Engineering, Procurement, Construction (EPC) projects are hard and a very difficult field to work in. Every project is unique. Every client is different. Even within a given client company, project managers may have varying preferences with regards to project execution. As contractors, our job is to figure out how to make the client successful, while satisfying the safety, logistical and technical requirements of the job. The client must agree that the project was successful or working for them again won’t come to pass. This is a big deal. Service companies are dependent on repeat business.
Why the dependency on repeat business?
The world is small. Especially the world of oil, gas and chemicals. It seems as though this market is huge, and it is, in terms of capital. However, in terms of numbers, it is small. There are a relatively small number of owner/operating companies that support a large number of service companies. The only way to sustain a healthy client base is to ensure a strong foundation of strong core/repeat customers.
Necessary components for repeat business:
2) The perception from all stakeholders that the project went well
3) A finished product that meets quality expectations
4) A product that meets budget expectations
5) A product that meets schedule expectations
This business is about partnerships.
For EPC companies, the goal is to be a client’s go-to company for years to come, not just for one project. Decisions should be made that are in the best interest of the partnership long term, as opposed to short sighted ones. Organizations must take into account the value of projected future income instead of looking at a project in a silo. Every project taken on or site accessed should be viewed with pride. The intent should be to continue to work there indefinitely. The way to get this done is to be the best at what you do, and to serve your client in a way that makes them successful.
It takes a long time to acquire a new client in our business, sometimes a year or more. There is a significant cost in this, both in real dollars and time, but also in opportunity cost that could have been spent pursuing other business. Once a client is obtained, the relationship should be nurtured and not taken for granted. The easiest way to do this is with responsiveness and respect. When a client calls, call them back. Answer their questions and take ownership in the relationship. Always get them the help they need. Be respectful and nice. The clients pay the bills.
It is not just the client that needs attention. All project stakeholders should be identified at the beginning of a project, and their satisfaction should also be maintained throughout. For example, the 3rd party inspector is also a stakeholder and deserves to be satisfied.
Work safe, smart, hard, and never be idle. A large part of what a client thinks is in the hands of its employees. Good client/employee interaction is a big part of maintaining a long-term relationship. The importance of this should be emphasized from upper management. Everyone who interacts with a client, whether it be by email, in person, or by phone, should think of themselves as a salesperson for their organization.