Our research shows that one of the leading causes of project delays and overages is when clients don’t make key decisions on time. And it’s no wonder: most homeowners only go through this process once, so they shouldn't be expected to understand the impact of delaying a selection by "only" a week or two.

There’s hope: BuildBook is a simple but powerful tool for improving proactive communication with your clients to prevent (among other things) blown deadlines. In this post, we’ll cover:

  1. the basics of setting up a project
  2. setting expectations for Tasks
  3. assigning Tasks to clients
  4. following up on action items

Step 1: Project Setup

In order to keep your clients accountable, you need to get them -- and your team -- using BuildBook. We’ve written quite a bit about how to do all this, so we’ll recap it briefly here:

  • Start a BuildBook Pro Account and invite your Pro team
  • Create a Project for this client and invite key project members 
  • Send an email to everyone invited to the project -- your team, subs, clients -- explaining that you’ll be using BuildBook exclusively for communication moving forward
  • Create a welcome post in the Project to explain how you’ll be using BuildBook to ensure that the project stays on track.

Step 2: Set Expectations

Before you can start doling out to-dos, you need to set the right expectations and agree with your clients on how Tasks will be used. First, create a post explaining that you’re about to start assigning Tasks. Explain that each Task will be assigned and will be due by a specific date, and that you’ll use comments to follow up on open items.

Next, create a test Task to make sure your clients “get it.” Name it “Complete this task!” and assign it to your client with today as the due date. (If there are two clients on the project, create one for each.) Add in the description: “Here’s a demo task so you can see how it works. Mark it as done and add a comment so I know you’re ready to start receiving real tasks.”

It’s ok if this feels a little pedantic. We know from our own experience as project managers that there are no diminishing returns on over-communication. And since your clients have probably not used BuildBook before, they’ll appreciate a little more hand-holding at first.

Step 3: Assign Tasks

Now you’re ready to create and assign a Task to your client. In the Task List, clients will only see the name, assignee, and date. Here are a few tips to create a killer task:

  • Make it actionable: lead with a verb like select, decide, or choose -- this makes sure the client knows right away what is expected of them.
  • Include vital context: provide a location, room, area, level -- anything that makes it obvious at first glance what, where, and why.
  • Assign it to the right person: if you have more than one client on the project, make sure the person assigned is the one who’ll actually do it.
  • Keep it short, but complete: don’t write a novella, but also don’t just offer up a cryptic fragment like “Kitchen cabinet.” Lead with a verb and provide a little context, like: “Select hardware for kitchen cabinets.” 

Step 4: Effective Follow-Ups

Throwing a Task out to the universe is a good first step, but that alone won’t do the trick. We all know clients are busy, and that your project is but one small part of their lives. So we’ve made it easy to send reminders and keep Tasks top of mind.

At the start of each week, view your list of Tasks to see what’s assigned to clients and due soon. (Pro tip: use the filters to narrow down the list.) Tap on the next upcoming Task, and then tap on the “comment” icon. Here, you can add a respectful nudge to your client. Something like:

Hi, Lisa! Just a quick reminder that we need to decide on kitchen backsplash tiles by July 17th to avoid going off-schedule. Reply to me here if there’s anything I can do to help. 

Provided your clients have allowed notifications, they’ll get a push saying that there’s a comment on their Task. If not, you may want to remind them to turn on notifications and to check BuildBook often for updates from you.

Conclusion

So that’s a great start to keeping your project on schedule. Do this for every selection, and keep reminding your clients to stay on top of that list. Don’t forget that your clients care about the job — they just don’t always know how to help. (You may even find that some of them appreciate a little accountability.) Mix in a little empathy with the above process and we’re confident you’ll soon be enjoying better projects -- and happier clients.

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