Consumer Participation is a Requirement

By: Dave Wright, Craftsman Republic®

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Common sense tells us that if we want something to happen we must participate in making it happen. Most people believe they have common sense, but common sense is seldom evident in the construction industry. It seems to be full of fear and anxiety.

When I worked with designers, they would often have the Clients go on vacation, and try to create their vision when they were away. They worked very hard to cover every base. Living in your house while it is remodeled can be a bad experience, but so is coming home to an incomplete job.

Sometimes, the designer could not resolve an issue. Once the Consumer was on vacation they faded out of the picture. The Consumer wants perfection but doesn’t want to be living in a mess. How should they be involved in the process? Even if you have designs, visuals, color chips etc. the reality of the work in three dimensions could change your mind and a few minor fixes could make their vision come true. The designer is a trained filter, but not a perfect one. The Client needs to be directly involved.

Expect What?

I believe that you have to let go of the thought that you can have the same vision as your Consumer. Few of us listen well enough to get their vision. We need them to give us constant feedback. Still, many Craftsmen just want to charge ahead with what they think the Consumer wants. God help you if the Consumer is married, each of them will have separate visions and expectations. I learned the hard way to let my wife design a complete room, to just let it happen, it comes out better. Few Consumers are on board with this. I sometimes wish she would pay me the same courtesy, but she is a designer, there is little hope of that. Designers are paid to advise not to insist.

What is the ideal level of involvement? Well the rough work, usually does not require participation but the simplest finish work does. Consumers have not been trained to look for trouble as experienced Craftsmen have and they are shocked when they find out the door will hit the toilet they ordered, aren’t they all the same? On the other hand, they should be shown the job in completed reviewable segments and not nick pick every minute.

Know the Expectations

Another issue is how you get the leads and jobs. Many of the lead generating companies need to sign you up so badly that they do not tell you the details of what they promised the Consumer until you are signed up. Now, how are you going to meet expectations, if you do not know the rules?

It happens all over. I once spent four hours getting questioned by executives wanting to know why a Craftsman needed to know all the details of the Contract he was fulfilling. We will just tell him what we think he needs to know? Is someone from the big box assigned to watch him and when he goes wrong, tell him, yes or no, don’t do that? The point is, we are leaving job management up to the Consumer. Making the Consumer the on-the-job expert. If the Craftsman is informed, he could be an effective job manager.

When I worked at the big boxes, they did not trust their own Craftsmen. They would assign a superintendent who worked for them to coordinate. So now the Consumer would talk have to talk to the designer, who would tell the superintendent, who would tell the Craftsman, who would tell the plumber, who would tell his worker etc.


All of these people had different goals and rating systems. This stops Craftsman management, blocks Consumer participation, and leaves everyone with less than perfect communication. Whatever you do, don’t allow the Consumer to talk to the guy doing the work, he might answer, and all hell will break loose!

So, what exactly is Consumer participation? It is when the Consumer, who’s vision we are trying to create, makes themselves available, to discuss anything, with the person running the job. The person running the job can be the GC, a superintendent, lead worker, or God help us, a designer. One person in charge of the actual job.

I loved designers who could come to the job and tell us how important something was, the best jobs I worked on had a designer visiting, reminding us of what might be important, and details that might negatively affect their design. If the GC authorizes a superintendent, he must always go through that person, never directly to the consumer. It is okay for these people to visit the job, but it must be clear who is in charge.

What exactly are their expectations? When do I get the lead, what is the Scope of Work, when do I call, and how do I finish? Once the job is given to you, is it really yours to manage? Is someone going to be constantly calling, with no intention of communicating with you, to check on you, then enter some inane note in a computer system. How about when the wife is home, and they call the husband at work, and he says something about the job he would not even tell his wife? The Consumer communication must be on the job. This is just one flaw of the lead generating companies, they require communication that may have little value, no value, or even be damaging to the effort. There can be too much uninformed conversation.

How do you solve this issue?

First, don’t work for people or companies that do not give you all the facts up front. Make sure all the Products have been selected and you have the details pertaining to them.

Second, make it clear who you will communicate with, the same person all the time. If you are told, “I am in charge, but my brother will be on the job when you do It,” get them both on the phone together each time you call. Make it clear the brother will be authorized to make decisions even on the smallest of jobs. If there is one toilet in the house and the flange is leaking, the decision must be made immediately (the neighbors will appreciate it).

Read the Terms and Contractor agreement for the companies you get leads. Question anything that you are asked to do that is not included or beyond what is described in them. Keep in mind that they probably do not want you to read them and that should help encourage you to do so.

Read the Scope of Work prior to the first call, you will know which questions you need to ask, more importantly, establish the future progression of calls and any other meetings for which you will require their attendance. This would include your second call, reminder calls, and emails. Now you just put the calls on your calendar and follow-up.

As part of Craftsman Republic®, we will get as many Clients as we can with our Buy It Installed® Button and automated system. We minimize uninformed conversation by trusting you to do the job. It doesn’t require spending much money, it only requires investing some of your time. You oversee the work and communicate directly with someone who has already purchased a basic installation.