Investigation Of Factors Enhancing Clients Satisfaction In Construction

Project and Seminar Materials for Civil Engineering CE

Investigation Of Factors Enhancing Clients Satisfaction In Construction


Abstract


The significance of customer satisfaction has increased in all fields of production. Due to tightened competition and more demanding customers, the importance of customer satisfaction is emphasized in construction as well, although few studies has been made so far. The objective of this study is to produce new information widely as regards customer satisfaction in construction and the factors affecting it and to discuss utilizing and measuring the customer data in the multi- dimensional business environment of construction.

The study consists of a summary and six independent articles. The study outlines a theoretical model of the relationships between the factors of customer satisfaction and examines the attributes of satisfaction. The study material was comprised of the extensive material of the Finnish Construction Quality Association (RALA) in which the customer evaluates the contractor’s operations using 22 variables. Additionally, the study creates a model and framework for developing a feedback systematic for construction.

Regarding the level of customer satisfaction, the negative factors appear towards the end of the project. It is well described by the fact that in less successful projects, all sectors of the project are seen as poor, and if a project succeeds in one sector, it is likely to succeed in another as well. What is noteworthy here is that co-operation and contractor’s quality of services are not separate dimensions but intertwine with the central processes of construction. Moreover, direct and indirect relationships can be perceived between the factors of customer satisfaction.

The study offers new perspectives for customer-centred development of construction. The most significant targets for development in practice are related to communication and handover methods of a construction project. By developing these methods, the constructor can eliminate factors causing dissatisfaction and improve their operations and customer orientation.


Chapter One


Introduction

1.1 Background Of The Study

Quality has become a very popular subject in recent years due to conceptual transmutations in the industry. Quality and quality systems are topics which have been receiving tremendous attention ecumenical. The products and services in any industry should be manufactured and offered to a required standard, one that provides clients gratification and value for money. The desideratum for achieving quality of the culminated product in the building construction is very important. The high cost of buildings makes it indispensable to ascertain quality of the finished product (Teena, 2014).

For clients, there are many benefits that can be achieved than contractors having formal quality management protocols.

The maintenance of quality management creates a high-performance personnel atmosphere and a culture of continuous improvement, making it unlikely to work toward a zero rework environment.

This will be a key component of any organization move towards achieving best practice in order to overcome the quality performance problem in the construction projects.

In the construction management, the schedule, cost and quality achievement is also declared to as the iron triangle.
For a client, quality is nothing but satisfaction with the appearance, performance, and reliability of the project for a given price range.

Private clients are consisting of either local or sole traders who need support with the construction, alteration, or maintenance of their private properties. It is common for such a client to enter into a private agreement with just a builder (design and build) to undertake the construction work. In the circumstance of extensive work being required, the private client might have to source the skills of an architect to pass planning and building regulations aforehand.

Public clients are comprised of Commercial, Public Limited Companies and Governments that needs to carry out construction to aid their business processes or the production of products. They would similarly have to follow environmental and safety regulations regarding planning and building. They could also consist of any company listed on the stock exchange, i.e. banks, retailers, etc. Considering the ability of these companies with public shares, it creates sense that any construction company functioning with this type of client would have to apply for either estimates or rigid contracts before work can commence. Government built projects can be issued at three different levels:

  • Level 1: Local council
  • Level 2: State and territory government
  • Level 3: Central (Federal) government

Local councils have the obligation of building and maintaining services; state governments may initiate major capital works, such as new public buildings or major infrastructural changes. The highest level is central government departments which manages massive building and infrastructural projects.

While this is just a broad look at the typical clients found in the construction industry, it is obvious that construction clients are unique, thus their projects require the implementation of a tailored approach regarding planning and execution.

Assessment will be made based on the contractors’ performance in relation to three comparisons, all of which impact clients’ satisfaction

  1. Comparison – among the quality of the building, the clients’ outlooks and the adjusted goals for the building.
  2. Comparison – among the quality of the construction process and the experiences, which have emerged during the process.
  3. Comparison – between the client’s outlook and experiences (Teena, 2014).

