That nasty letter from the customer – we’ve all gotten complaints on the job site. The complaint? You’re behind schedule, your work isn’t being performed properly. Your materials are late, you’ve delivered the wrong materials, or maybe you’ve not delivered enough materials. Your truck didn’t show up, or any number of issues. Maybe the letter comes in the form of a 48-hour notice, or maybe just a general complaint, or maybe you got verbal approval on a change order, you did the work, and now you want to get paid.
What should you do? For many of our clients, what they do is pick up the phone, call the complaining party, talk the matter through and believe they’ve resolved the issue. Then, days, weeks, or months later you get hit with a back charge, or a rejected pay application, and a claim that the issue was never resolved. You say, “but we talked about this,” and they say we have no record that the claim was ever disputed, or the additional work approved.
What Should you do to Handle a Complaint on the Job Site?
What happened and what should you have done? It’s all about documentation. If you don’t have documentation to prove it, the “other side” will claim that the call or meeting resolving the dispute or approving the change never happened. So, by all means make that call, but follow it up with a letter, email or text letting your customer know either that they’re wrong and why, what you have agreed to do to rectify whatever legitimate deficiency there is, or to confirm their approval of the changed/additional work. Be respectful but be specific. If you are properly manning the job, say so. If the job is behind schedule for a reason other than your work, state what the reason is. If there are sufficient materials on the jobsite, say so. If the material delivery is late, say why and when it’ll be there. Maybe they weren’t timely ordered. Maybe there is a problem at the factory. Whatever it may be, make sure your side of the story has been conveyed in written form, clearly and without any unnecessary apology.
If you’re confirming a change to the work, be specific about the change, what the change consists of, when it will be performed, how much it will cost, and when and how your customer approved that change.
Finally, timeliness is very important. Get your written response to your customer as quickly as you can, within 24 hours if at all possible. The longer it takes to respond, the less impact your response may have. Certainly, any confirmation of changed or additional work should be sent before the changed work is performed.
Complaints on a job site are never fun, but if it comes down to a true dispute at the end of the project or in court, having properly and timely documented your response/positing to whatever complaint has been lodged or change requested is very powerful evidence that can help get you paid.
Ensley Benitez Law, PC