Articles written by guest contributors
The customer is not always rightBy Jeremy Sviben, Founder LightingShrink.com and Botanical Lighting
How many times have you heard the phrase: "The customer is always right?" The truth is they're not always right, maybe not even close to always. And I mean even from the basics of how you schedule your initial meetings, to the design, to the final presentation.
I am not suggesting you create and install what the customer won’t appreciate. I am suggesting you respectfully steer the customer to designs and products that you know will work, and guide them through the sales, design and installation processes that will give them what they will end up appreciating well beyond their limited experience in an area where you are an expert.
This sounds simple enough, but in talking to talented contractors across the country who possess top business and physical skill, it floors me at how docile and almost scared some contractors approach appointments and ultimately presentations. They run around meeting customers haphazardly, and at whatever time the client suggests. These contractors can even be heard saying “I don’t think it is right, but it is what the customer wanted.”
Acting intimidatedI think the complete opposite. I think contractors should act confident not intimidated. The contractors I meet are some of the most hardworking, smart, mentally tough and balanced people in the workforce. As I wrote above they possess a broad range of skills from accounting to human resources to mechanical work – they have to in order to survive in the design and installation business.
This means your time and your thoughtful work is worth the wait during busy times. You should be fairly compensated for your time, work, and for the unique skills that you certainly do not polish in any school I have ever heard of.
We may not be a good fit for youI am not suggesting arrogance. I am suggesting confidence. And in my opinion the best kind of confidence is quiet confidence.
For example, one of the opening phrases we use often with a prospective client is: “We may not be a good fit for you.” After saying that I do quickly add that I certainly hope we’re a good fit, and we are thankful that they thought of us. We then go on to explain that we are more artistically based as compared to revenue based, and we take more time to think through all the appropriate options and that means we may need a little more time and budget.
Now I want you to be honest with yourself, and ask how you would feel if you heard that from a prospective contractor you were going to hire to work on your home. It kinda scrambles the computer because most are conditioned to hearing contractors or salespeople say anything to get their business, and here you just basically told them it might cost more, take longer and you realize they may not give you the job. Being this respectfully candid allows everyone involved to relax a bit more; greatly helping anxiety and uncertainty.
We also go on to build this quiet confidence during the initial meeting by talking about the feel they want to create, some of their favorite colors and what features if left out would disappoint them – and we show lots and lots of pictures. Pictures really help a customer communicate and feel like they are making a connection to you.
Saturday meetingsI just wrote about anxiety and uncertainty above. Here is something that really has helped us; we try to do presentations that really matter on Saturdays and avoid meetings at night. Weekday evenings are when customers have raced home from their daily obligations and are usually dealing with important family matters and work issues.
Switching to Saturday-only appointments has dramatically increased the customer’s attention span and enthusiasm. People are in a much better frame of mind when they're done with the hectic workweek, and often have something fun planned for Saturday night and have Sunday off.
Now fitting in presentations on Saturdays can be tricky to schedule around your own family commitments too plus other weekend activities. But we have found that people understand if you explain why you can't meet with them right away.
For example, I had a continuing education lighting course to attend and it fell on a Saturday. This was going to put a ton a pressure on the other Saturdays in that month. So I explain why my schedule is tight; it gently reminds the customer that even after being in the Lighting business basically my whole life I still attend continuing education courses. Knowing this may make them feel they are lucky to have us and it’s probably a good idea to make time for us on an inconvenient day and ultimately wait for us.
Big company; genuine company.It is also not uncommon for us to explain how the rest of our schedule works. We let customers know that we spend Mondays in the office designing projects (we give our installers Mondays off), and then Tuesday through Friday we spend our time doing installations – which I am very much involved in. We leave Saturdays open as a make-up day for weather or other delays, and as a day of course to hold client meetings.
Organizing this way helps plan the install schedule, but it perhaps more importantly helps plan the revenue schedule – because we know every Monday morning what new work has came in or is about to come in based on the Saturday meetings.
In my view nobody really a wants big company to work on their home, they want a genuine, real, relatable company to work on their home. So the key connection we always want to convey is that we are caring people who are not as concerned about getting the sale as we are concerned with artistry, craftsmanship, and fully expanding the client’s wants/needs beyond what they could have imagined, seen and heard from other clients and the media.
I really think what the customer wants is the contractor to be always right and we shouldn’t let them down!
Jeremy Sviben grew up in his family's electrical contracting business. He is president of Botanical Lighting (BotanicalLighting.com), a design and installation firm in Medford Lake, NJ. He is also the founder of LightingShrink.com, a Process Patented, fool-proof landscape lighting connection system. Also on Facebook. Send your questions / comments for future articles to TomHatlen@HardscapeMagazine.com