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Setting the Right Expectations

By on January 25, 2015 in Customer Service with 10 Comments

We’ve all experienced it before:

That feeling of being let down when things don’t go exactly as we’d planned. It’s the feeling that arises when nobody comes to your New Year’s Eve party, or when you lose a football game against the worst team in the district.

Your clients may very well have gone through this disappointment with a previous home improvement project. Perhaps the contractor wasn’t clear about the scope of the job. Maybe the customer simply didn’t understand everything that was established in the proposal. In any case, having unmet expectations is often cause for finding a new person for the next job – someone who’s more adept at communicating the details and controlling the anticipated outcome.

Follow the tips below to ensure that you’re setting the right expectations for every job you take on.

  • Have a solid proposal – and present it on the spot.
  • Kick things off by engaging your clients with a great proposal that outlines all the essential details of the job.
  • Use a document that is colorful and well-organized, with proper spacing and clearly labeled sections.
  • Go over it thoroughly with the customer in person to ensure total comprehension
  • Ask if they have any questions or worries about the project so far.

Doing this will make it less likely that there will be discrepancies over the ultimate goals of the job.

Maintain regular communication with the client.

communication2Your contact with the client shouldn’t be limited to presenting the proposal and picking up the check. Check in every now and then to say “hello” and find out how they’re doing. Ask if they’re still feeling alright about the job or if they have new concerns about where things are heading. Maybe your team started a paint job and the client decided they weren’t in love with the color they’d chosen. By making a quick phone call or dropping by the job site, you can avoid disappointing the customer and save yourself the time and money it would take to start over.

Give the customer real-time updates.

One expectation that often goes unmet is the expected time of completion. Unfortunately, unforeseeable delays do come up. Sometimes the weather doesn’t cooperate, or the team doesn’t have the materials necessary to move forward. Whether you’re on-schedule or running a bit behind, it’s vital that you keep the client in the loop. Otherwise, you’ll end up with the complaint that, “This should have been done WEEKS ago!”

Find out if their expectations have changed.

It’s only human to be indecisive, and sometimes your customer will change their mind about the goals they have for the project. At this point, it’s time to go over the change order form. This document helps you and the client keep track of alterations to the original proposal, laying out the additional costs and time that may be required. Using this form will guarantee that you and the customer are still on the same page and – most importantly –that the finished product will be precisely what they were hoping for.

After you have met the expectations and finished the job, what would you do next?

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Michael Henry
Michael's owns CorkCRM.com, a business management software solution for painting companies and other residential renovation contractors. Michael's background is in residential painting.
Michael Henry
Michael Henry
Michael Henry

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  1. Nick Dunse says:

    Great article thanks , not a fan of on the spot estimate but couldn’t agree more on rest.

    • Chris Haught says:

      Hi Nick,
      I think there are times that leaving an estimate at first can be good, if the scope is small, but larger ones do need some time to review before submitting.
      PS-Love the new gravatar!

  2. Most of my jobs are booked on the spot. It usually takes me about 20 minutes to put my numbers together and then another 5 to put the details into a proposal. I prefer to review the details in person. Why not strike while the iron is hot?

    • Chris Haught says:

      Thanks Michael for contributing to BP! I think you and Nick both have good points, some jobs can be closed on the spot, some may take a bit more time reviewing products and scope.

  3. Don Goddard says:

    When I started this business 2 years ago one of the first things I noticed was how many times a customer told me that “their last painter said it would be done in “x” amount of days but instead it took 3 times that long. That immediately put me under the microscope by them. But I’ve made it my mission to be on time with our projects at least 95% of the time. So far, so good!

    But communication is the key. Several projects have taken longer than initially stated. But it was due to changes by the customer or other trades taking too long on their part. Keeping in contact with the homeowner was the key in that not being a problem for us.

    Good article! I wish more painters would read this!

    • Chris Haught says:

      Don, I agree! How many times have you had to wait for a service or repair person? Even if they do an outstanding job, the not knowing leaves such a bad taste! Thanks for commenting.

  4. Every point is spot on. I “sort of” know all these things, but need to hear them repeated so I can remember to bring them to every bid. I get lazy and over-confident sometimes and forget to practice the techniques that made me successful to start with.

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