The first and most important thing you need to build in a successful construction project is not the foundation or the framing, but TRUST with homeowners.
For many people in the construction industry, the most challenging part of a construction project has nothing to do with construction but rather with building client's trust, reducing conflict and providing the best experience for everyone.
Many homeowners have an inherent distrust of contractors due to their perception of the construction industry as being dishonest. No matter how much professional organizations like the NAHB and NARI have tried, there’s still this perception among the general public that the construction industry is dishonest. Too many people have seen those crazy reality TV shows about those rip-off contractors. There is a perception—and as we have all heard—that perception becomes reality.
As a Homeowners Rep, I work to effectively build client's trust, I think like a homeowner and as a result have a better understanding of a homeowner’s perspective.
There are two key components that are needed to build trust with your homeowner.
The first is COMMUNICATION. You need to explain to your homeowners the process of construction at the very beginning and then you need to continue to communicate throughout the project.
Communication has changed significantly during the pandemic. In our decades of working with residential contractors, we’ve always said that this industry has been slow to adopt new technologies, but the pandemic has forced us to find new ways to communicate with our clients and our staff.
Effectively using these new digital communication tools is critical in building trust with homeowners since the pandemic. Video conferencing has obviously become a daily part of our communication with our clients, whether it’s making a sales presentation, or design update or a project meeting. Everyone has become skilled at using Zoom, or Ring Central or any one of several others.
Messaging and chat applications have also become more critical during the pandemic. There’s so many effective ways to communicate with our clients besides emails or text messages and I encourage you to explore these new technologies. Especially now during the Pandemic, people are so hungry to have a personal connection with one another. Communication technologies like Slack or Loom allow you to send video email messages to clients.
During the design phase there are lots of great design tools like Chief Architect or Twinmotion and remote viewing tools like 360 cameras or Matterport.
The second key to building trust with your homeowner is DOCUMENTATION. The more information that a homeowner has about their project, the more they’re gonna trust you!
One of the best ways to accomplish both of these keys of COMMUNICATION and DOCUMENTATION is with a cloud-based Construction Project Management System. This is the most effective method to communicate and document everything in a construction project. It can provide what I call “signposts of trust” throughout the construction project.
There are several good systems out there like BuilderTrend, Co-Construct, ProCore and UDA Construction Online. I encourage you to explore any of these if you aren’t currently using a cloud based system.
Another pandemic reality that we have seen with homeowners is that the stress, anxiety and uncertainties of the pandemic have made it even more important to learn how to manage the emotions of a homeowner during a construction project. That’s why it is so important to have an understanding of the role that emotions play and steps for Managing the Emotional Rollercoaster homeowners experience.
After dealing with homeowners for 20 years and coaching a bunch of residential contractors, I’ve concluded that EMOTIONS create the biggest challenges in residential construction.
As an Owner's Rep, I educate my homeowner clients about the emotional roller coaster that they’ll be experiencing during their home construction project and how their emotions will rise and fall along the way, as their home construction project goes through each stage.
Now, how do we deal with the emotions our clients are experiencing? Well, you can anticipate how to deal with these emotions in advance, based on their tendencies. Make sure you have good language in your contract about change orders and talk to them about this in advance. Explain to them about the uncertainties of construction. Document things and get everything in writing.
Now you need to recognize that you can’t change your clients, you have to change to meet their tendencies. You have to change how you communicate and work with them during the project to address these tendencies. You need to adapt to your client, because they’re not going to adapt to you!