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We are an 8 man shop that produces both residential and commercial cabinetry, on the commercial side it is pretty cut and dry as far as rules go, but in residential it is a little more loose. We are having trouble getting clients and builders to commit to selections in the time that we lay out for them, this causes delays and unhappy customers as well as unhappy employees due to the sudden "rush" orders that were on the board for a couple months waiting on the customer. I have recently hired my first sales person who is doing a fantastic job but we don't have an outlined set of rules in place for the customer to follow to allow a timely delivery. I have tried the commercial approach with homeowners with little success. Is there a better way? how do you tell them that if you don't have your selection by day X, then production will be halted and you will be moved to the next production opening. This could cause severe construction delays as well as space constraints, but is it my problem that their job is delayed due to their own indecisiveness? does anyone have a form they use at the start of a consultation asking for all pertinent info, as well as a timeline for all the required steps from the owner as well as us, to keep the job on track so all parties are satisfied upon completion, any suggestions will be helpful, unless it's Larry telling me to quit doing kitchens :)
Sean Benetin requires a 10% deposit to start and a time frame that they have to adhere to on selections. If they don't adhere to it he sends them back their deposit. Which I think he said always gets them back on track.
Among the conditions in my proposal is one that states that shop drawings will not commence until receipt of deposit, and another that states an approximate delivery date based on approved shop drawings, which would state the selected hardware, and approved finish samples.
Any delays in selections, or design changes, add to the back end of the delivery date, as eight weeks is still eight weeks, even if it starts a month later than planned. I make sure that the client understands this prior to cashing the deposit check, and it is in the contract anyway.
This may still mess with your work flow, but a lot of the rush should be eliminated, given that your estimated delivery time is not half eaten up by client indecision.
Your mileage may vary.
We try to conform to the same regulations, after deposit and approved drawings we need 8 weeks production, but what do you do in the case of a parade or show home? we have some good builders with homeowners that are building spring parade homes now we are 7 weeks away without finals, I am hoping to have a checklist that will transfer the liability of a deadline to the end user
Sounds like you need at least one week of overtime wages that someone needs to pay for. If it is in your contract that work will not start until all selections are complete, and the client still wants to adhere to the original deadline, then you might convey this as a quid pro quo.
Otherwise, you can bite the bullet yourself, or decide if these clients are really all that great if they continually place you in these circumstances.
Project management is not always pretty. Sometimes difficult choices need to be made.
This will always be somewhat of a battle but they will always have the upper hand
Of course you always give folks your best effort and never hold someone up due to our bad planning, laziness or efficiency- and never to just make a point. But folks sorta still understand cause and effect. If you go past date X then delivery changes- repeat this more than once. Good luck
Not sure why this is difficult. We tell customers our lead time is based on receipt of all info and deposit. Sometimes a customer will try and give us a deposit without any info to try and secure a spot and we usually refuse the cheque and tell them a deposit is meaningless for holding a spot in our schedule without selections and appliance specs.
Refuse to take the 40% production deposit until all selections are made and signed off. Once you take enough money to be into the production phase you have no leverage and are at their mercy. You'd be amazed how fast decisions are made when you turn someones check down.
Click the link below to download the file included with this post.
Having the ability to empathize with your customer is a powerful tool. If you can understand what motivates them you can use this information to better design a project and protocol that works best for everybody. Happy customers produce happy endings and we all like happy endings.
Many years ago some consternation developed on a project we were building. I trotted out the documentation to show why we did what we did. The customer told me that I did in fact do a great job of documenting but I had utterly failed to communicate.
His contention was that he was a smart, motivated guy and if there was a communication problem it was more likely on my end than on his. We write specifications and sign contracts all the time. Customers, for the most part, don't get much practice at this. It's our job to anticipate where the grey areas are and make sure that we illuminate them well.
Our customers have to make a million decisions about things they have never ever considered before. Many of these issues have to be magnified way out of proportion in to their significance (or context) later. When this happens it's easy to make every hill a hill to die on.
The customer needs to make informed decisions but you can't make them drink out of a fire hose either. Sean's gant chart does a good job of delineating milestones but it doesn't necessarily provide the kind of information to guide customers to the outcome we want to see.
The fortunate part of retail transactions is that the customer is highly motivated to get it right. They will happily consider any information you can put in front of them. In a world of Bert & Ernie's you have an opportunity to be Mr. Rogers.
Managing customers is truly a low volume-high mix operation. Even Taichi himself would tell you this is exactly the kind of work you need to get good at.
This from the guy who taunts all management is list management.
All management IS list management.
These are indeed challenging issues to codify.
Which ones do you think we could ignore?
I would add a few.
Mainly in the area of what are the odds of getting paid and not losing control i.e. prediction. I would be inclined to interview them as much as they are interviewing me.
Sean's is clear your's is ambiguous IOW not a good list.
"In a world of Bert & Ernie's you have an opportunity to be Mr. Rogers."
Sean's approach is very good one. It is a well documented procedure with clearly defined steps. What's not to like about that?
The very best of all worlds would have a similarly structured list that was tailored to specific customer groups.
The basic cost is labor and materials, then there is markup /margin, then risk factors.
A 10k job that needs to be done in a year and is all per the shop standards and customer always pays a deposit is low risk, a 100k job due in a very tight time frame could be a large risk of succeeding on time.
But there are some ways to suss out the MO of the customer that can be prescient.
Unlike the stock market, past performance is almost a guarantee of future returns.
If the job is residential and the customer looks like trouble, I will ask them leading questions (to illicit emotional responses) about past services they have had done.
If it is commercial I find out about the company/contractor and the superintendent. It is funny how companies have a culture. Some I could do no wrong with, others I could do no right with.
Just wondering Pat, what questions would you ask a customer to vet them? I have found this whole thread great.
Its not what you ask ,its what what you hear.
People who have a problem with EVERYTHING ,have a problem with everything.
Sociopaths are more covert and difficult to detect.
Both types will lead you down a path you dont want to travel.
I just ask them if they have purchased any home services recently.
Then just listen to their answer, if he was a no good blah blah that is a red flag.
I once asked this of a customer that I wasn't sure would be trouble or not. They said the plumber did a good job. I took the job and there were no problems.
I figured this out from a customer who I did a job for who couldn't stop talking about how everybody had done her wrong. Her job was nothing but trouble.
You might say duh, and you would be right.
The commercial field is harder to predict because there are more players and dynamics but the same idea plays.
I took a job that another shop said they turned down. I asked them why and they said because of the superintendent. They were so right as this guy deserved to be shot, my guess is that by now someone has shot him.
Asking the question implies listening to the answer.
listening is a difficult skill to master. Allot of reading between the lines.
For some more so than others.
Sales is more about listening than talking.
Fabrication doesn't begin until all details are confirmed and signed off on... one way we maintain control of this is customers are provided an estimated time-frame upon signing the paperwork with a proviso next to it that they will be provided a copy of the color drawings along with all details to sign-off on before given a delivery time-frame and/or fabrication begins and both are subject to these conditions. Once we have confirmed these details, and you have signed off accepting them in their entirety, you will be provided with a delivery schedule which will be within 1-week of said schedule to allow for seasonal fluctuations and subject to when final confirmation of details are received.
This way, if they take months to make decisions they know it affects the delivery schedule... comes down to communications... if they're dragging their feet, just refer them back to the clause in the agreement.