When you’re on the job, it’s easy to forget that you’re building for someone, maybe even several people. Like any other business, there’s a customer and seller involved in every transaction. While you may not be directly responsible for the sale of a property or project, you are still beholden to the customer.
That’s precisely why expectation management is a huge and often overlooked element of modern construction. It touches upon everything from the timeline of the project to customer expectations and the quality of the work provided.
Expectation management is a formal and professional process that calls for understanding, measuring, and integrating customer or client expectations. It is ingrained in the success of any construction project.
Why Does Expectation Management Matter?
Expectation management is crucial because it establishes a communication framework or channel across the entire project team. To meet client expectations, there must be a proper status reporting system, with open communication about progress, performance, and results. Perception matching makes up about 44% of any project, while the other 56% requires working out.
The idea is simple; however, executing the necessary processes is anything but. Initial planning, development and action, performance monitoring, and quality control are all instrumental to proper expectation management.
How to Establish a Strong System
Creating a strong expectation management system requires integration at nearly every stage of a construction or development project.
Build Strong Relationships with Clients
The core goal is to make the customer happy and meet all expectations. That can only happen if there’s strong communication and support between the contractors and the client. Step one is establishing that bond and maintaining open communication with active listening and realistic discussions. It’s not the time to over-promise or exaggerate.
From time to time, clients may propose or expect things that are impractical or unrealistic. It’s important to point that out and to ground them in reality.
Establish Open Communication
Communication should flow freely from client to management and then to on-site employees and supervisors. Most importantly, the communication should be honest, and it should highlight both the good and bad about a project. Sometimes, it’s more important to share the bad news so that everyone can be involved in finding a fast, reliable solution.
If and when the communication fails, expectations will most certainly be missed or neglected, which could result in a complete project failure.
Plan Accordingly with Strict Timelines
With the communication channels and relationships established, proper planning can begin. It’s important to merge the specifications of a build or project with client expectations and also to work together to find alternatives whenever applicable. Agreements should be met on strategies, goals, timelines, and milestones.
It’s also the time to establish a secondary plan of action if and when certain goals cannot be met. Do you continue working regardless? Do you restart minor projects from before the setback? Do you halt progress and await the client’s assessment?
Moreover, you must work directly with the client to identify potential subcontractors that will be involved. Some clients may have a problem with certain contractors because of budget constraints, active policies, or even waste handling — eco-friendly initiatives are preferred nowadays. Don’t fret about this too much, as there are ways to work together to find good subcontractors for a project or business endeavor.
Oversee the Progress
Once the project begins, management must act as a buffer between the client and the workers. The idea is to take information and insight from the client, process it, and deliver it to workers in both the language and context they will understand.
That does not mean the workers cannot understand the client. They probably could. Instead, the idea is to interpret client expectations so they’re in a more accessible format and then apply them to individual tasks and milestones. It is your job as key management to direct those workers and to shape the project to meet the customer’s demands.
Be Ready for Missteps
It helps if backup strategies are developed during the initial planning, but even the best-prepared teams are going to encounter unforeseen problems from time to time. Both you and your crew should be prepared for setbacks, accidents, and mishaps of nearly any form. When that happens, it’s not only going to affect you but also the client. Managing and maintaining the client relationship and strong communication, even through bad experiences, is critical to a successful project.
Some of the most difficult mistakes to explain will be the more commonly avoided problems. For example, drywall should always be mounted horizontally to reduce seams. Failure to do so may warrant a discussion with the client, especially if they have construction experience. This is where strong communication and customer service skills will come in handy, even in the construction industry.
Monitor the Budget
Ideally, the client will have a workable budget with plenty of room to maneuver. That doesn’t always happen, however. Budgets can change over time too, which means the initial budget might shrink, constraining work, plans, and outcomes.
Having a proper system in place is crucial to tapering client expectations and sometimes even demands. This is where it pays to remain honest throughout the entire ordeal because you may have to inform them something isn’t working, or a certain milestone just cannot be met.
Client Expectations Are Priority One
No matter how much experience and knowledge you have of the industry, your client’s expectations will remain one of the most critical elements of any construction or development project. You are, essentially, creating something for them.
Establishing a strong bond with that client is the first step to creating a proper expectation management system. You must remember to be honest, straightforward, and understanding, even if something they’re proposing seems impractical. Next, you’ll need an open line of communication, with active support across the entire team, from management to workers on the front lines. That includes a system for interpreting messages back and forth between the client and the rest of the team.
From there, it’s about proper planning, which incorporates common expectation management elements — like goals, timelines, and milestones. Beyond that, you’ll need to oversee progress and manage client and team relations, prepare for mishaps or setbacks and monitor the project budget to stay within the client’s boundaries.
With the right strategies in place, what seems like a lot to manage instantly becomes much simpler. Over time, it may even become more natural to you and your team.
This is a guest post from Renovated.