1.2 Justification

Being clients focused nowadays has to be accepted as a bare necessity to conduct business. Globalization and value-driven business imperatives would therefore mean that error are not standard to be tolerated; substandard intersection and services will guarantee that the weak are not working to continue competing; and fragile practices and poorly defined and managed methods will not be accepted. Apart from anything else, true competitive advantage will only be established through excellence in clients’ value and the ensuing relentless guardianship and attention provided. (Zairi, 2010). This informed decision provided the base for the need to embark on this study.


1.3 Statement Of Problems

The problems of this study include:

  1. Delay of completion.
  2. Over running project cost
  3. Inferior quality
  4. Incompetent service providers

1.4 Aim And Objectives

The objective of this study is to investigate the factors that enhance client’s satisfaction in construction which includes ways to:

  1. Improve the quality performance of construction projects.
  2. Test for significant differences, using statistical methods.

The aim of this study is to:

  1. Identify and determine the degree of influence these factors exert on clients.
  2. Access the satisfaction level of clients based on the RALA feedback mechanism.

1.4 Scope Of Study

The scope of this study includes:

  1. Review of quality performance of construction.
  2. Reconnaissance visit to construction sites for quality assessment.
  3. Prepare questionnaires on quality performance assessment.
  4. Analyze the questionnaires using Regression statistic method.

1.5 Limitation Of Study

  1. Distribution and collection of Questionnaire
  2. Difficulties in selecting Construction industry and client’s to issue out questionnaire.

Chapter Five


Discussion And Conclusions

Summary Of Research

In the construction business, customer-orientation is gaining importance, and the industry has adopted new practices when striving towards closer co-operation with customers. The customers have become more demanding and they require more open co-operation, flexibility, and more transparent operations from the contractors. Today, customer satisfaction should be a part of the parameters used in measuring the performance in every construction project. It is indeed seen as one of the central success factors in project business along with the traditional parameters such as quality and costs. At its best, customer-orientation in construction is an on-going process closely related to all of the contractor’s operations. Then, it is not an unconnected success factor but it creates added value to the selection offered by the contractor. Moreover, this creates a competitive edge for a customer-oriented company: a company that is better able to satisfy its customers’ needs than others are is improving its own competitive position and is able to form long-term customer connections.

The objective of the study was to explore customer satisfaction in construction. Customer satisfaction can be seen either as a goal or as a measurement tool in the development of the quality of construction process. Versatile analysis was conducted to deepen the understanding of this project success factor which has been stated to be under-researched so far. A number of analyses were made in order to get information about the concept of customer satisfaction as such and different features of it. The subgoals of the study were related to identify customer satisfaction factors and examine the interrelationships between factors. The study also describes the utilization of customer organization in the organizations and creates the model for assessing the mutual performance in the construction supply chain.

Interrelationship with factors

Based on the structural equation model, it may be stated that customer satisfaction in a construction project is a multi-dimensional entity. The customer satisfaction model created in the study matches the material well and is therefore well suited to describe the research subject. Furthermore, it provides a versatile view on the investigated phenomenon. In a project-focused environment, it is often argued that everything affects everything, at least consequentially. On the other hand, this study showed that the interdependencies and relationships between the factors are different. Moreover, the model developed can assist in perceiving various direct and indirect relationships between the factors. For instance, the contractual work quality experienced by the customer is influenced by the factors describing the handover procedures and their quality via the quality assurance procedures whereas it is directly influenced by the factor describing the temporal management of the construction process.
The nature of customer satisfaction in construction is well illustrated by the fact that in projects with a lower level of success, the feedback has been negative in all areas. Thus, the customer has assessed the project as entirely poor although this was actually not the case in all areas. Therefore, negative experiences seem to have a great impact on the customer’s entire image of the project. This result emphasises the significance of quality assurance throughout the project and suggests that in some cases, quality assurance methods could be further developed. When comparing the more and less successful projects, it may be stated that in both groups, the same factors proved a success. In other words, if a project succeeds in one field, it is likely to succeed in all of them, and vice versa. This result is also a good example of the accumulative nature of customer satisfaction in project production.

