Hurry up and Change it

Clients don’t realize a relatively simple change order request requires many steps to complete. Last week a client told us he was considering a Miele dishwasher in place of the GE Monogram he originally selected. The house had just been sheetrocked. We completed nine steps to respond to his request:

1) Checked with our supplier to see if the GE was ordered; 2) Checked the dimensions to be sure it would fit the same opening, even though almost all dishwashers are the same width; 3) Researched the difference in the cost of the dishwashers; 4) Asked the plumber to see if the installation was more time-consuming, and if so, how much more he would charge for install; 5) Processed our change order forms, including asking our project manager if the schedule would be affected. Maybe the Miele has a longer lead time than the GE. Added necessary delay days to the contracted target delivery date; 6) Added our builder management fee to all other known costs; 7) E-mailed client our change order form for approval; 8) Followed up to verify that client faxed us a signed change order; 9) Our bookkeeping department needed to be notified to collect additional money and to revise the budget.

Now let’s analyze a more complex request. Consider a recent scenario we dealt with on a 6,000-sq.-ft. $1.8 million custom home we are completing. We were done with all tile work, the trimmer was in progress, and cabinets were delivered. And the client was already quite anxious to move in ASAP. None the less, he said he and his wife decided to completely redesign the downstairs guest bathroom. He acknowledged that it would be costly but he wanted to demolish what was complete and reframe it to make the shower larger. We have a “Request for a Change Order Form” we use that reminds us to ask him the following questions:

Should we proceed without bids from all of the impacted cost phases, including demolition, cleanup, new tile, new cabinet, new top and plumbing labor? Will you pay our costs regardless of the charges incurred? If not, are you willing to wait for us to contact all the necessary trade contractors for their labor and material costs? Can we proceed with verbal bids only or do you want to see them in writing? Should we consult with the architect? Do you realize we may have to update the building permit? Are you willing to accept a delay in the delivery date of the home? Do you acknowledge that we cannot quantify the impact on the delivery schedule until you finalize new selections and we confirm lead times for all materials?

Even though we know to ask all these questions, my client expected my company to rebuild the bathroom per his new expectations and not to delay the delivery date. He explained to me, “Don’t you know that all these subs are going to be in the house anyway and it will be no big deal to have them do just a little more work? And, since they are here anyway, it won’t hold up the delivery schedule and they should not have to charge a lot.” Sound familiar?

So, where do you go with logic like that?

Remembering my yoga training, I first took a deep breath! Remembering that the client is always right, I thanked him for his input. Then I told him that he could help avoid delay if he would deliver within three days a sketch from the architect showing the new layout, a new top and vanity, all new tile, the wood for the new shower seat, and a blank check for the carpenter, plumber, electrician and tile man, and then it would be no problem. Then, he said, “Jay, that’s not realistic, I need more time to pull all that together!”

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