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One of the main challenges that suppliers and subcontractors consistently face throughout the notice process is a lack of data. States may require that notices be sent to specific contacts or to list specific details about each project. For a party located at the bottom of the relationship chain, without visibility into all parties above them, this information is not always readily available.
Suppliers and subcontractors know their customer’s information, but is their customer a subcontractor or the general contractor on the project? Who is the property owner? Some states may even require that the lender or surety receive notice – how do subcontractors and suppliers get this information?
This is an obstacle that many in the industry need to overcome in order to implement a valid notice and lien process, and its importance should not be understated. Read on to learn how you can tackle this challenge so it doesn’t prevent your company from using security, and utilizing its best collections tool.
The Best Solution
Far and away, the best solution to this challenge is to build data collection into your admin process from the very beginning. It is easy to design a simple template that requests all of the information you need in order to send out a proper notice and have your customer fill it out at the time of the sale. Want a shortcut to getting started? See our template.
In states where a preliminary notice is required, such as California or Florida, this process is common and effective. Your customers expect this as it is simply just a part of everyday business in the construction industry, so do not be intimidated or afraid to request this vital information.
Having this required data upfront is beneficial for three reasons: 1) it will allow you to save time – a valuable commodity in a process so dependent on deadlines; 2) it will allow you to be organized – a crucial step in ensuring that notices are sent in an efficient manner and also in letting you reference a documented system if contradictions arise in the future; and 3) it will allow you to build better relationships – visibility is key in creating a fair payment process for everyone and this is the first step in achieving that goal on each project.
What if this solution simply isn’t possible? While there are some challenges to implementing this type of set-up, there are many companies that initially thought it would be too cumbersome to request better information at the start of the project, and then built requesting data into the general course of business later on. That being said, it’s not as simple as snapping your fingers and wishing it was so. In large corporations, coordinating process changes across multiple departments can take time, and in every business, this type of change requires expending some effort.
In order to get around this data-gap, many notice companies say that they will call your customers to get this data for you.
Despite what it seems, this is not a good idea…
Why Notice Companies Shouldn’t Call Your Customers
This one is short and simple: do you really want your notice company to call your customers? No one likes to be interrupted from a busy workday, so help improve your business relationships – don’t annoy your customers.
In any event, no matter how many notices you send, your outsourced solution for sending notices is sending more. You may only have a handful of notices per month, you may have hundreds, or you may have thousands. In any event, no matter how many notices you send, your outsourced solution for sending notices is sending more. This is especially true with outsourced software platforms that allow for the processing of thousands of notices every day.
It is simply not feasible for a company processing hundreds of thousands of documents to call every single one of your customers (along with the customers of every one of its other clients. It’s hard to imagine any company being able to do this in a thorough and dependable manner. After all, being you wouldn’t want a call center sending notices – why would you want an outsourced software platform or another critical third-party acting as a call center? Using software platforms and third-party processors to streamline sending notice documents is beneficial for many reasons, but a significant factor in optimizing the process. Making endless phone calls is about as far from optimizing an all-too-often all-too-manual process as it can get.
In addition to the time crunch, and the fact that calling customers is not an optimized process, there is the issue of dependability. What if the notice company does reach your customer and is provided information? Is it the right information? Who knows.
While it is unlikely that parties will intentionally provide incorrect information, the same information-gap problems can plague everybody. And, everybody can get things wrong, even when they fully believe they are right. In the event that incorrect information is accidentally provided, there is no proof of request, or any other hard-copy documentation of attempting to get the information needed, if the request was made via phone call. If a payment issue arises down the line, it’s always better to have physical proof that steps were taken in an attempt to gather all information needed to be compliant with the particular requirements at issue.
What Should Be Done Instead?
If missing data simply cannot be found through the detailed research practices, and technological help, employed by sophisticated software platforms, the best option is to send an official Request For Information (RFI), along with the notice itself, to the known project participants. This process is a much better option than attempting to reach parties by phone for many reasons. Some of these are addressed below.
Relationships: Your customer won’t be interrupted by a phone call in the middle of an important task. They can respond when they set aside the time in their day for checking this off their to-do list.
Ease: An RFI can be included with and even within the notice document itself, so the mailing of your notice won’t be delayed by failure to reach your customer by phone.
Increased Opportunity: All known parties on a project will receive the RFI, not just your customer. Reaching additional parties means more opportunities for the missing data to be provided, or to have incorrect data corrected.
Authority: Many requests for information are grounded in the specific laws of the state in which the project is located. This means that, by providing a request in a written form, delivered by a particular method, the law requires a response. This is much different than the attempt to get information through a phone call. Even in the event that there is no specific law related to requesting project information, it is much easier for a party to ignore or brush off a phone request than a written request on a legal document.
Documented Proof: No matter what transpires, if there is a payment dispute, at least an RFI provides real, tangible proof that the required information was requested. It’s a difficult position to have missing information on a notice (especially when that information may be required to preserve lien rights), but even worse than that is not having the required information and not having any way to prove it was requested.
The challenge of locating missing data on a project is very real. The best solution is to implement easy data requests directly into your admin process, but there all is not lost if this cannot be done. Sending a Request For Information to the other parties on the project is generally the next best option.