Anyone who saw Fair Go on the 21st of May would have seen the segment on the Certified builder from Smith & Sons and the unhappy client.  The client was complaining about a bad outcome on a building project and also unhappy that Certified Builders was backing the builder and not brokering (read, paying for) a resolution.

As you may know Certified Builders is a membership-based organization that actually DOES work for the builder, so there was no real surprise that they didn’t have some sort of consumer guarantee scheme in place.  This is fine in theory, but the result of this type of press is that the industry is seen in a negative light; Certified Builders is seen as anti-consumer, Smith & Sons brand is damaged and the stereotype of “rip-off builder” is further underlined.  The problem may well have been caused by faulty design in the first place, but this was not investigated (which was bad journalism in my opinion)

What can you do about this?  The old saying, “an once of prevention is worth a pound of cure” springs to mind.  It is far easier to put a bit more effort into the early stages of planning and putting some systematic client management processes in place, than trying to patch up problems once they occur.  Trying to fix problems with some sort of work-around can even make the problem bigger, in the customer’s eyes.

Before moving into business coaching I was involved with exporting highly perishable fruits and vegetables around the world.  One thing you learn in that game is “ASSUME NOTHING”.  You have one chance to make a successful season and one chance only.  If you don’t get your pre-season planning sorted, then once the harvest has started and the fruit starts to flow into the packhouse, you are in big trouble.  Some fruit, like strawberries, MUST be shipped and sold within 24 hours, or you are fast on the way to strawberry jam.

It is a good discipline to learn.  Treat the relationship you have with your client as perishable as a strawberry.  Assume nothing and do as much front end planning and relationship building as possible.  Keep the communication going on a regular basis and don’t assume the client understands what they are getting.  Most clients will only be involved with one building project in their life and so can’t take a two-dimensional drawing and convert it to a three-dimensional building as easily as a builder can.

If you do run into problems with a client, I suggest you follow the other fruit trade mantra; “YOUR FIRST LOSS IS YOUR BEST LOSS”.  Bite the bullet early, fix the problem as fast as you can, get the client back on side and move on.  Try and fight it and it more often than not will get worse.

Andy Burrows

My website:  The Trades Coach

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