Around the House: The Construction Industry Needs to Adopt Hot Food Mentality

At most better restaurants if a mistake is made on a customer’s meal after the table has been served, the new dish in the kitchen is called Hot Food which means it is a priority and it goes to the front of the line. This customer service mentality puts the customer first, but more importantly, the business takes accountability for its mistake. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, customer service has dropped in most areas of consumer spending, but probably no worse than in the construction related fields. Today for most companies, there are no Hot Food priorities, and, in some cases, customers are not eating at all.

Finding any labor, especially skilled craftspeople, in the construction industry is very difficult, and the good ones are booked out for months. The problem in some scopes is there are true home emergencies that must be addressed immediately, like a busted water line, electrical and HVAC failures, as well as break-ins through windows and doors. The inability to get repair parts along with solidly booked schedules have many homeowners in a panic while searching for solutions during home emergencies.

The supply chain is so backed up and overwhelmed, home emergencies are just being put in line with regular projects. It is imperative that service and labor-intensive companies build times into their schedules to handle emergency repairs in addition to keeping the repair and replacement parts commonly used in their scope of work in stock. Just in time or quick shipments of replacement parts are challenging in the current environment, and great companies who have a Hot Food mentality should consider stocking more parts.

It seems like a mistake in the construction industry happens every second. Between inexperienced project owners, changing lingos, and incompetency in the construction industry, mistakes are frequent and costly. In this time of extended lead times and escalating costs, both project owners and builders should verify and double check all products being ordered for a project to avoid any Hot Food issues. Now is not the time to make an error ordering because projects could be delayed months waiting on replacement items.

For example, in the window supply industry, lead times for many of the largest suppliers for the state of Florida have gone out to 8, 12, 16, and in some cases 40 weeks. Window suppliers are so backed up and overwhelmed that when they make a mistake, the replacement item goes in line again with the same extended lead times. Due to demand and shortages of components, the window and door industries do not offer any form of Hot Food customer service. In fact, a sales manager for one of the largest door manufacturers in America recently told me that he cannot push or add to any orders, and he only knows what is being shipped to the customer after it leaves the plant. This is extremely frustrating to project owners who are bearing costly delays with few good answers.

What is happening in the door and window supply chain is happening throughout the construction industry. When companies and craftspeople get overwhelmed, they simply shutdown communications and adopt a take it or leave it mentality which ignores the importance of the customer. One day after this pandemic resolves itself, these companies will need these very customers they are shunning today, but will their companies be so poisoned by these times that they can never regain Hot Food mentality? Probably so. Once a company or craftsperson stops caring about customers service, they normally cannot change.

No one disagrees that the supply chain is overwhelmed and very tough to handle, but if these companies would just take two easy measures, they can preserve their reputation as great customer service companies. First, overcommunicate to all customers and if it is bad news, do not sugar coat the issues or lead time. People deal much better with the truth. There are no excuses for any company or person at anytime to not take immediate accountability for a mistake. All mistakes should be pushed to the front of the line. Customers should not be made to wait and suffer because you failed. Own your mistakes and correct them immediately.

Emergencies and mistakes in the construction industry are commonplace, how they are handled will determine the quality of your customer service and overall company.

Don Magruder is the CEO of Ro-Mac Lumber & Supply, Inc., and he is also the host of the “Around the House” Show which can be seen at AroundtheHouse.TV.