It should be noted that co-operation and the supplier’s service level are intertwined with several of the core processes in construction. Thus, they are not separate, independent dimensions. According to this study, the contractor’s ability to co-operate from the customer’s perspective is clearly divided into two: management of changes, and communication. This result emphasises the significance of communication in project production. It is a part of customer-oriented construction, and its management is one of the central sectors of project management. Since the contractor’s co-operative skills and service level are intertwined with several of the core processes in construction, developing the contractor’s service skills should be more customer-oriented in order to develop the central processes. This stresses the importance of the contractor’s entire selection of services as regards customer satisfaction. The result is in accordance with prior studies, as well (e.g. Al-Momami 2000; Ozaki 2003; Maloney 2002).

One of the central features of service is that the customer participates in the production process at least to some extent (e.g. Grönroos, 2000). Also in construction, the commissioner of the project is a customer who participates in the various aspects of construction depending on the form of implementation. This emphasises the nature and significance of service in construction. This result is similar in other studies examining services in construction (Yasamis et al. 2002; Torbica and Stroh 2001).

Towards project success by identifying CS factors

When examining the commissioner’s satisfaction with various factors, it can be argued that different factors have different significance and impact on the satisfaction as experienced by the commissioner. The Kano model (Kano et al. 1984) can be used in categorising the factors causing further satisfaction and dissatisfaction. The first create added value for the customer, and taking good care of these matters will improve customer satisfaction and added value. On the other hand, so-called must-be-factors can also be perceived. These should always be tended to. Success with these factors does not necessarily improve the customer satisfaction of the commissioner but failure will definitely cause dissatisfaction. One of such factors is the OFFICIAL factor that describes the operational surroundings guided by legislation. This includes the variables cleanliness and order on site, management of work safety on site, management of environmental issues and related know-how on site, and tending to official obligations in practice. The structural equation model displaying the interfactoral causal relationships can also help in seeing that the OFFICIAL factor is a very independent factor that does not directly influence the other factors whereas, e.g. the CHANGEMG covering management of changes in the project has a direct effect on the contractual quality experience by the commissioner. The CHANGEMG factor is directly influenced by the communication- related COMMUNIC factor which in turn has an indirect, consequential impact on the contractual quality as seen by the customer. Therefore, some factors have direct impact on experienced customer satisfaction and some indirect. The various factors in customer satisfaction also have a different impact on the quality as perceived by the customer.

The negative factors of the projects in the feedback data had one characteristic in common: they will appear and occur in the final stages of the project. More extensively, this may be due to problems in adhering to schedule and planning which affect the success of the entire project and which may be seen as a critical factor as regards the entire business. In these cases, the contractor may have sought short-term customer satisfaction at the expense of longer-term one. Problems in adhering to schedule correlate strongly with factors related to quality assurance and handover which means that the level of contractual quality has been merely satisfactory.

Problems with the schedule are also related to the construction companies’ process management and effectiveness of internal communication. It is characteristic of construction projects that errors made in the beginning of the project will multiply by the final stages and manifest themselves, for instance, as schedule problems. Neglecting to inform the customer about negative matters and unfounded optimism about catching up in the final stages are one of the most significant problems in the construction industry. Normally, problems that have occurred are hidden and it is hoped that they be solved later on. Often, the errors will appear in the final stages when nothing more can be done. Problems may have their origins in deep rooted ways of thinking and the lack of service culture in the entire construction industry. Proper and timely communication can influence and diminish the problems related to schedule and affect the project’s entire customer satisfaction.


Evaluation Of Research

Reliability

In the light of reliability and validity of the study, it is important that a questionnaire made reflects right information. According to Hayes (1998), when constructing a questionnaire or scale that assesses customer attitudes and perceptions towards customer requirements, it is necessary to consider measurement issues to ensure that scores derived from such instruments reflect accurate information about the construct, customer satisfaction. It is important to be sure that the true underlying level of perception of satisfaction is accurately reflected in the questionnaire score. A reliable measure is one to which a respondent responds in the same or in a very similar manner as to an identical question. In other words, reliability is the degree to which a respondent is consistent in his answers (Burns and Bush 2006).

