Communication with the Homeowner
So much of the success of a project can hinge on the communication skills of the people involved in the project. There are so many details, decisions and factors to consider, and all of them are usually significantly affected by time. The construction process usually goes through phases, such as design, estimating, bidding, contract negotiating and production. The success of all of these phases is greatly dependent on the communication that takes place in each phase, while subsequent phases are dependent on the communication in previous phases.
What if you are unsure if it is OK to ask questions? What if it isn’t clear who to ask? What if you find yourself always waiting for a return phone call or an answer to your e-mail? What if you find yourself passed to a new person or new phase every time you just get comfortable with someone? What if there is a salesman for sales, a designer for design, an estimator for estimating, a production manager for production and no real connection between any of them? What if the process isn’t clear and always seems to catch you off guard or surprise you? What if you end up feeling like you have to figure out the right question to ask before it is too late to ask it? What if everybody you are dealing with only seems to know about their particular small part of the project and no one can answer the broader questions? What if every question you ask leads to the discovery of a problem in the whole project? These are serious early signs that communication will be an issue in this project.
Communication is a skill no less important than floor sanding or electrical wiring and can be the glue that holds a project together. You should feel that the contractors’ job is to answer every question openly and honestly. You need that kind of information to make good decisions. You have a sense about another person that tells you if you like and trust the way that person answers your questions and communicates with you. Trust that instinct. If you are having trouble with the communication process early in the relationship, the chances are very good that you are not the only person that is going to have communication problems with this person or this company.
Unacceptable: The contractor has poor communication skills. He does not answer questions directly, the answers are evasive or the answers confuse more than help.
Good: The contractor understands the value and importance of clear communication.
He values your questions and practices clear communication.
Better: In addition to the above, the contractor makes sure there are no misunderstandings and asks for feedback on a regular basis about the communication and understanding to date.
Best: In addition to the above, the contractor has attended workshops or classes on communication to improve his communication skills. He has learned some public speaking skills and keeps those skills sharp by offering to speak publicly on a regular basis.