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How do you handle customers who approach you about services?

Discussion in 'General Signmaking Topics' started by john1, May 2, 2011.

  1. john1

    john1 Guest

    Hey, I am looking for some suggestions on a more effective approach to take on customers who want to get things done. I do alot of emails back and fourth with internet customers and it's gotten me spoiled.

    Example being, I have someone who called me Saturday and wanted me to drive about 20 minutes away to discuss a 2.5x4' printed banner they wanted. Now i told them give me a call Monday with what they wanted on the banner and just overall details for a design to be made. They didn't call me today but emailed me saying they wanted to meet this evening after 5pm for whatever reason.

    They already told me the size they need it and really i don't see the use in meeting up for anything but the payment which can be deposited before any work is done. I am not designing on the spot anyway so meeting would be unnecessary IMO.

    What would you guys do in that situation? Customer wants work done but wants you to drive here and meet at times other than normal hours.

    I have another guy who emailed me at 11pm last night wanting a van lettered. He had gotten a quote about 4 months ago from me and said "I'm ready to move forward if you can meet me here Monday". Another 20-30 minute drive for something i don't believe is necessary on my part.

    Maybe I'm just being lazy but i really don't like people taking advantage my services since i am home based. I know traveling is a part of anyones shop but i deal with this kinda stuff alot for jobs that are never promised.

    I just feel as if there is no value in doing this anymore, I don't know what it is but i always feel i'm held back by being home based but i'm sure a shop isn't all glits and glam either. Then people can stop by and bother you randomly.

    Any tips? Be nice please lol
  2. Gino

    Gino Premium Subscriber

    Jun 7, 2006
    Either put your foot down and tell then to go stick it that you don't do a thing without getting paid..... or just go on a wild goose chase, hunting for business.

    Ya know, you keep coming back here for all kinds of hints and techniques on how to do this and that, but you refuse to join the the 'Premium' subscription section. Do you understand how much better your replies would be there ??

    You're just like your own customers..... you don't want to do anything that will take a little time or spend any money. You're a product of your own home-made environment. I believe your problem stem from your business plan.... or lack of one.
  3. HaroldDesign

    HaroldDesign Very Active Member

    Aug 16, 2007
    I've found a lot of people simply like meetings. It makes them feel like an important business person who needs to direct you in a meeting. If the work can be done without one it should be. A nice way to prevent needless meetings is to offer your method of getting things done as being how you do things. Small orders requesting meetings come from people who want to feel like your boss.
  4. klemgraphics

    klemgraphics Active Member

    Jan 13, 2008
    Maybe have them meet you somewhere close to you? Best would be to have them come to you but since your home based it sounds as though you don't want them coming to your home and I respect that. No way I would drive 20 minutes to discuss a banner that small, gas is too high for that.

    Give them the option to either come to you or e-mail you pics/specs and take it from there. If you give in and drive that far once they will always expect it. Don't make yourself look desperate for the work even if you are.
  5. klemgraphics

    klemgraphics Active Member

    Jan 13, 2008
    Gino hit the nail on the head!
  6. FatCat

    FatCat Very Active Member

    Feb 12, 2007
    Columbus, Ohio
    I think you have to deal with these issues on a case by case basis.

    A new customer that calls wanting you to drive 20-30 minutes to discuss a $75 banner is one you'll have to inform that you have a travel charge or convince them that everything can be handled via the internet. If they can't "get it" that their job isn't worth the aggravation, let them waste somebody else's time.

    HOWEVER, you will have to carefully consider the customer wanting you to come out and discuss their $10,000 budget for their new storefront sign. :thumb: :Big Laugh
  7. HulkSmash

    HulkSmash Major Contributor

    Sep 10, 2010
    I agree with Gino. Premium helps alot. It payed for itself more than 15 times over.

    But going out to see the customers is part of the job... We had a guy call few weeks ago asking for a 36x48 stickers.. but still wanted me to measure the glass it's going on.. even though he KNEW the size he wanted. So we had to drive there.. measure it..

    print it drive back and install it.

    it was a 30+ minute 1 way drive. It's just part of the job.
    Show your customers you care, it'll get you far... it's worked for us.

    I can't tell you how many jobs ive drove 30+ minutes to and havnt seen or heard from them since i sent them a quote. It's all part of the job.
  8. MikeSTK

    MikeSTK Dawns Vinyl Designs

    Feb 23, 2011
    Weatherly, Pa
    You being home based is fine as far as I am concerned. But now you get the downside. They figure you aren't a "real" business so your time has no value. Heck, even when you get a brick and mortar shop most people continue to think your time is worthless.

    I will meet customers, even after hours, if I need to see something that can't come to me, like a sign for a structure. Or if they are a consistant, returning customer.

    Plan A: If they persist explain your hourly rates and mileage. Tell them you would be glad to stop in but there is a charge associated with it. Period.

    Plan B: If you want to work through it offer an appointment at your convienience when you are going past their location.

    Plan C: Agree to meet them and lose money on the project.
  9. Fred Weiss

    Fred Weiss Merchant Member

    Sep 11, 2003
    Olympia, WA
    You can meet with them and consider it as "casting your bread upon the waters." Some of the best clients I've done business with started this way. Or you can say something like, "I'm very backed up with work right now, but I can meet with you for a few minutes Wednesday of next week at 9:15".

    Seeking to have the prospect guarantee you an extra charge for meeting them has never worked for me.
  10. Marlene

    Marlene Major Contributor

    Jun 8, 2004
    going to site is all up to you. the only real reason to go is to go is to do your own survey to check out a site. for a really high end job, I would go there for a sale. for a banner, not a chance.
  11. GypsyGraphics

    GypsyGraphics Major Contributor

    Mar 19, 2009
    running a professional home-based business... a good thread on it's own i think.... in the "premium" section of course. i have some expereince speaking on the subject and would really like to hear how other home-based business operate.
  12. iSign

    iSign Major Contributor

    Nov 29, 2003
    Kahului, Maui
    here's some of the things I've been known to say.

