When you signed contracts with your customers back in January and February, the projects seemed like sure things. Since then, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything about our economy and many previously stable businesses are hanging on by a thread.
As state economies begin to open up, you may already be talking to your customers and developing plans to start working again. These discussions might not be as easy as they seem. Here are a few steps you need to take to protect your projects and your reputation.
Evaluate Whether Customer Priorities Have Changed
Before you draft a new project plan, or try to move forward with a client, determine if anything has changed in the past few months. Your customers may have smaller budgets or different priorities for design and development. Some industry leaders have already noticed changes in how customers want offices designed after the pandemic.
“It used to be about density and proximity,” Paul Manno, principal architect at Gensler, told the Dallas Morning News. “It’s now about spacing and separation. We have a lot of clients asking, what are the changes we are anticipating?”
Your fast-moving clients may want to adjust their designs for the post-COVID-19 world. If you adapt to their needs, you can create a better product and have increased customer satisfaction.
Even if nothing has changed, getting on the same page as your clients can help you move forward with a better plan that includes the details you need to do the job right the first time.
Develop a New Project Timeline
With most states and job sites on lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s understandable that you won’t be able to hit your expected timeline. While your customers likely know this, you still need to be on top of your plans to move forward with an adjusted schedule.
Meet with your customers or set up a call to discuss a new timeline that incorporates their current needs. This timeline should include:
- Updates to project requirements and expectations discussed earlier.
- Changes to safety measures and social distancing protocols that will impact your work.
- Disruptions to the supply chain that could hold back your project.
Ask your project manager to be realistic about the expected timeframe. You want to be aggressive and work quickly, but you must do so while operating within the proper parameters. Build the project around the guidelines set out by your local and state governments and know that they could be delayed or disrupted again in the future.
Review Your Contract Cancellation Policy
Some of your clients may be affected to the point where they can’t move forward anymore. While this can impact your finances significantly, it is important to be understanding of the situation. Consider developing a COVID-19 cancellation policy for customer contracts. Some businesses may be able to offer credit toward future services, while others can waive cancellation fees and disruption penalties.
Developing a COVID-19 cancellation policy can protect your brand in the long run. You are more likely to win customers back when they are more financially stable, and you can protect your reputation in your region and industry. The short-term financial stress to your business will pay off in the years to come.
As you begin ramping your business activity back up, be sure to work closely with your customers and develop a reasonable plan of action to avoid losing money or getting pushed over. By planning with your accounting, legal, and project management teams, you will be able to better understand what you can afford to do, and how you can best move forward with affected customers.