By their very nature, landscaping, construction and paving projects are a slippery animal. As one-off endeavours, they require a unique set of variables to come together and co-align to achieve the desired result – which, obviously, leaves plenty of margin for error. Such complex situations require the collaboration of suppliers, surveyors, contractors and buyers, as well as the good old Great British climate, and even a minor mix-up or mistake with any of them can result in lengthy delays. While delays might be commonplace and unavoidable, there are steps you can take to minimise their occurrence and protocols you can follow when they do happen. Doing so will not only ensure that your project comes to fruition as close to the anticipated time frame as possible, but also that your customers aren’t overly inconvenienced or upset by the delays. Here’s a quick rundown of what you can do to deal with site issues and manage project delays.
1) Keep the customer informed Customers may be disappointed to learn there are delays, but when circumstances outside your control conspire against you, there’s little you can do – except keep them informed. Fobbing off queries or keeping a frustrated client in the dark will only increase their agitation, so making sure they know what’s going on at all times will ensure friction-free relations between you. What’s more, you can even alert your other clientele of the developments (and how it may affect them) via social media or email.
2) Open communication channels at all times As well as corresponding with those paying for your services, you must make sure that everyone involved in the process, from suppliers to subcontractors, are abreast of the situation at all times. In fact, many niggling delays and obstacles can be avoided simply through good communication; checking on the status of orders or the whereabouts of the workforce at regular intervals, as well as volunteering information about any hold-ups at your end, should ensure the process runs as smoothly as possible.
3) Evaluate constantly Initial proposals are all well and good to get an idea of the size of the task facing you, but jobs can often evolve as they are being undertaken. Maybe the customer has moved the goalposts, maybe a shipment isn’t scheduled to arrive until next week, maybe the heavens have decided to open up for the next fortnight. Whatever variables are changing on your project, make sure you’re aware of them and reassess your existing goals for achievability. It may be that a new timeline needs to be drawn up.
4) Use a reliable supplier Perhaps the number one reason for construction delays – outside of the unpredictability of British weather – is the unreliability of materials arriving on time. Whether you’re laying commercial paving or putting up a wall, it’s imperative you used a tried and trusted supplier for the building blocks of your project. If it’s the first time you’ve worked with them, do your due diligence beforehand and read reviews or ask around to make sure they’re the real deal. Remember, any incompetence or interruptions caused at their end will reflect badly on you.
5) Be flexible with your working hours Sometimes, you have to go above and beyond to get a project over the finish line. If you’re well behind your schedule for whatever reason, but the obstacles have now been overcome, you might want to consider putting in the hard yards to catch up on lost time. If the project allows, you could possibly work nights, weekends and holidays, operating in shifts if necessary. Of course, this course of action will depend entirely on the circumstances of the project and your own situation, but the client will certainly appreciate the extra effort you put in to get it completed on time.
6) Subcontract if necessary Rather than taking things all onto your own shoulders, you could subcontract parts of the job to external professionals. Whether this consists of simply hiring an extra pair of hands for a day or two or subcontracting entire portions of the work out to another firm, it can be a great way to speed things up and lighten your own load. As above, just make sure you’re getting into bed with a reputable company before committing to any contracts, as the work completed on your behalf reflects on you.
7) Use your downtime wisely There are times when you just can’t avoid halting operations for a day or two. High winds and heavy rain are hazardous for many construction jobs, while there’s just no way you can plough on with the project if the materials haven’t yet turned up. Don’t waste these days, though. Clean and maintaining your equipment, itemising your inventory and expanding your promotional efforts to reach new customers and markets are all great ways to make the most of dead time. In fact, when approached from this angle, dead time doesn’t exist at all.
8) Keep the customer satisfied! Above all, customer satisfaction is your number one priority. Regardless of the nature of the delay, whose fault it was or how long it’s expected to set you back, you must deliver impeccable customer service throughout. As well as the communication mentioned above, this can also include providing the client with alternative proposals, offering compensation where appropriate and generally just being there to listen to their concerns and answer their questions. To suffer delays is human; to satisfy disgruntled clients is divine!