Why You Should Train Your Field Staff to Communicate with the Client
Every interaction leaves an impression. Make sure it’s a good one.
In construction, business owners, executives and project managers often spend their time pulled between jobsites and corporate offices, and their schedule rarely leaves time to deal with all the day-in and day-out issues that arise with client representatives on-site.
Often, the responsibility to provide a positive client experience on the job falls on field staff, such as superintendents and foremen. But how well are they representing your company in these interactions? Are they equipped to help your company shine? Do they know what to say and what not to say, or do you fear they’ll get you into a pickle? Are they equipped with the information they need to provide an accurate answer to questions — and do they know which questions to defer to you?
Some general contractors try to limit interactions between field employees and client representatives for fear of a negative outcome. But Tim Asimos believes that the most successful firms consider their superintendents and foreman ambassadors for their brand. Asimos is partner at marketing firm circle S studio in Richmond, Virginia, and works with architecture/engineering/construction (A/E/C) firms on creating an exceptional client experience and conveying their value proposition.
Don’t just thrust these workers into the role of ambassador without preparing them for it, however. To help ensure positive results, Asimos says it’s imperative that firms train their field staff to communicate and collaborate with the owners in a way that reflects well on the brand. He offered these tips.
The first and most important step is to set standards related to professionalism, responsiveness and hierarchy.
“If there is any uncertainty about whether a foreman or superintendent can answer a question the client has, they need to know who will have the answer and who they need to reach out to,” said Asimos. “But there should still be a degree of empowerment for those employees to answer a question when they can. Clients don’t normally like to wait, especially when time is of the essence.”
By setting clear expectations around how field staff should communicate with clients and handle client issues, companies can reduce the chances of someone speaking out of turn or making promises you can’t keep — promises that could cost you money or goodwill.
Provide training on positive communication
If you want your senior field staff to communicate well, teach them how.
“Just like firms have to constantly train and reinforce safety practices, they need to train employees how to handle tough situations and communicate through them properly,” said Asimos. “Training is a way to ensure both a consistent and exceptional client experience.”
Training should include “classroom” education that is condensed and to the point (because field managers are busy running a jobsite). That formal training should be reinforced with on-the-job reminders. Just as most companies start the day with a reminder about safety, field staff should be reminded about expectations surrounding client communication.
Show them the way
Another way to train is to model the behavior you want. Bringing field managers along on the jobsite when important conversations are being held with the client shows them first-hand how you want them representing your brand.
In addition, when someone has a positive interaction with a client or uses their communication training to resolve an issue with a client representative, use it as an example to everyone else on the team. Training doesn’t always have to be focused around what not to do or say.
The better your field staff gets at communicating with clients, the better the results for your company.
“Today, a client can get anyone to build their building,” said Asimos. “There are dozens of firms that are capable and willing to do the job at a similar price. At the end of the day, the experience people have working with your firm is what’s going to make them come back to you for the next job or recommend you to another client.”
“Raise the bar and exceed your client’s expectations,” said Asimos. “Don’t just give them what they paid for.”
Donna Puglisi is a communications and marketing professional specializing in the construction industry.