5 years, 9 months ago

Expectations, Estimates and other Malarkey

Link: http://businessanditarchitecture.blogspot.com/2015/07/expectations-estimates-and-other.html

I often take experiences from daily life and attempt to draw parallels between what happens in daily life and what happens when thinking about systems. This one is no exception. This is about remodeling. I am again the customer, the contracting firm is the source of my ire. It is good for my – builds character, etc. to deal with the vagaries of construction firms. I also know that they will have a quite different point of view. Much of this won’t be new to many of you, but it drives the point home – especially when others do to us what we do to our customers.
The job is to reshape a fireplace, sheath the chimney (20 feet of it inside the living room) in plywood and put in a nice mantle and hearth. Of course the room needs to be painted as well, so there are choices to be made there. I am working with a talented interior designer for this – I have a consultant! This consultant does not get paid – we are pro bono clients – for long and complicated reasons.What can go wrong?
We all figured that this should take about a month and agreed a price. As it happens, we didn’t change our minds much (and when we did it was we were responding to the consultant). The consultant works a lot with the company actually doing the work.
The contract company has really talented people. Their finished work is awesome. BUT…

  • The communication between the contractor and us is dreadful
  • The consultant and contractor communicate but forget to tell us
  • We don’t know when people will show up at our house – one morning the door bell rang at 7:30
  • We don’t actually know who is doing the work (some being done off site where the big saws, etc. are)
  • The contractor has to juggle resources so occasionally a new job will get the experts that we thought we were going to get (not exactly bait and switch, but bait and wait)
  • Consultant assumes that we can stop being at work and immediately come by to look at stuff.
  • Consultant doesn’t understand opportunity cost, so encourages us to spend a lot of time “just looking”
  • They don’t work as clean as I would like – they are thus overly disruptive to everyday activities in the house.
  • It will take longer than expected. 
  • The price isn’t changing
And no this isn’t a rant against the construction business. It is a lesson for all of us in the service delivery business.
  • You will annoy the customer if you disrespect them
  • It is a partnership – we the providers don’t always know better
  • The customers are not skilled in knowing the ins and outs of the contractor’s business, so we have no basis for knowing really what to expect.
  • There is mumbo-jumbo language in the contracting business (maybe jargon is better) – just as there is in IT. The customers should not have to know it.
  • However there has to be some common language. So maybe the contractors/consultants have a little educating to do.
  • Customers are not at our beck and call at all times. They have day jobs too
  • Customers have expectations either because we set them, or because they came in with them. We need to help them manage those expectations.
  • Our inability to manage doesn’t result in extra cost for the customer, that’s why we are asked to look at the job up front.