Four Steps to Awesome Service in Construction
“Service” is what businesses give their customers. We all have shops, restaurants and other businesses we like going into and spending our money with, because they are nice to us and give us good service. Others we avoid, because their service simply isn’t very good, and only use them in desperation. Now for Construction the “customers” are our Construction Clients, so how do we give them “Great Service”?
The first step is to make the decision that this is what your construction company is going to do. This has to start at the top and then be encouraged, enforced even, right down the ladder! It is equally important across the full range of construction activities, too! The house-holder getting some work done is probably living in a state of chaos. Making that worse, they know it is costing them money which may be a strain on their budget, but they also have fears that the finished works may not meet their expectations. How much better they feel if the lads working on their home treat them kindly and they feel their privacy isn’t being invaded but they have friends working on their home. If it is a major commercial fit-out of offices there is another problem. The client’s management responsible for getting everything up and running in their new premises are into “Operational Management”. They are suddenly stuck with “Change Management” and are usually out of their depth. I’ve had more than one HR Manager in tears on my shoulder because they didn’t think they could cope with all the problems change was causing!
Okay, having made the decision to give great service to the construction clients, as previously hinted, everyone in your business has to climb on board with the policy. Most people will do that, but some won’t. The non-compliant ones will fall into two categories; either they are emotionally incapable of seeming to be friendly to the strangers who are the client or they simply see them as cash-cows to be milked. These people can be problematic if they are tradesmen who probably have little direct interaction with the client’s people or totally counterproductive to giving great service if they are management and have lots of contact with their clients’ people. Whichever, they don’t fit into your corporate philosophy of offering great service in construction and need to be sent off to look for work elsewhere; in other word, fired!
The funny thing is with trying to provide great service is that it generates emotional connections between those working for your construction company and all the clients’ people. What does that mean and what is the result? All parties to the construction project enjoy what they are doing and have happy, smiling faces at work! The after-effects are good, too! I’ve called in just to have a look at jobs I’ve been involved in which I was proud of. Done it right and we get grabbed by their managers; shown all round; sat down to tea and cakes and get fussed over by all the pretty young women! On one accession a group of them started singing “Voulezvouscouchez avec moicesoir” to me. That was embarrassing because I knew what it meant, even if they didn’t! The colloquial translation of the French is “Fancy a sh*g then?”
So now we have to get this nice new corporate culture sunk into everyone’s heads on site. This is less simple for construction than for most types of businesses. That is because we walk on site and are joined by sub-contractors who probably aren’t’ as enlightened as we are! The way to do that is by training them, not always a quick and easy process! Oh course before the subbies are appointed they should have had it made clear to them that this is what is required, but the training has to continue on site. It has to be hammered home at every site meeting and hope that passes on down the line. It also means that the site management has to keep their eyes and ears open as they walk around the site. Anyone being a little rude and short with the client’s people has to be given a talking to. Explain to them that what we are doing is just routine work to us but to them it is chaotic, confusing and frightening; be as nice and supportive to themas you would be to your own familymembers. I was once slapped in the face by a client’s lady on site. She stepped backwards and I grabbed her by the waist and pulled her to me! Once she realised I’d saved her from being clobbered by a scaffold plank a guy was bringing through the door I was forgiven! She thought I was wonderful after that and came running to me with loads of her change management problems!
Now there is a great benefit to providing A Great Service to our construction clients! They like us and what we did for them and will want us back again when they have more construction projects! Repeat business is great for the balance sheet and annual profit figures!