Standard for Educational and Psychological Testing (1985) observes that reliability is a generic concept and it is seen as essential that the reliability of a measurement is studied from the viewpoint of the conclusions drawn. According to Nummenmaa et al. (1997), this extends the researcher’s responsibility from calculating the reliability factors and measurement errors to responsibility for the conclusions made on the basis of the measurements. In this study, customer satisfaction in the dynamic project surroundings of construction has been widely discussed and the conclusions drawn are based on versatile tests and knowledge of the construction industry. The reliability of this study is further enhanced by the fact that the same phenomena is studied using multiple variables and multi-faceted examination. Moreover, the respondents were professional constructors who assessed the operations of the company as such, which could also be seen to increase the reliability of the study.

As regards statistical analyses, it was shown that the SEM model fit the material well and a logical interpretation of the content was also obtained. Furthermore, in factor loadings, the error variances and inter-factor correlations have been reported as recommended by Nummenmaa et al. (1997).

The evaluation of the project success here is conducted at the end of the project, which may somewhat weaken the reliability of the research. This may occur because the customer might overemphasise the later stages of the project as a consequence of the project’s long duration and the fact that defects during the hand-over period stay most clearly in the customer’s mind.

Validity

In general, validity refers to the validity of an indicator, i.e. if it suits its task. Standards for educational and Psychological Testing extends this definition and states that validity stands for the suitability, sensibility, and usefulness of the conclusions made based on the results. The kinds of validity most commonly assessed are content, criterion, and structural validity (Polit and Hungler 1997).

The items covered by the questionnaire are familiar, commonly used indicators of project management used daily by the professionals (e.g. Pmbok 1996). Additionally, the third party in the questionnaire, the Finnish Construction Quality Association (RALA) is a valued actor in the field striving to improve quality of construction. Moreover, anonymous feedback increases the validity of the study although the marked in Finland is relatively small and the actors know each other. On the other hand, there should be more detailed information about respondent’s background in the survey.

In the chapter 5 was presented model for measuring mutual feedback in the construction. The model was created by using literature analysis, interviews and focus group-method. Tuomi and Sarajärvi (2009) have presented evaluation criteria for qualitative research, which are: 1) Clearness of the research report 2) Conformity of methodology 3) Analytical accuracy 4) Theoretical connection 5) Good relevance. Wide literature analysis and interviews were preceding focus group meetings, which improves theoretical connection and conformity of methodology of the study. Challenges in the customer orientation in the whole branch of industry brought also relevance in the study. In the focus group meetings features and the content of the feedback model was explored in the point of view of all major parties in the construction supply chain, which improves analytical accuracy of the study.

Future

Empirical studies on customer satisfaction and its development are gradually becoming available in the field of construction. Next, it would be interesting to see how it has affected the financial factors such as the profit of a company or, on a project level, the coverage of a construction site. In this way, its possible financial benefits could be clearly demonstrated, among other benefits. When the factors contributing to and threatening customer satisfaction are discovered, the development should focus on turning the weaknesses into strengths. The distinctive features of the type and nature of the project should be understood as only then can segmentation be improved and selection offered be expanded.

The feedback systematic created as a part of the study has been further utilised to develop a web-based feedback system (ProPal) which is gradually gaining importance in the construction market as a group of large actors have adopted it. Using the information yielded by the feedback system, the companies can observe the needs for development and compare their own performance level with those of other companies in the various fields of project operations. The system enables flexible use of various feedback enquiries based on the nature of the project and the needs of the company, and it can be used in different projects and forms of implementation. When a common system is used, all parties can utilize the information given and received in an equal manner. Later on, it can be complemented with new items which can comprise, for instance, the various services during the building’s life span, or the evaluations of the premises’ users as regards the building’s functionality and usability.

Naturally, in this phase of development, as the project feedback system is first introduced in Finland, there is not enough empirical data in the system for wide benchmarking in the construction industry level. Nonetheless, the first experiences of using the feedback system have been encouraging. As the system benefits the company’s development operations directly, it also creates indirect potential for development for other actors. In this way, the quality in the entire industry improves, customer satisfaction increases, and a win-win situation beneficial for the entire industry has been created.


Investigation Of Factors Enhancing Clients Satisfaction In Construction


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