29 November 2012

Savvy Clients?

Some months ago, a builder complained to us that "the worst thing that ever happened to the building business is the internet, because now my customers know more about my job than I do".

At the time, we were not sure how to respond, other than to suggest that he might want to find a computer and try it for himself, but the underlying lesson in his lament is the undeniable message that the traditional relationship between the building professional and the client has, for better or worse, been forever changed.

We are not suggesting that this is necessarily a bad thing. Most of us have already realized that there were simply not enough hours in the day for us to even attempt to stay current on all the new products and systems that were continuously surfacing. Nor were we going to be able to keep up with evolving building science, cutting-edge technologies or the latest design innovations without a lot of help. Somewhat to our surprise then is that much of this help comes directly from our customers. We learned that they are not encumbered by the same conservative biases, legacy relationships and inherent resistance to change that held back so many of us in the design and construction industry.

No, when a customer or client embraced an idea it was not with a "why" but with a "why not" attitude. As a result, we had our minds opened to scores of possibilities that could have never discovered on our own, and the results were obvious in our projects and in our market success. The beneficiaries were not only our clients and customers, but also ourselves. The curiosity and desire for new ideas that came from them made it possible for us to continue to look forward to new projects and never tire of the challenges of the business.

That builder had one part of it right. The internet has had a huge impact on the business of building and the shelter industry overall. But we think he was way off in thinking of it as a bad thing- we've seen a new confidence and assertiveness emerge as home buyers and clients become increasingly informed and involved in the process.

There are new 'specifiers' in the mix. And no matter what professional role you fill, it will serve you well to encourage and support them, because they are your business partners now.

With acknowledgements to Ron Jones, Co-Founder and President of Green Builder® Media