Contractors all know that plans and specifications establish minimum levels of quality and performance. After all, furnishing more than is required is wasteful. Any lean practitioner will tell you that. So we hitch our wagon to that concept—furnishing the minimum.
We also hitch our wagon to the job—the project—and gauge our success on whether we made the estimate. We’ve hard-wired our industry and our people to focus on short-term job outcomes and profits.
Unfortunately, performing to the minimum expectations of our customer often results in furnishing the minimum in terms of both product and customer experience.
Over the past 20 years, I’ve been part of changing that in our company, and there are a few things we do consistently to reinforce our evolved philosophy—of putting customers ahead of profits.
First, if you read the newsletters we send to our employees, you’d notice two things: 1) a heavy focus on strong customer relationships, and 2) limited discussion about profits. We promote stories about exceptional customer service.
Second, we walk the talk. Our folks know that we expect the occasional bad day, to lose money on a job for any number of reasons. We’ll support a foreman or project manager if they retained the customer relationship and truly put the customer first. We respect that they dealt with adversity with dignity and grace.
Third, we put our money where our mouth is. We redesigned our compensation system for project managers, putting as much priority on our value proposition as we put on making money. The reality for us is simple—people who do the right things will deliver a profit to the company.
It seldom costs more to deliver an exceptional customer experience. Treating people with respect and dignity is not expensive. The truth—when we put the customer first, profits follow.