Possibly one of the most-discussed topics in the concrete polishing industry today is managing the customer’s expectations. Many an instance has occurred in which the floor has been ground, honed and polished within a hair’s thickness of perfection in the contractor’s eyes, only for him to be informed at collection time that it isn’t what the customer had in mind. The workmanship and quality of finish may be the bee’s knees, but if it isn’t how the customer envisioned it, then you have not delivered on expectation.
There are many ways for you to manage the expectations of customers. Quite frankly, if you have been unable to collect on more than a few jobs due to this issue, then my advice would be that this part of your business needs urgent attention — stick this at the top of your next-30-days priorities list, because 90 days is probably too long to wait.
A portfolio of your previous completed works is a great place to start. This shows prospective customers what they can expect as a typical outcome, and it also shows what you are capable of delivering. If you don’t have a lot of your own pictures, ask any of your friends in the business if you can include some of theirs, but be sure to be upfront with your customers and let them know those pictures are not your work, just an example of what is possibly achievable with their floors. Show them the ugly stuff too — there is an element of risk and they should be aware of this before proceeding.
When possible, complete an onsite mockup so the customer can make a judgment call on whether to proceed with the process. You can do these for free, or you can charge for them if the project doesn’t go ahead. You determine what best suits you and your approach. This will also give you an idea of whether you wish to proceed as well as give some indication of the best way to tackle the project.
Compile a checklist for you (or your salesperson) to incorporate into your sales process. It should include things such as:
- Customer understands polished concrete and its limitations — check.
- Customer has seen our portfolio and has acknowledged level of workmanship is sufficient in reference to scope of works — check.
- On-site mockup performed as indication of expected outcome — check.
- Customer has inspected mockup and acknowledges it is an indication of expected outcome — check.
Of course there are many things you can add to the checklist to ensure that you have done your job of informing the customer to the best of your ability, clearly highlighting the possible variations in the final finish and so on. When the checklist is complete, have the customer sign it in acknowledgement.
Also include a post-completion section to the checklist and have the customer sign it upon completion acknowledging that they are satisfied with the works carried out. You can write something yourself, but if this is not your strength, you can have a list compiled by a solicitor at a price. Whichever way you go, it is a good thing to have, as you will know you have fulfilled your part of the deal on all possible fronts and they have formally acknowledged so. This will not promise you that you will get paid in a timely manner in full. However, it will certainly bolster your position should you have any issues collecting your hardearned payment.
Of course, there are many more tools that you can utilize to maximize your performance, but I believe there are books and seminars for that.
At the end of the day, if you feel you have sharpened every tool that you have and you are convinced the spec in front of you merits a higher price, then it is possible that the customer is dreaming. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and speak with representatives of the companies in the specification in front of you for additional information. Their customer may have misconceptions of the cost and process involved. They also may have selected the wrong process for their budget.
Worst-case scenario, if you know the bid is too low for you to compete, walk away. Chances are, if everyone does the same thing when they see the low bid, the market will respond accordingly.