No matter how good a job you do installing siding, clients who somehow expected something else won't be satisfied. To avoid this problem, Southwest Exteriors, in San Antonio, manages customer expectations with a detailed contract and a preconstruction conference.

The contract is a “check-off-the-box” type, explains general manager Scott Barr. That makes it easy for clients to see what's included in a job. The contract even specifies having a preconstruction conference, Barr says, so that clients know there will be another chance to ask questions.

“Clients may not realize how big a deal this is,” Barr says. “It takes pressure off people the night they sign the contract.” Not only can they ask questions later, they can even postpone deciding on minor trim details because the salesperson has the flexibility to leave such options open.

Meet to Review A few days before the project, the client meets in the home with the salesperson, production manager, and crew leader. The production manager and client review a preconstruction conference form that lays out everything from A to Z — not only the type and color of siding and what will be installed but such details as where materials will be delivered, what hours the crew will be working, and whether landscaping might need to be cut or pulled back. At the same time, the salesperson and crew leader inspect the jobsite. This gives the crew leader a chance to familiarize himself with any peculiarities or potential problems before work begins. Barr says this makes the crew leader more comfortable and confident. Salespeople benefit too, because making clients more satisfied wins referrals. The whole conference rarely takes more than half an hour.

Enhanced Experience Southwest Exteriors started conducting preconstruction conferences three years ago. The idea came from a decision to focus on improving the client experience, Barr says. Preconstruction conferences wouldn't work as well, he says, without the company's detailed contract and conference form, which is constantly being updated.