Project delivery manager Rob Phillips talks about his role with fit-out contractor Vivid Interior and why it could be the start of a new industry career path
What does a perfect delivery manager do?
I ensure that the firm meets four "cornerstones" relating to delivering the perfect building with maximum customer service. The first essential thing is delivering the project on time; the second is that it is snag-free; the third is that the building's operational and maintenance manuals are ready to hand over to the client along with the building itself. These manuals used to be about six months late as a matter of course. It was an important concern for clients because you can't lease a building until these documents are ready. The fourth is that day-to-day customer service is of a high standard. All four criteria are essential for perfect delivery.

So how do you achieve all these goals?
My job is to come up with ways of managing projects so that we can achieve perfect delivery.

I help the companies in the group (Morgan Sindall, Overbury and Lovell Partnership) to share best practice and carry out customer service surveys so that we get feedback on all our projects. If there are any problems or issues, I help iron them out. I also organise our benchmarking system – we like to compare ourselves to top companies like NASA and Disney. An organisation like NASA can't afford to get anything wrong.

How and why did this role come about?
The role evolved from the company's continuous improvement programme that was set up in 1999 to address the shortcomings we knew existed in our service to customers. Although we felt we were responsible to our customers, we realised that there was a lot of dissatisfaction among our customers. Traditionally clients have accepted low performances from contractors – but this is changing. And it also makes business sense to produce a good product the first time round. We worked out (in 1999) that we lost £1m off our bottom line correcting things.

Companies are looking at customer service as an area where that they can differentiate their own company from the competition

How did you get involved?
I used to be a site manager and contracts manager. I've always been passionate about looking at construction from the customer's point of view and got involved with a series of customer focus groups at the company.

How successful has the programme been so far?
During this time we've raised the number of perfectly delivered projects from 25% to 75%. More than half our projects are now negotiated, compared with only 20% four years ago. Client retention levels have also risen to 100% in some areas of the business.

So aren't you worried that you'll become redundant once the company hits 100% perfection?
No, not all. The four criteria we strive to meet are actually pretty basic. And once we've mastered these, I'm sure we will move on to more sophisticated goals, such as improving our supply chain and health and safety provisions.