Managing Your Customers’ Jobsite Prep Expectations

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By Megan Headley

Jobsite prep might look different for virtually every painting contractor but ultimately it’s not the prep you provide that matters, but whether or not the prep you perform meets (or exceeds) your customer’s expectations.

For many painters, the expectation is that you show up to a site that is ready for paint. Jobsite prep might simply mean rolling tarps or paper out over the floor and furniture and getting to work. But that may not always be what your client is expecting, and it’s those mismatched expectations that can lead to unsatisfied customers.

The first step for painters with Sound Painting Solutions LLC in Washington is to lay out protective paper or tarps. The very next step? “We do a walk-through with the client,” explains Jeff DuPont, co-owner of Sound Painting. This process helps the painters set customer expectations so they know the baseline to meet.

“We make sure we understand what areas are of concern to the client, what areas need extra prep, how we lock up, etc.,” DuPont says. Maybe there's a hole in the kitchen that’s never been patched quite right. Maybe they're concerned about texture matching. “If you really understand their needs you can deliver a better product from the beginning,” he adds. 

How thorough is your jobsite prep? Photo courtesy Trimaco.

Providing marketing materials or on an estimate sheet that includes information about what needs to be done on a jobsite before the painter comes on-site can help get everyone on the same page.

MDF Painting & Power Washing in Greenwich, Conn., sends customers a "Job Planning Packet" as soon as they receive a signed contract and deposit. “This packet helps the customer prepare for our team's arrival by giving them a checklist of items including color selection, landscaping requirements, storm window removal options, furniture removal options and wall-hanging expectations,” explains Mark DeFrancesco, president of MDF Painting & Power Washing.

“With better communication and an emphasis on being helpful, we actually find that many homeowners do simple prep themselves, from trimming back landscaping and removing storm windows to taking down window dressings and specialty hardware,” DeFrancesco adds. “In other cases, the homeowners prefer that we do all this pre-work and they now realize that this takes additional man hours of time—and thus warrants additional fees.”

Other painters go beyond a checklist to take on higher levels of prep, including moving furniture, removing picture frames, and protecting vegetation.

Scott Burt, owner of Topcoat Finishes in Vermont, pulls out all the stops for what he calls his “A list” clients. “Don’t be surprised if your best customers ask you to do other things. They may be simple things to us, but difficult tasks for them. It is common for us to be asked to change a hard-to-reach lightbulb. Small gestures like this mean a lot to people,” he says. But, as Burt points out, those above-and-beyond type actions can pay off in dividends when it comes to repeat high-end business.

Painting contractors that put a premium on overachieving prep practices can create a distinctive edge for their business. Others argue that providing this level of prep isn’t worth the cost in time. How thorough, they ask, can a contractor really afford to be?

“We always give them the option to have our team do more of this work, but we make it clear that we charge for these additional services,” DeFrancesco says.

“If the client wants extra prep we make sure we identify it at the sales process,” DuPont agrees. “If we go to a bid and the client wants more than PDCA standards, we would definitely make sure to discuss it with them and we would charge for it because it would add additional man hours.”

Megan Headley is managing editor for APC Magazine. She can be reached at editorial@paintmag.com

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jobsite prep, Trimaco, customer expectations, moving furniture, PDCA standards

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