    If I'm in your area in the next week or so, perhaps I will have some extra time to stop by, however if you wish to make some progress in the mean time, I am often able to get a great deal closer to a firm quote with an email or two from you, containing one or two photos & measurements, as well as the details of the job, such as verbiage & any artwork you will be providing.

    Any job that requires a site inspection I will certainly be out there to do my own inspection, assessment, or measurements, but at the quoting stage I am not always able to make time for these site visits without costs to both of us. Please stop by with photos and measurements, or send them by email. 9 times out of 10, I can provide a firm quote, and upon receipt of a 50% deposit I will schedule a meeting to look over the site together & go over any additional concerns about design effectiveness, installation logistics, or suitability of colors & layout to your unique site conditions.
  13. signgal01

    signgal01 Member

    Sep 17, 2010
    Having a plan for consultations is key. Do you have a business plan in place? At my shop, every Thursday we do deliveries, installs and consultations. This way I have enough paying jobs to cover gas and can schedule the consultations.
  14. Pat Whatley

    Pat Whatley Major Contributor

    Sep 29, 2003
    Wetumpka, AL
    I get that a lot, usually from "industrial" clients who are used to sales people stopping by for everything. It's how they've come to expect business to be done. Like Gino said, put your foot down, politely, and just explain that because your prices are based on customers coming to your shop there isn't enough profit in the job to cover the travel time if you have to go to them. If you have to come out you'll have to charge for the time. However, like FatCat said, if they are wanting to meet about a large enough project I'll shut the shop down in the middle of the day to go see them.

    As far as meeting them after hours I used to do it all the time. Once my kids were born I realized that I really only get an hour in the morning and about 3 hours after work (before bedtime) to see them. If a customer wants to take away from that time they have to pay dearly for it.
  15. bayshorecreations

    bayshorecreations Very Active Member

    Jun 15, 2007
    I do all my consults on Fridays unless it is for a real good customer. I set aside time every week on Friday afternoons and I run around and see customers who have asked me to swing by to go over something. I don't care if it is a $75 banner, I still go but the customer is told "I have Friday afternoon available to meet with you" if they don't want to wait they can go to Kinko's to get their banner printed.
  16. TheSnowman

    TheSnowman Major Contributor

    Aug 28, 2007
    Yea, being home based...that is your downside of having to drive if someone wants to meet you. That being said...having a downtown shop, I have people stop by for the dumbest stuff, and drive 30 minutes to come ask me a 5 second question. People are messed up. If their time has no value, they assume yours doesn't either, and instead of picking up the phone, or "figuring out how to use the email" they'd rather spend an hour on the road @ $4/gallon. Normally my customers like that, aren't worth my time...and my time isn't worth A TON cause I'm not slammed...but I just don't want customers w/ that attitude that "I just hit print, and it won't take that long".

    Of course, I'm totally stereotyping the ones I've had come in here that had to meet w/ me when there was nothing to meet about. I've literally sent customers proofs, with sizes on them, then they say, "I want to come see how big it is". I'm like...DUDE, GET OUT A RULER! It drives me nuts, but it's part of this world.
  17. CES020

    CES020 Very Active Member

    Oct 16, 2008
    A couple of things I'd suggest or offer from personal experiences. One, just be honest with them. It's not rocket science, people, for the most part, understand when it's explained to them, along with an alternative like Doug said for how you can complete the sale without driving out there.

    Two, I'll meet people any day, most any time they want if it's appropriate to do so. 3 years ago, I got a random email, asking about our services and wanting to meet at our place after 6:00pm. They brought files and wanted samples cut while they were there. I spent 2 hours with them and when they walked out the door, I thought that would be the last I'd hear from them. Today, 3 years later, they are still our customer and one of our best customers, cranking steady work through here every month.

    Had I blown them off, I would have missed out of a lot of work.

    You honestly never know who you're talking to. Could be some moron or it could be someone doing something on the side that's about to take off and you would have helped them do it, and you're along for the ride. Until my crystal ball gets back from being repaired, I have no way to know which one I'm talking to unless I meet them.
  18. bayshorecreations

    bayshorecreations Very Active Member

    Jun 15, 2007
    Here you go GG, I just started a thread on it in the premium section.
  19. Craig Sjoquist

    Craig Sjoquist Major Contributor

    Jun 18, 2004
    What I like about being one man show. Overhead set and most expenses, can ride my bicycle to most bids and many finish of the jobs, get to see the world, talk with people, set a pace doing your best to stay ahead.
    Home ,shop base even though I'm bringing more & more email & phone compared to on site, customers still like to see you and say hello.
  20. threeputt

    threeputt Very Active Member

    Mar 10, 2006
    washington state
    See? You just hit the nail on the head. Such is the salient point! We don't expect Kinkos to come out to see a client, do we?

    I tell most clients, we maintain a store. It's on the main drag. We keep it open all day long, Mon. thru Fri. for their convenience. We staff it with knowlegeable people. That'swhere we do business.

    If I, and the emphasis is on I, feel like a site survey is in order, then I'll decide when and where I can meet the client.

    But I tell most clients, a trip is not warranted for a banner, magnetics, most board signs, etc.

    I understand that the OP is working from his home. But he did ask for suggestions to the membership at large as to how we handle these things.

    As I see it, he has little choice. If he doesn't want people coming to his home, then he can try and conduct as much business via email and personal trips to the client's site.