Clear Concise Communication Helps Avoid Costly Project Errors

Clear Concise Communication Helps Avoid Costly Project Errors

Clear, concise communication is key when dealing not only with sub-contractors, but also with clients, says Bath & Kitchen Buying Group (BKBG) dealer-member Sara Busby of Sara Busby Design in Elk Rapids, MI.

While that's no secret to most kitchen and bath dealers, even the best dealer can hit a snag when relaying an idea to a client or an instruction to a sub-contractor.

Busby addressed other members on this topic at a recent educational conference sponsored by Houston, TX-based BKBG, a member-owned co-op. She advised them to communicate clearly and often with all of the parties involved in a kitchen or bath project to avoid costly errors during the actual installation. "Keep the customer and the installation team in the loop of the entire project," she says.

To that end, she offered some tips on how best to communicate with clients and sub-contractors to avoid misunderstandings. These include the following:

  • Review the entire project and all of the particulars and details with the clients and installers before a project starts. This will ensure everyone is on the same page.
  • Introduce the customer to the installers.
  • Have a set of rules and guidelines for each installer, and have each installer read and agree to it. Both the installer and the dealer must agree to it in writing.
  • Include your installers at the design stage, as it will make them want to take more ownership of the installation and make him part of the team.
  • Use e-mail for communication to the trades and your customers. Send "before" photos of the project from digital cameras so your installers can see what kind of space it is. If the customer is out of town, then use these pictures to show the progress of their project and keep in touch via e-mail or fax.
  • Every Friday, call all of the customers who are on the installation schedule for the following week, as well as each installer.
  • Ask all installers to have cell phoneson the job so that each one is easily reachable in case a problem arises.
  • By the same token, always take phone calls from your installer. You don't want the installer to leave a project because he or she could not get the information needed to solve a problem on site.
  • If a problem arises on the job, talk it through with the installer and come to a decision as soon as possible. Don't ignore problems or let problems fester, or else they will turn into bigger problems down the road.
  • One major problem with some installers is loose tongues or saying things they shouldn't on the job. This must be discussed up front, and if it is a problem, find a new installer.
  • If subs delay your projects because of other commitments and other work, then discuss it with them. If it doesn't change, consider replacing them with subs you can count on.
  • Always pay your installers despite any mistakes, as they are human like everyone else. Remember that the times they save your design mistakes will far outweigh the new cabinet you have to order or the countertop that was damaged on the job.
  • For any extras on the job, be sure that the trades know how to approach the additional work in terms of money. In fact, some dealers require that the installers notify the office or the designer when any extras are added to the work. Some dealers allow the installers to charge the customer directly for any extra work they request, while others want a profit from any extra work. Thus, be clear on who gets paid for what extras, if any.
  • At the end of a project, send thank-you letters to the installers, praise them for their work and include them in your advertising. If you use a questionnaire for the customer to rate your performance, send a copy of the good ones to the installers with a thank-you note.