Construction communication. It’s a critical component of any construction project— and it’s the easiest thing to get wrong.
While collaboration is essential in any industry, the significant role it plays in construction cannot be understated. Poor communication between team members can equate to losses of thousands— or even millions— of dollars. Furthermore, poor communication on job sites can lead to safety hazards, leading to injury, or even casualty.
Plus, the emotional involvement of project owners or clients can complicate things. Design and budget misunderstandings can cause payment delays, lawsuits, and possible client loss.
Even the best project managers have found themselves battling ‘the boundary’ — that gap in understanding between the construction team and your client. Do they fully understand the timelines, costs, and technicalities of their project? Are they feeling confident and comfortable from the first meeting up to the project handover? Do they understand that you don’t directly control the weather? Does your client know why delays happen or accept the potential risks involved?
If your answer is no to all the questions above, chances are you need to work on your communication with your client. No need to panic because, in this blog, we will show you six strategies in which you can improve your communication skills as a construction professional, leading to satisfied clients, a good reputation, and a booming business.
1. First Impression Lasts: Establish Credibility
Your first client meeting should establish a foundation of trust. They want to feel confident assured that you’re the right contractor for the job. This is not the time for humility— make sure you tell them the similar projects you’ve worked on before. Show them your construction work portfolio and explain how those previous project successes are not so different from what you’re about to build.
The importance of early impressions can’t be stressed enough. The trust you instill in your client now will set the foundation for the whole project. If they’re convinced of your skills and expertise, they’re more likely to deal with future issues or delays in good faith. Similarly, if you come across as inexperienced or uncertain, you’ll end up with a nervous and anxious client looking over your shoulder for the whole project lifecycle.
2. Don’t Use Construction Jargons
Yes, we know that construction is your life’s passion. Construction is the love of your life. You live and breathe this jargon every day. When communicating to a client, it’s easy to unconsciously drop terms like curing, C-channels, and dowel bars. But do your clients understand in the slightest what you’re speaking?
Excessive technical terms and jargon can dampen an otherwise positive client experience that applies to all industries. However, you’re particularly at risk in specialized fields like construction. There are millions of terms that seem normal to construction workers, engineers, and designers that would boggle the mind of an ordinary person.
Using construction jargon when speaking to a non-industry client is dangerous for two reasons:
a. It hinders clarity. Your client is less likely to absorb the details of their project, and they may feel too embarrassed to ask for an explanation. This can cause severe problems down the road when the outcomes are not what they expect.
b. It’s poor manners. Even if you’re doing it subconsciously, too much use of construction jargon can seem intentional— like you’re trying to look more knowledgeable than your client. You’re likely to appear arrogant or inconsiderate in your client’s POV.
The longer you’ve been in the construction game, the harder it is to identify your use of jargon. However, like any bad habit, it can be cut off with a bit of perseverance.
3. Name Only One Contact Person
One of the most frustrating feelings for a client is not knowing who the contact person is when things go wrong. The roof is leaking—should II call the carpenter, the general contractor, the plumber, or the foreman?
It’s a big problem in the construction industry because too many parties are involved, even on small projects. Site supervisors, suppliers, contractors, subcontractors, trade contractors… Things get more complicated when designers and consultants join the party. The question is who answers to who?
The construction team hierarchy is usually written in project contract details, which is critical for all team members to function efficiently. What’s usually forgotten is that your client may not be confused with this internal chain of command, especially if they haven’t read the detailed print.
With this in mind, it’s best practice to give your client a single contact person. This individual should hold some authority, be willing to feed information to the team and make difficult decisions. Establish platforms for the client to reach them.
This is not just about business convenience. Once your client has a single contact person, they’re more likely to feel at ease and believe that everything’s going smoothly (even if there’s internal chaos!). It helps you to keep your responses consistent and on time if there’s a misunderstanding.
4. Listen With Intention to Understand
Do you consider yourself a good listener? The universal truth is that most people aren’t. In some ways, technology worsens this by simplifying our communication habits— how often do you send emails, texts, and emojis instead of a spoken face-to-face conversation?
Having acknowledged this problem, many professional companies now offer training in ‘active listening.’ With active listening, you genuinely focus on the speaker and process what they’re saying instead of letting your consciousness wander somewhere else.
Active listening is critical for good client management in the construction business. Usually, by listening to your clients, you can solve arising problems and prevent conflict. Poor listening skills have ruined plenty of relationships and even professional ones.
Here are some active listening tips you can incorporate in your client interactions in your construction business:
- Some people take a longer time than others to process information. Speak slowly and try to talk at the same speed.
- Subtly mirror their expressions and gestures. Not in a scary mime way, but just enough to show them understanding and empathy.
- Ask follow-up questions to clarify information and show attentiveness. Don’t interrupt- always wait for a natural pause.
- Make eye contact to show them you’re attentive. Don’t overdo it though, gauge the right amount.
- Paraphrase or summarize what they’ve said and repeat it back to them. This shows you understand or gives them a chance to correct you when needed. Repeating information back to any person ensures you’re both on the same page. It might feel weird at first, but you’ll avoid any potential misunderstandings by following this simple step.
5. Establish the Rules Of Engagement
Setting rules of engagement in a business sense is establishing professional standards for efficient behavior and communication.
Why do these rules need to be set? Because all clients have varied communication expectations. One client may need to be updated by phone at least five times a day, and another cannot be bothered and only expect an update once everything is done.
Whichever type of client is present to be, you need to establish this from the get-go so no one is disappointed. Here are some good points to discuss from the start of the project:
- How frequently does the client expect progress reports and updates?
- What project information do you need from the client, and when?
- Who is the contact person for the client?
- What platform of communication will you use?
- Are there specific hours or times of day when both parties don’t want contact?
6. Show Transparency
You’re can almost see the horizon— the end of the construction project. The building looks good, everything went according to the plan, and client communication was very efficient. Then you hand them the total bill, and their world suddenly turns upside down. A spontaneous surprise on a client’s invoice is terrible news for both your company and your client. It can damage your business’s reputation in a heartbeat.
Why do these surprises take place? Because delays and unexpected expenses are a natural part of the construction industry. You already know the thousands of things that can go wrong in this line of work- subcontractors mysteriously disappear, suppliers fall through, schedules lengthen, even the weather can cause delays on your project timeline. Fortunately, most clients accept this and don’t expect everything to go 100% smoothly.
Now on a complex project, how can you monitor all of every little cost and every minute involved in a construction project?
The answer is quite simple—invest in a trusted construction management software, and it does the work for you. Pro Crew Schedule is your holy grail tool for managing all the little of your construction projects. All the project stakeholders, including the owner, will be on the same page regarding what is happening every step in real-time—it’s the final stage of smooth communication.