive. Even though you don’t relish the thought of having a tough conversation about money with your client, putting it off will only make things worse.
If your change order is the result of unexpected circumstances, weather-related costs, or something simply out of your control, don’t avoid it. Confirm the project scope, document it thoroughly, and present it to your client quickly. Don’t fear the change order. Deal with it.
2. Be Ready at Any Given Moment
So your client just changed the color of the bathroom tiles from beige to sand. Don’t make the mistake of mentally logging this away for later, no matter how confident you are in your ability to recall the smallest details. Get it in writing immediately while the conversation is still fresh!
If you’re keeping track of details for your job in anything that you can’t keep within arm’s length at any given time (so, basically, if it’s not your phone or tablet) you’re likely to miss things or have things fall through the cracks. At any given moment, you should be ready to grab your phone and punch in new information immediately.
3. Get a Signature
By recording information while the client is still in front of you, you can avoid that sticky and potentially expensive situation when the client says, “I said tan, not sand!” Don’t put yourself in a situation where it’s your word versus your client’s word. Get a signature before you let the conversation end.
If they see a progress photo and want to make a change remotely, no problem. You can issue a change order from a construction management app and get your client to sign off electronically. This makes everything black and white, eliminating any gray area that could potentially harm your relationship with your client or even damage your reputation.
4. Adjust on the Go
Now that the change order has been made, any number of details could need adjusting. If you’re keeping track of schedules, budget, delivery dates, and installations in a notebook, you’re not doing yourself any favors. Project management software is designed to accelerate the momentum of your job, so a change order doesn’t end up monopolizing your time.
Let the software do the adjusting for you. It locks in your change order, adjusts the budget and schedule automatically, and gives you the ability to notify everyone who will be affected by this change with the touch of a button.
5. Communicate Quickly
Your whole crew needs access to the most up-to-date info for your job, and you need to be able to confirm that they’ve seen and understood the change. With a construction project management solution, automated notifications and confirmations make sure you don’t get stuck on the phone all day calling eight different people to tell them the same thing.
With the right software you can save yourself half a day of adjusting and calling around, and you be confident that the message has reached all the right people with simple confirmations from the recipient.
6. Make Sure You Have the Right Tools
Even seasoned builders fall into bad habits because they’re busy. Doing it the right way takes time, but it doesn’t have to take that long. Having the right tools to get the job done quickly and effectively is critical.
Technology can be a game-changer, especially when it’s designed for your industry by builders who understand your everyday needs. A construction project management app can save you from messy situations, forgetting small but important details, and spending all your time repeating simple updates to your team.
You can cross all these best practices off your list with construction project management software. Once you have a tool in place, you can save yourself countless hours of adjustments, phone calls, and headaches.
We put together our Custom Builder’s Toolkit to help you handle situations just like this. Download our free tip sheet on effective change order management to find out how a construction project management app can simplify change orders, so you no longer have to worry when they inevitably come in.