Ladies and Gentlemen this aint retail and you aren't some pimply faced teeny bopper - this is the Construction Trade. If you have been doing your job right over the years, you are a highly trained, extremely knowledgeable professional in your chosen field. It's time to put aside whatever bull the Corporate talking heads have said about customer service, they're barely paid minimum wage themselves and are chiefly concerned with not embarrassing their overlords. So strap on your big boy pants and grow a bigger pair, because this is going to get REAL .... Interesting.
Let me start by saying if you're an apprentice, take notes but refer all client questions to your supervisor until way later in your career. In addition let's put aside all the ways a client can do you wrong, we will save that for another much longer and painful article. We are going to focus on the experience of getting a client from start to finish on a particular job.
I don't care if your client has a double major from Harvard and a doctorate from MIT they don't know squat about your trade. Unless of course they worked in the industry to put their self through college and even if they did, by all means still stand your ground. God help you if you are doing a job for an engineer or architect. Bless their hearts, they know their stuff but they tend to over think, over build and over kill everything, to the point of stalling out a job.
The Client knows two things: Approximately how much they are paying you, there will be changes usually for more money. They also know what they want done. Beyond that, it's all on you.
It doesn't matter if you are plumbing, framing, wiring or roofing, you are the expert. If you're not an expert I hope you're not in charge. The customer has an idea and it's your job to take that idea and make it a reality. You should take lots of notes on their vision. Listen to the client. Tell them what you think. Repeat back to them how you interpreted their dream or vision. Make a plan. Tell them the Plan. Then get it done.
It is not the clients job or position to tell you the plan, dictate how the job will get done or the best way to do it. If you need to be told all that you should still be working under someone else and there is nothing wrong with that. If the client tries to micro manage, find a good way to put an end to it as soon as you realize what's going on. The longer you allow that behavior to continue the more difficult it will be to break their habbit. Caution: be diplomatic, a little finesse goes a long way. They are in control of writing the checks You are in control of the job.
You are the clients guide through the job. In my experience, most clients have a really hard time visualizing space and layouts from looking at a set of drawings or plans. Who knows what seedy dark corner of the internet they're getting their construction advice from, that blogger could be huffing ABS glue, but it is our job to get them on track.
Sometimes their vision and desires aren't functional in a space. Don't let it go to the point where finish work is getting done and you realize the product you just built is not user friendly. The blame will inevitably fall on you for whatever roll you played. Refer back to that vast experience you have. Use and Trust your own vision to guide the client in the right direction. They may fight you tooth and nail but hey, they are wrong because they lack your expertise. If you were walking through a mine field and you saw a mine, you wouldn't let your friend step on it, right? Keep in mind the closer you get the look and feel of the finished product to their vision, the happier your client will be.
I live for those moments, at the end of the job, when they see the finish product, and that piece that you required their trust on turns out to be as perfect as possible given the constraints of the job. I don't care if you are a mechanic, a landscaper, electrician or a general contractor, this work is not easy. There is not much harder than trying to visualize somebody's dream and turn it into a reality. To truly be good at our Trade we have to be more than just Tradesmen, we have to be Leaders, Advocates, Consultants,Visionaries and Friends. While we are doing all those things we have to maintain Ethics, Composure, Patience and Pride.
So next time your client is wrong, don't humor them. Don't be a yes man. Stand up tall, grab a hold of all that experience and in a very cordial way tell them there is a better way. That is why they are paying you “The Big Bucks”.