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Construction Management: Why the Customer Might Not Always Be Right

2 Women talking on 1 side of a table while facing a 3rd woman.

When managing a construction project tailored to a specific individual or firm, it may be difficult for architects, general contractors or other experts in charge to comply with the every need and want the customer has. Some changes ordered by the client might mean more costs, more time, or it may even damage the edification itself. Thus, patience, negotiation skills and perseverance are key for the successful completion of your construction project. Follow these criterion to get you back on track and on your client's good side. 

First meetings are crucial

When you are at the beginning of your relationship with your client, first meetings are crucial. Act as a sponge: listen and write down all of what the client wishes to achieve in this project. What will the construction's main objective be? Is this a commercial or residential project? What is the time and budget your client has in mind in order to complete the assignment? Start your work from the answers to these questions. Don't be afraid to get as much feedback from your client as possible.

Limit the number of revisions before handing in the final construction design

Your first draft is of course not the final design. There will be several changes and this is, as you may know by now, normal. However, make sure to limit the number of drafts you will be handing in, the number of meetings or set a specific deadline upon which a final decision should be reached. 

Signed documents as proof of design acceptance

Once the client is happy with the construction's design, and agrees with the schedule and budget, a statement of work should be signed. This will ensure that both parties are clear on expectations and deliverables. As time goes by, you will find it very useful to check back on this document, and present it as evidence should it be necessary. 

Changes need time, budget and clarification

The moment of truth arrives more than once throughout your project's life cycle. There will be several times in which the client might want changes which may include new features, different colors, spaces, or more. Many a construction firm or professional falls into the trap of saying "yes" to everything for fear of losing the client if the answer is different. Make sure to evaluate the client's requests, measure exactly how those changes will alter your project's scope or budget, and make sure to communicate that to your client. This is a great time to go back to the signed statement of work if need be. Should the changes be accepted by the client with all the extra work, time and resources involved, then you can easily include them as an addendum to your document. 

"Impossible" changes

There are times in which the client's wants just cannot be met. Different reasons may make it impossible to fulfill these requests, nevertheless it is extremely important that you make this clear to the client. Make sure you are not sending the wrong message and making them think your are either not trained or unwilling to make the changes. Have a conversation with them about the implications so that they can understand the situation. This is how you learn to say no, and the client learns more about their own project, its limitations and possibilities. 

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