The Customer Checklist

Norb Slowikowski / October 2016

Have you ever heard the motto, “Quality is what the customer says it is”? It’s a useful reminder that we must actively reach out to identify and understand the needs and desires of our customers if we are going to impress them through great performance. That is really the essence of customer service.
But thinking strategically begins with us, not our customers. Once we have all our bases covered in-house, we can move forward with helping the customer. There’s nothing worse than displaying a lack of organization and incompetence. Satisfying your customers means doing the preparation necessary to achieve ultimate success.
In this article, we will go over the bare-bones necessities of setting the job and customer up for real success. It’s a checklist of sorts that is a useful tool to keep in your back pocket.
With this in mind, before starting the job, the project manager should contact the general contractor to request a pre-job planning meeting. The key people attending the meeting will be the GC’s project manager and general superintendent and the subcontractors, PM, superintendent and foreman. Here are the items to cover at this meeting:

Scope of work. What specifically do you want us to do?
Budget—quantity of work, man hours or man days to complete the job and schedule.
Quality specifications—materials and workmanship requirements.
Paperwork requirements.
Safety rules—review GC’s safety requirements. Bring a copy of your safety manual to the meeting and show it to the GC.
Get a copy of the GC’s schedule and review it together.
Discuss a system for reviewing progress on the job. Discuss the importance of feedback and the method for resolving job site disputes.
Discuss process for handling extra work requests.

Find out what the GC’s standards are for customer service.
Discuss material handling requirements and locations for storing materials on the job site. Identify the material delivery requirements and use of hoist procedure.
Discuss the requirements for removing the material and equipment off the job when the job is finished.
Find out what is really important to the GC. Does he have any pet peeves you should know about?

Discuss the procedure for communicating unsafe practices and conditions.
Identify any special safety requirements.
Identify housekeeping requirements.
Check the working conditions your crew will be exposed to (heat, cold, tight space, etc.).

Additional Work Approval Procedures
What is the procedure for handling requests for changes or additional work? What about extras? Get clarification for billable extras.
Identify the person who is responsible for approving extra work requests.
Clarify the billing requirements.

Identify the meetings schedule.
Find out who they want to attend the meetings. What, specifically, do they want the subcontractor to report on at the meeting?
Find out when the meeting minutes will be submitted to the subs.
Identify meeting follow-up requirements.

Identify and clarify job security requirements.
Identify job access requirements. Are there certain times of the day that you can work in specific areas?
Clarify Dumpster policy and find out where Dumpsters will be located.
Clarify procedure for removing materials from the building.

You may want to put these items on a checklist and check them off as they’re discussed in the meeting. Also, you could have spaces for signatures of the meeting attendees that would verify complete understanding of all items that were discussed and reviewed.
Using the pre-job planning procedure with the GC indicates that you want to proceed with the job in a professional manner, as well as satisfy the GC’s needs and expectations. This is an excellent communication and accountability tool that helps establish an effective partnership between the subcontractor and the GC. By performing this procedure you will project competence and an understanding of what it takes to solidify a win/win relationship for both parties. And that is what customer service is all about.

Norb Slowikowski is president of Slowikowski & Associates, Inc., Darien, Ill. To contact him, email