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What the J.D. Power Paint Study says about Our Industry

JD Power report on Paint IndustryThe 2012 U.S. Interior Paint Satisfaction study conducted by J.D. Power and Associates came out in April. Benjamin Moore ranked highest in customer satisfaction, Sherwin Williams was second and Behr third. While we salute the manufacturers who scored well, we also have to peel back the layers of this onion and see if it brings any tears to our industry eyes.

This study measures the satisfaction of consumers who have purchased and applied paint in the past year, and the criteria include:
  • application
  • product offerings
  • durability
  • price
  • design guides
  • warranty/guarantee
A few interesting results of the study:
  • 82% of paint consumers apply the paint themselves instead of hiring a professional
  • Consumers average 4 gallons of paint per project
  • Average cost per gallon is around $30
  • Customers who purchased their paint from a manufacturers store were more satisfied with their experience than customers who purchased their paint from a home improvement retailer.

While some of the consumer type reports that come out for the paint industry at times border on absurdity,  the JDP studies actually seem to be empirical in nature, not driven by sponsor dollars or who sold the most paint. I think it is an interesting cross section and insight into consumer patterns regarding paint purchase habits, and the quality of their experiences with paint.

What does this mean to paint contractors?

If you have ever visited any of the online paint discussion forums, you don’t have to go too far through the door before you run into pricing questions or contractor frustration over customer unwillingness to pay professional prices for small interior residential repaint work. It usually turns into a polarizing discussion.

The JDP study is evidence that a potentially very high percentage of paint consumers don’t necessarily consider interior painting to be a service that requires a professional. And, guess what? Its not. Not anymore than mowing the lawn or changing the oil on the car does.

Residential interior repaints require the least amount of equipment (capital investment), so the cost of entry for paint contractors in this segment is low, which drives competition up and prices down. Competitive bidding situations now involve more contractors than in the past. Three estimates used to be the standard for homeowners in contractor selection. It is not unusual to see 5 or 7 these days, according to contractors.

The JDP study illustrates that contractors are also competing with the homeowners themselves for interior paint work. If the project doesn’t have any significant degree of difficulty – ie, logistical challenges, exceedingly difficult cuts, tedious detail – many homeowners can do a fairly adequate job. In fact, I have seen some homeowners who could paint better than some professional painters.

Do the math. Almost anyone, homeowner or contractor, can go buy the average 4 gallons of paint at $30 per gallon, a 4 foot step ladder, a roll of plastic, a case of blue tape, and a couple of brushes and rollers for about $250. Now I understand why the $99 room painters feel like they have to do what they do.

The Psychology:

Most people hate to paint. They really do. When I tell people I am a painter, they say: “I hate painting.” I say: “Most people do. That’s good for my business.” And it is simple human nature to not be very good at things we don’t enjoy doing. It’s simple human nature. Painting is generally about as much fun to the average person as going to the dentist. But, homeowners do want cool new colors and a fresh coat. So, it’s an emotional roller coaster, and it is stressful.

Often times, that is about the point in the discussion when a paint contractor is invited through the door to give a free estimate. So, this is another example of why we, and a lot of contractors we know, keep an eye on the industry and share insights and trends. If we don’t understand what is important to our customers, we won’t do very well earning their business and pleasing them with our services.

 

Editor’s note: Thanks to JD Powers for providing the infograph below!

jdpowers on customer satisfaction paint

 

 

 

Scott Burt
Scott Burt owns and operates Topcoat Finishes, Inc. in Vermont, writes the monthly "From the Field" column in American Painting Contractor, and blogs prolifically at www.topcoatreview.com. Google
Scott Burt
Scott Burt
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There Are 11 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Brandt Domas says:

    I like it – “earning their business and pleasing them with our service.”
    You always plant a gem Scott. Good article.

    I’d be interested in comparing the similar data from years ago. Is the economy creating even more DIY competition with painting pros than before? Certainly the race to the bottom – price wise for those $99 per room types, has been going on a long time.

    • Scott says:

      Thanks Brandt. And, yes, that would be very interesting to look at. It sure seems to have grown hand in hand with the big box rage.

  2. Very good article!
    I have put in bids as of late using my 1994-02 pricing and losing the bid to others ….not sure why. The raw material cost seems to have no problem raising paint prices but labor should stay stagnant? Very frustrating in my area.
    I love painting and produce a very high quality job but if I continue bidding this way how long will I be able to keep going? How the heck are the others doing it???

    • Scott says:

      The only good answer I have is to find better customers and continue to deliver a clearly better service all the time. Its important for consumers to see painting as a custom service and not a price driven commodity. Alot of people will do it themselves. I am a do it yourselfer in alot of areas at my own home. Thats fine. But for those who want a pro paint company, they do need to be educated about what that means, and the burden of doing so falls completely on the good contractors.

  3. Heidi Nyline says:

    Really good insight into what consumers are weighing when it comes to hiring a paint contract. Thanks Scott. The more that a contractor can understand what is influencing a customer’s purchasing decisions, the better they can get at delivering what the customer wants.

    PerryPainting, I think the biggest point of this article and this study shows is that you need to be showing your customer that you can deliver more than just a decently painted room. You are selling service and convenience. If you are not getting jobs, start looking at what is happening when you meet the customer. That is where you are losing the job, not when you send them the price.

    • Scott says:

      Thanks Heidi, and I agree. We have all see paint contractors on the internet who can’t get past “me” syndrome, even when complaining about customers, or the lack thereof.

  4. Dana Autenrieth says:

    Scott,

    NIce article. To the question about changes in DIY vs. pro mix, certainly in the past few years, the economy has driven more people to the DIY side. Five years ago, the mix was 55% pro/45% DIY and by last year it was about 50/50. However, with the “improving” economy, most industry folks believe the mix is slowly swinging back to pro again and by next year we should be back to the 55/45 mix.

    For painters, I believe one key takeaway is the value consumers place on durability and the opportunity it presents to painters to up-sell. Trust me, I get that many homeowners simply go straight to the price when comparing estimates, but in the end, everyone wants value and they do not want to repaint in three years simply because the painter used inferior products to hit a price. If you need to trade down in product in order to get to a price, think about offering them the option of trading up to better products.

    You need to keep in mind that folks enter and leave this category sporadically and when they enter, they are barraged by messages (sometimes conflicting) from all sides. To the extent that you can clearly state your value proposition at every touchpoint (in person, brochures, the web, Facebook, Yelp, etc), the easier you make it for them to make a decision – hopefully in your favor. Believe it or not, only about a third of the population is driven solely by price, the other two thirds want value – we just need to make it easy for them to see it.

    • Chris Haught says:

      Thanks for providing those numbers Dana, we have been having several discussions in other posts about showing the value, in the product and the service we provide. Absolutely agree with your point of making sure you state it consistently.

    • Scott says:

      Thanks for the insights, Dana. In my estimating/sales experience, there are more frustrated diyers than successful ones. I think it is a critical skill for contractors to be able to quickly assess prospects through phone qualification and certainly at the initial meeting. If we are marketing well, we shouldn’t be getting too hung up on diy, or lowballers for that matter. But that seems to be part of the issue, small contractors (which most of us are) trying to cast a completely undefined marketing net and the self imposed pressure of selling every call that does come in. As far as I am concerned, a “diy” paint like Ben is a perfectly viable professional option for value engineering pricing. I prefer Natura, but have closed residential interiors by downselling to Ben. That can be an easier move than the upsell alot of the time.

We would love to hear what you think!

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