Pro Tips
Managing Material Selections for Clients: How to Make BuildBook Work for Your Business
Carson Miller
December 16, 2020

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.

Some examples of these choices that could hold up progress are things like material selections for windows, doors, floors, countertops, and tile — or whether a client wants a single vs. double sink in the bathroom. Scheduling of fabrication and installation should be planned ahead and materials need to be ordered to stay on track.

But 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. 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 for Material Selection Process

To keep your clients accountable you need to get them — and your team — using BuildBook’s software for material selections and overall project management. We’ve written quite a bit about how to do all this, so we’ll recap it briefly here:

  • Sign up for a BuildBook Account and invite your team (Team and Unlimited Accounts only)
  • 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 there are different Task Types and that you’ll be using the “Selection” Type. Let them know that tasks will be assigned and due by a specific date, and that you’ll use comments to follow up on open items. Using the Selection Task Type by room will help the client understand dependencies for ordering and installation.

Next, create a test Task — be sure to choose “Selection” as the Task Type — 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. Here are a few tips to create a killer task:

  • Choose a Task Type: select the correct Task Type. In this case, it is more than likely going to be Selection or Payment Reminder.
  • 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 do it.
  • Keep it short, but complete: don’t write a novel, 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

Software to aid in material selection is often helpful when juggling all the moving parts of a construction project. Material selection software such as BuildBook can streamline these types of tasks by setting deadlines ahead of time, emailing reminders, and giving visibility to the whole team on anything falling behind.

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 click "Add a comment or photo" at the bottom. Here, you can add a respectful nudge to your client. Something like:

Hi, Lisa! Just a quick reminder that we need to decide on some material selection items like kitchen backsplash tiles by July 17 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

This is 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 for important decisions like material selections. 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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