Managing Clients’ Expectations During COVID-19

By: Alissa Thompson | Wednesday, November 11, 2020

At the end of the day, it does not matter how good someone is at their job if they do not know how to effectively communicate with clients. Having clear communication can make or break a business, and is the key to fully understanding and managing expectations.

When it comes to ensuring clear communication, everyone’s idea is slightly different, and COVID-19 has presented its own set of unique obstacles to deal with. Determine how clients like to communicate, what methods they prefer and how often they would like to hear from the contractor. A client that wants updates daily is going to require much more time and attention than one that only wants to hear if something important comes up.

One of the most frustrating things for a client is not knowing the correct point of contact in their construction team or a lack of communication between members of that larger team. There are typically several people involved in a project and by choosing one point of contact, contractors avoid any miscommunication between themselves and the client. Once this contact is established, it is important to remember that every industry has its own list of industry jargon that is used during day-to-day communications. Using industry jargon can result in misunderstandings and differing expectations between the contractor and the client. Adjust language to effectively communicate. Sometimes clients might be too shy or embarrassed to ask for clarification, so never assume that they understand.

Technology is there so that the industry can use it to its advantage, which has become especially pertinent during COVID-19. While sketches and blueprints used to suffice, clients’ expectations are much higher now. Provide 3D renderings of the project in the beginning to really “wow” the client and help secure the project. This little touch will be what sets a contractor apart and ensures the client fully understands how everything is going to look. Following this, seek feedback from the client on things they liked and things they want to see changed. This will show them the contractor is open to feedback and what they have to say.

During the job, take photos as things progress or consider a real-time video walkthrough as an added bonus to update the client. This will give them the opportunity to speak up about something before getting too far into something and also provides the contractor with proof of work through the end. This is especially great if your clients are not in the area and lets them see firsthand how things are going. Due to COVID-19, fewer people are on jobsites at one time, and this includes clients. The client might not feel comfortable coming by the jobsite to check on the progress, so don’t leave them in the dark by assuming they will come by when they want to.

The pandemic has impacted the construction industry in a variety of different ways from increased cost of supplies to adjusting the size of teams on a jobsite. As things continue to change, the best thing contractors can do is remain in constant and clear communication with clients. Remain transparent about the challenges. Oftentimes, these challenges will push out completion dates and, in turn, cost the client more money. If contractors do not communicate these hurdles to the client, they will be in for a nasty surprise when the client sees the timeline extended again and the invoice higher than expected. The last thing contractors want to do is end up in a lawsuit over something that could have been easily avoided, tarnishing their reputation.

While the construction industry has been changed by COVID-19, the most important thing to remember is to not leave clients in the dark. With evolving information from government officials and organizations regarding safety protocols in the industry, construction companies and subsidiaries have had to adjust how they operate in every aspect. During a time when we are physically distant, remaining in communication with clients is more important than ever before. Contractors never know who will refer them to a friend or which project will be the start of an incredible partnership. Word of mouth is everything these days, showing that the power of communication extends far beyond the completion of a project.