NARI online certification: Improve Communication with a Web-based Client-management System

Companies often struggle to keep clients, trade contractors and employees synchronized on a project. As change orders and revisions occur, it may be difficult to get all concerned parties together to discuss project progression. Seeing the value in more timely communication, some remodelers have opted to use Web-based client-management systems.

Legacy Builders and Remodelers Corp., Mount Sinai, N.Y., searched for ways to streamline operations when it realized how inefficient its system of binders was. For every project, the company would put together three binders: one for the office, project manager and clients. On Fridays, the office manager would compile current project information; print out updated plans, paperwork and photos; and then collate the information in the various binders. “The system we were using became problematic because it was a lot of work to update the binders every week,” explains Art Donnelly, CR, CKBR, Legacy Builders and Remodelers’ president.

Because the binders weren’t updated daily, there was no clear communication about day-to-day issues and amendments. It also made it difficult for subcontractors to know when they were going to be needed on the job. To resolve these issues, Donnelly found a client-management system that took the project information stored in the binders and put it in a Web-based format, which could be updated daily. As an added bonus, the new format provided information the binders could never offer, such as access to 3-D images, current weather information and an enhanced calendar. “The Web-based version is live, so if we make a change on Tuesday, everyone doesn’t have to wait until Friday to get an update,” Donnelly says.

System Details

Web-based client-management systems are available as a Web-site add-on or standalone Web program. Donnelly attached his version to his company Web site as a way to keep consistent traffic flowing to his site each time someone goes to the Web site to log on. When clients first log in, they see a project cost summary, which keeps them aware of their current expenses. The system stores all documents and photography and handles correspondence between the company, client and field agents. This includes change orders, which are written within the program and approved by the client online. Any cost adjustments resulting from changes automatically update the project cost summary.

The system creates better communication with trade contractors, as well. Subcontractors can look at project plans and give bids through the online system. Once hired, they have access to see how a project is progressing and with daily calendar updates will know exactly when they are expected to be on the job. “I’m a firm believer that if we have a published schedule, we’ll stay on schedule,” Donnelly notes. “By having that included, my tradesmen know when they’re due to be someplace, and the homeowner can look to see what will be going on at their home every day.”

Various user profiles can be maintained in the system, granting different levels of access. For example, the client’s contract and financial information can be made inaccessible to trade contractors.

Web-based client-management systems potentially can be a great marketing tool, as well. Family members who aren’t at home during the remodeling process can see current photos of the work progressing. Homeowners also have the option of creating slide shows from project photos to send to friends and family. Clients essentially tout the work a company is doing for them, hopefully creating referrals in the process.

The most important thing to remember about a Web-based client-management system, according to Donnelly, is to keep it current. Donnelly’s crew members make sure to look at the system at the end of each day. They upload daily photos and update the schedule, which helps create a sense of pride in the work they are doing. “You can’t create the project and just leave the system,” Donnelly explains. “You have to maintain it, but it is still less work than a paper version.”

Donnelly travels across the nation on behalf of NARI, and using this system allows him to run his jobs from the road and ensure his clients are happy. “We want to make sure clients are always in the know and are never left wondering what’s going to happen tomorrow,” Donnelly says.