Good communication is vital in any relationship and any industry. However, not everyone can do it well, and when it comes to construction, not-so-good communication can result in increased costs, schedule delays, and even safety-related issues. This means we have a responsibility to clients, project team members, and ourselves to prioritize good communication at every step during a construction project.
Contractor-Client Communication Keys:
“Effective communication is quite more than an exchange of information. When done right, communication fosters understanding, strengthens relationships, improves teamwork, and builds trust.” – Liz Papadopoulos, Host of Professional Speaking
How we communicate with clients is just as important as the quality of the work we do. Good communication leads to long-lasting relationships and repeat business. It leads to trust and understanding when issues arise. Poor communication can cause confusion, increased costs, and lack of future work. CLARITY and FLEXIBILITY are main factors in improving client relationships and go a long way when following these communication best practices.
Build a foundation.
- Clients want to feel assured they have the right contractor for the job. Early in the relationship is not the time to be humble. Discuss similar projects worked on. Explain how previous successes relate to this project’s construction goals. The confidence you instill will set the tone for the entire project and whether the client trusts you to manage the project or nervously looks over your shoulder.
Dedicate a primary point of contact.
- Assigning an account manager is not only out of convenience but also helps keep communication consistent with less chance for misunderstandings. Because all clients have different communication expectations, establishing the frequency and preferred communication methods helps keep anyone from being misinformed or disappointed.
Be an active listener.
- Most people are not active listeners. Research shows we only remember 25-50% of what we hear. Technology has only made this worse. Active listening can help clients & contractors best solve problems and prevent misunderstandings. Paraphrase what the other has said and repeat it back, showing your understanding and allowing the opportunity to be corrected. This is essential in ensuring you’re on the same page as it’s very easy to only assume you understand each other if you skip this step.
Contractor-Project Team Communication Keys:
“An organization with excellent internal communication will run smoothly, allowing its members to progress toward a mutual goal, which will ultimately affect the quality of their external communication.” – Scribendi, Effective Business Communication
While it may appear to the client that a contractor is communicating well, there are also internal communication keys to effectively managing a project behind the scenes.
Helmkamp Project Director, Kyle Ogden, shares Helmkamp’s ideal approach by saying, “Solid communication with the project team is critical to the success of a project. It affects so many things, from safety, schedule, and budget to pretty much anything else.
Pre-plan and communicate the activities that will achieve project goals.
- Communicating project scope early allows us to bring in the proper resources needed to plan and complete the work safely. This item is a non-negotiable at Helmkamp. Thankfully, we have a great group of folks we get to work for that support getting us involved early for many reasons. From a safety standpoint, that’s not to say there isn’t a significant amount of real-time effort that goes into ensuring that a safe project occurs, but it’s very helpful when everyone is on the same page ahead of time on how we plan to go about it.”
Stay in front of the areas that could drive the project off-course.
- As everyone is aware of (and tired of hearing about), material and equipment lead times and pricing volatility is something that must be managed extensively now. If a contractor isn’t 1) understanding and 2) communicating these constraints and concerns to the client and project team, they are basically accepting a reactionary approach, and this does not offer much control. The project management team at Helmkamp focuses on and communicates about these areas heavily in the pre-planning phase of our projects to best manage them for our clients’ budgets and schedules.
“When you’ve got a good plan in place that is communicated well to the project team, it’s much easier to navigate a bump in the road & incorporate it into the project,” said Ogden.
At the end of the day, good communication isn’t something that is going to be flashy or an attention grabber, but the result of good communication separates a standout project from a project people want to forget.