Conflict Prevention…Not Resolution

In any prolonged customer engagement, as in the custom home building industry, rarely found are preemptive practices for customer conflict prevention. If you are a professional in residential custom building, either in the design or construction side, have you had more customer ‘headaches’ than you’d care to think about? If you are a homeowner who has built a custom home or done a major remodel, did you have more frustration, stress and anger involving misunderstandings than you’d care to remember?

Conflict resolution, mediation or arbitration are the instruments most commonly used in our culture to resolve conflict civilly. Don’t get me wrong, these are useful and potentially transformative tools. However, these are all used after the damage has been done. What about preventing the damage in the first place? Imagine how much money, time and heartache would be spared if we focused on conflict prevention practices to create mutual understanding up-front, rather than mucking through the emotionally and costly post-conflict swamp. Routine and reliable practices that document the exchange of information and decisions while tracking accountability of promised actions are invaluable and often missing in the business models of small general contracting and custom building companies.

The first question that usually arises when considering this new practice is one of cost, given the narrow profit margins in this industry, especially in an uncertain and sluggish custom home construction market. But consider this: How many times have you left money on the table or discounted your fees in compensation for errors due to misunderstandings or wrong assumptions? How many unnecessary phone calls have you received because your business practices don’t effectively deal with your client’s uncertainty about some aspect of the project or your understanding of their needs?

How much time, aggravation and stress could you save yourself and your customer by  preparing them each week for what lies ahead? How many delays could you prevent by providing a reliable way for them to make timely product decisions so you have what you need when you need it? The time and money saved from everyone understanding and getting it right the first time will preserve your profit margin, enhance your reputation, reduce your stress and leave you wondering why you didn’t have these types of communication practices in place sooner!

Keep in mind that we remember experiences because they involve our emotions. It’s the emotion that sticks. Make sure your business practices are creating an experience that will serve your success and long-standing reputation. Creating and implementing communication practices for mutual understanding and stress reduction are not only invaluable conflict prevention measures but best practices that will distinguish you in your market.  Profit margin protection, reputation enhancement and customer satisfaction versus conflict resolution. You choose!

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