Back in March while snow still covered the land of Buffalo, my family and I attended an outdoor garden and landscape show. It is amazing to see living things, after months of seeing nothing but frozen tundra outside. Vendors build outdoor hardscapes (we learned that this is a fancy way of saying “patio”), to display all their gardening talents. The time and effort that goes into these areas takes days and extreme planning to create awesome designs.
Ready for a hardscape of our own, we approached a company at the garden show to request the exact design that they had on display. We asked to schedule an appointment with them, and even offered a deposit, reasoning the company could re-use the same stones that we stood on during the event.
Instead, we were asked to sign a book with our name and number (Mistake #1).
It was WEEKS before someone showed up to our house to complete the estimate. Again, we mentioned we were ready to move forward with the project as soon as we had the draft. We were told that we would receive the design within seven days.
After not receiving the proposal weeks after (Mistake #2), I called and emailed the company. Not surprisingly no one picked up the phone. A day later a short message waited for me in my inbox. “Hi, Heather. We are sorry the quote was delayed, and we will have it to you shortly.”
We still have not received the quote (Mistake #3).
By now, any reputable garden company is booked throughout the rest of the summer, and we don't even have an idea of what our dream patio will cost. Needless to say, the company that promised us a quote yet never delivered it will NOT be receiving our business. This experience cost that company more than a lost sale; it cost us an entire season.
As a business owner, I cannot help but wonder why a company would spend so much time, effort, and funds if they were not going to follow up. Maybe they under-estimated how busy they would be. Maybe someone fell ill, or maybe they are just bad business people.
I hope you’ve never made the same mistakes with your custom integration business clients. But just to make sure that you don’t fall into the same pattern, here are three rules that I try to follow.
Don’t Over-Promise and Under-Deliver. It seems so obvious and yet our egos get in our way. Would you rather have someone tell you an install would take an hour and then be billed for two, or would you rather be prepared for two and a half hours of labor and then be discounted back for that un-used half hour? Honesty could have gone a long way in my example above. How about, “Hey, the weather has delayed our season this summer; here is another company you could try?” Or, “Hello, due to employment issues, we will not be able to take on more work this summer. We can sign you up for our first spots next summer or make recommendations on a few other reputable companies.”
Don’t Break Your Word. If you say that you will have a quote ready by the end of the week, get the quote done. You are building long-term trust here. Your word is gold. And yet, we are human. If you do mess up, then admit fault and a do not do it again. We have a rule in-house that if a client is pushed back for any reason, they cannot, under any circumstance, be moved or postponed again. Great relationships are built on trust, and a business relationship is no different.
Don’t Guess on a Price. I remind my team of installers this all the time. If they guess on a price of an install, and the quote comes back higher, you are less likely to win the bid. When asked for an install price, we let the client know when we will be in touch with that quote. This also works when a customer is asking for your expert opinion. Do not pretend you know the answer if you do not. Need an expert on sound absorption? Pair up with an acoustics company instead of pretending what you do not know.
As for me, I am back to square one with our patio. I learned my lesson: start with more than one contractor and then may the best one win. There is no closing tool like the sense of urgency, and my experience has reminded me to react and keep true to my word with the promised timeline in mind.