Communication with your clients is vital

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Communication is the process by which we transmit, give or exchange information. Think about that definition for a moment: What day is there that we don’t use some form of communication?

Even if you work alone, your brain is constantly transmitting (or communicating) impulses to the rest of the body to perform the daily tasks. The body also communicates things such as hunger and fatigue that lets us know when it’s time to quit. There would be a lot less people in the world if our own bodies stopped exchanging this important information to the brain. Of equal importance — and which is quite often ignored — is learning how to listen during the communication process and responsibly act upon it.

Communication is a basic ingredient to the necessity of life, but how well do you apply the effort to hone this vital process?

As providers of a product or service, we must understand communication is a two-way road — the traffic of information travels in both directions. Most disagreements are a result of ignoring this principle.

Let’s first look at how information, as an owner of a woodworking business, is most often transmitted to the customer.

The contract
We typically equate business communication to a contract because it is the most widely accepted form of agreement. And it’s what ultimately lands us the work.

But we must not think of it as the only form of communication that matters. Rather, it would be more accurate to consider it the “boiler plate” of communication. It is the most important ingredient because it outlines the terms, conditions and pricing. Along with the base contract, do not overlook the extremely important change orders as well as presenting your client with information required by your local jurisdiction such as lien, licensing and insurance information. As important as this “paperwork communication” is, we cannot limit our definition of project communication to it exclusively. The reason? It does not have the ability to properly bridge the gap of exchanging information with your client throughout the entire process of building a project.

Demonstration
Once a contract is signed, you must immediately enter the demonstration phase of communication. A custom job cannot typically be built with a contract outlining terms and conditions alone. You need to be able to transmit your intentions accurately to your client.

Shop drawings help the process of explaining the design concept. This should be enhanced with things such as finish samples every time there is a coating involved. You may need to provide actual molding samples to explain a detail, or even full-size cardboard mock-ups. This is a great way to show how the concept idea will be produced. It also builds trust and confidence between you and your client.

Demonstration communication is not just a matter of providing information for your client to see, but also to approve. Do not overlook the importance of having your client approve your presentation (drawings, samples, etc.) with a signed document. The communication process is not complete without this two-way transmission.

Participation
This is the part of communication that keeps the client involved in the process. It is easy to overlook. The concept behind the idea is to keep your client updated as a job progresses. This is not for their benefit only. It will also help you clear any doubts you may have about the complexity of the job progress.