We have been struggling lately, I speculate mostly to do with the market as most of our clients are building custom homes our cabinets are completely custom; but we struggle with long meetings, indecisive people thar are really not ready to be wasting our time and sitting in front of us. it's difficult to manage this because, we do not want to alienate them from the get go, nor do you want to oblige them and chew up our time. my designer and I have been arguing a little lately about smoothing the front end out with some prequalification forms, and at least letting the customer state in their own words or evaluate themselves as to where they are at in the process and hopefully to get information more clear and concise etc. The market has changed for us, it use to be foru or five customs and then a spec home or several in the mix. this would let the designer be working on some of their own designs while working with handheld clients. It just seems now there's no break and the clients are subjected to a lot more possibilities with the Web etc. not to mention as you all know the choices have gotten completely endless. Hoping some of you have experience the same thing and have created some sort of forms or approach to this that I might glean from or copy cat LOL
You just explained my exact predicament, only difference is that I do all the design ect. myself (and i am on the other side of the world)
From my experience customers do not like filling out forms! Especially on that first point of contact, unless you are very well established and extremely well branded people feel like they are doing you bringing you work, in the big picture this is essentially true but I feel your pain.
I am having the meetings drag out, people who don't have experience in design having bizarre ideas that they think would just be a given..."wouldn't everyone do that?"
I too am scratching my head working out how and why this is happening, i feel like I am starting to go down a TOO custom design avenue. So far this is what I have done to help reduce my time being chewed up.
I insist on being supplied drawings or plans and quote or estimate prior to a site visit. If it's Mom or Pop they can create a hand sketch with some rough measurements and mterial specs. as something for us to start with. If they are not willing or able to do that I suggest they get an interior designer. If not willing to do that...all the best with it.
Now that you know they are serious and what capabilities they or their team (interior designer, builder) have you can quote accordingly. If they have supplied brilliant plans with all the info you ned then you have a pretty good idea from your initial chats and this info that they are a motivated decisive purchaser.
If on the phone they were more worried about "when you can come and have a look" then "what the process of being supplied joinery is and they have given you a sketch on the back a napkin with a crayon then you quote with an extra day of design labor (maybe even more)
I haven't got an official documented outline of the process but general rule of thumb is , do final measure, finalise price, send deposit invoice, once deposit received, prep shop drawings, I allow 2 revisions with clients changes then I would start to charge a price per document revision (unless I have made errors on the drawings that ned to be rectified)
As you well know, your always going to get a lemon every now and then but if like me you are consistently getting difficuly, time draining clients, it's definitely something that needs to be addressed.
As the years go on and the more renovation shows are on tv the more it seems that customers know better than you. That faith in our experience has just gone.
Thanks for the response, there probably is no one answer to any of this but if it's predictable for us on our side at least there will be adjustments high or low from a fixed position,
Through this thread I'll probably end up coming with a form that I create and I'll post it so we can all talk. But just to think out loud here I'm trying to get the customer to evaluate themselves so that their answers are not reaction questions I ask them during the initial contact.
I have found that if they know the appliances that they want to use and the finish on light fixtures and or plumbing fixtures it usually means they're serious. I am able to use the excuse of appliance clearances and various specs to make them think about the items I need for a good initial design, wasting everyone's time if what I draw doesn't fit
So that would probably be one of the first prerequisites to having an initial meeting,
The next thing is a little gray Area I have been trying to make these people come with inspiration photos so that I'm able to get inside of their design style and Color palette earlier than later! I have found out that people will bring me pictures of things that they like and they don't really even know why they like it but I'll be able to promp them with questions that let me understand what their subliminally seeing that is appealing to them
For instance I had one lady that brought me some white kitchen with shaker doors on it. Her budget though I didn't know it at the time wasn't conducive for an inset build
And allowed me to drill down and find out that the thing that she was liking subliminally is the inset portion, I forgot to mention previously that this conversation was verbally had on the phone and she liked our frameless style so I thought. We ended up being able to bring her in panels out captivating doors and give her a similar look . I know I'm bringing up situations that worked so it makes it sound like I have no problem at all but for everyone of these there are 10 others that take about twice as long as I feel they should, especially when the in result ends up being something that had only known I could've got them there much quicker; but they felt like they needed to go around the world know all the options to make a final decision!
Sometimes we are dealing with different homeowners that have our regular builders, this makes the initial point of contact a phone call from the homeowner saying they're building with builder ABC and was given our number by the builder, of course we try to get budget information etc from the builder. so that we can get to what they want and what they need and relative to their budget,
We have internally discuss that that be the initial point of contact where it is Verbally introduced and the first meeting is scheduled with the prerequisite that these emailed forms be filled out and they come to the meeting with their homework if you will so that the meeting is productive and expectations are set, we're hoping this also helps the chronological order for the builder so that they can move about their business work on getting more business keeping their houses well-managed and then we would basically report back to the builder that that this is where their project stands and if a homeowner is indecisive then we don't get the blame for not being able to close the deal. And I will say that is happened more times then I can count. I'll stop by here because this is where the process begins
Disclaimer this was done from my voice on my iPhone forgive typos
I am just a sole proprietor with a few subs as needed. 2 yrs ago out of frustration with all the above issues I just decided that best I could I was going to try to only work with people that are ready to buy. Lately we do about 70% bathroom remodels, so I made up about 8 spec/price sheets for different materials and price points, from a basic fiberglass tub remodel with basic fixtures starting at 9k to a full custom tiled walk in shower with high end fixtures at 30-40k. I am also building a picture library for each one to show the materials and fixtures used. I now give a rough price over the phone to people based on their explanation of the job or take a little more time and email it to them. I ask them if they are considering other contractors and what criteria they will use to decide on a contractor. If they don't have sticker shock I figure they at least are my type of client. I then will visit with them for an hr or so as needed. I then ask for a verbal commitment or a design retainer as I think the job warrants to go ahead any farther. My unscientific thoughts are that I have not lost any work through this but I feel I have wasted a lot less time on jobs that are going to go nowhere. I even sold a job because the client was impressed I could give a price over the phone as he had just sat though a high pressure sales meeting from a regional bath remodeler. I know its a little harder and different with custom cabinets. I wish I had even a small showroom to speed up decision making. Maybe some of the things I mentioned can be implemented for you. hope it helps. mike
If we can swap meeting time for production time$$$. One thing I do at my shop is a standard pre meeting phone call after awarded the contract. I keep it simple and make sure the expectations of that meeting. This allows me to direct them and reschedule if they don't have the information. I have found a lot of the people not ready come to the meeting to due what they needed to do in the first place. I just keep the focus on needing information in order to produce job.
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