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View Full Version : Don't Like It? No Charge.


Chris J
02-02-2008, 09:25 PM
I know most of you will argue this concept, but I like idea so here go's:

I recently closed a deal with a skeptical customer who has just moved here from California. She was a hard sell because she was not aware of my reputation, and had no idea of how to interpret the concept I was trying to interpret to her with my presentation (I don't do demos as most of you know). As the conversation progressed, it occurred to me that she simply needed the assurance that she was not going to get "screwed" if I turned out to be some kind of salesman with a whole lot of "pitch" but lack-luster results.
To satisfy her hesitation, I told her that I would install the job as planned; if she didn't like it, I would take it out and not charge her a penny.
We arrived on site as planned and she informed me that she would not be home till late. I agreed to meet her at 9PM that night for final adjustments. On my way to her residence that evening I received a call from her. She had come home early, and told me that she could not wait to call me. Her exact words were "it looks exquisite!"
Having said all of this, the thought has occurred to me that I might extend this offer to every potential client that may be hesitant to sign on right away. In my eight years of doing lighting, I have never had a dis-satisfied customer; therefore, I don't see how this would be a risky move on my part. I know a lot of you require a deposit before doing any work, but I have never really cared about the deposit (even though 50% is written into my contract). Honestly, I actually ask for a deposit on about 5% of my installs, but I have never not been paid on time for any job (except one subdivision entrance involving a HOA board). In my opinion, this is a good way to put the customers mind at ease and release them from any obligation. If you're good at what you do, there will be no problem for them to write the check. I know it's a cocky way to do business, but I'm thinking it's a WIN-WIN for both the skeptical customer and myself. Any thoughts?

irrig8r
02-02-2008, 10:10 PM
Chris, I can see the benefits of it.... just wondering, how will you write it into your contracts?

I know somebody like Pete will come along and throw cold water on your idea, but I could see it getting you additional referral work and the kind of customers you want.

Chris J
02-02-2008, 10:20 PM
As I mentioned, it is written in my contract that a 50% deposit is required but I hardly ever ask for it. I don't see any reason to rewrite a contract to propose what I am offering. It's a pretty simple concept really: If you like it, I get paid. If you don't like it, I take it out and it doesn't cost you anything.
I realize that this way of doing business goes against the grain of the modern era. But I like the kind of business relationships that my father taught me about back in the day: If I look you in the eye and shake your hand, the deal is sealed. Contracts are for crooks.

pete scalia
02-02-2008, 10:39 PM
Chris, I can see the benefits of it.... just wondering, how will you write it into your contracts?

I know somebody like Pete will come along and throw cold water on your idea, but I could see it getting you additional referral work and the kind of customers you want.

Unconditional money back guarantee. It is proven that it will pay off big dividends to offer this. You will close far more on the fence prospects than those who could potentially take advantage of you. If you historically do not have trouble getting paid then it's a sound tactic.

Chris J
02-02-2008, 10:43 PM
Imagine that! Another kudo by the great Pete Scalia! I knew I was on to something. :dancing:

Pro-Scapes
02-02-2008, 11:34 PM
If I have someone on the bubble I have offered this. No one has ever said get it out of here. Another approach but I dont know how this fits you since you use crews is the above ground installation. This is especially handy when you have that certain client who wants to be overly involved in the design and placement.

Do the install leaving it unburied...Let them fall in love with it that night and return to bury it tmrw.

In your case a demo would of sealed the deal. More often than not now when I demo it closes the deal and I only need to demo a small portion of the job.

Deposits are just good business no matter if you need the funds or not. The only times I have not asked for a deposit were expansions for existing clients.

irrig8r
02-02-2008, 11:41 PM
As I mentioned, it is written in my contract that a 50% deposit is required but I hardly ever ask for it. I don't see any reason to rewrite a contract to propose what I am offering. It's a pretty simple concept really: If you like it, I get paid. If you don't like it, I take it out and it doesn't cost you anything.
I realize that this way of doing business goes against the grain of the modern era. But I like the kind of business relationships that my father taught me about back in the day: If I look you in the eye and shake your hand, the deal is sealed. Contracts are for crooks.

The laws here in Californiia say I need written contracts with specific language in them.. the idea is to prevent crooks...

That aside, I have lots of repeat customers where contracts aren't necessary...

I know what you mean though...

My grandfather was in the wholesale produce business, and later a business that sold boxes, pallets and other supplies to fruit and vegetable growers. Most of his business deals, even some real estate, were sealed with a promise and a handshake. It helped that he was a man of his word. When someone was ever slow in paying, one phone call or a "Please!" written on a statement would do it.

INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting
02-03-2008, 08:50 AM
I use contracts, 100% of the time. We are contractors right? My clients like the professionalism and assurances that the contract provides. I run like the wind away from T&M proposals.

I always ask for and collect 50% up front from all new clients. No excepetions. Cash flow is king. I have never had a client balk or have a problem with this. It is not an obstacle to good relations at all.

I will sometimes make a rather unique guarantee to my clients... It is a Dark Sky Gaurantee and quite remarkable. I will assure the client that if they come outside with the lighting system on, on a clear night, and they cannot see the Milky Way, they will get 100% of their money back and can keep the system. I have never paid.

Regards.

irrig8r
02-03-2008, 10:30 AM
That wouldn't work here.
The only time we see the Milky Way is when the power goes out. :(

Pro-Scapes
02-03-2008, 10:38 AM
works where i live but in town not so much. Most the high end areas got these AWFUL metal halide glare bombs everywhere

PROCUT1
02-03-2008, 07:24 PM
Give it a shot...I certainly wouldnt have the nads to do it.

cpel2004
03-23-2008, 05:36 PM
Chris I dont know if this has been said, but the theory of your plan is good, however I would evaluate your systems. In business we and our customers want guarantees. I dont think you have to give that type of guarantee.
I would fix your system and try to find some way to give them a better visual presentation. Althought very few customers will actually take advantage of it but one is too many for me. Take the uncertainly out of it.

My way requires alot more upfront initially, in time money and training but once its implemented then it will pay for itself. We work to hard, when you go to production you should know you are going to get paid, when the job is complete. Your way there is a 50/50 chance that you might not get paid. Set your system up, spend the time and the money and you will close 100% more business.

The lack of a visual platform, prevented this customer from understanding your concepts, as you know many customer would want to see it on paper or computer concept first. I would. Its almost like buying a car before you test drive it, or marrying your wife without ever meeting her.

Send your customer a survey let her tell you how you can improve, she will tell you exactly what area she was comfortable and uncomfortable with. The good part is you do excellent work.

Lawn-Sharks
03-23-2008, 09:38 PM
Its sounds like a good idea but..Heres my concern! I had a friend redo some mulch bed with lighting and so on..well he told the customer if you not happy with our work we'll come get our material and their will be no charge.. OK the customer agrees. he does the work and called her to see what she thought of the job??? well she wouldnt answer the phone or answer the door so he got pissed and started to remove the meterial...well here comes the police! she called them and said someone was stealing her stuff... to make a long story short they both tell they're sides of the story and the way it was explained to him by the police was that if he places something in the ground (lighting) then it becomes the property owners "property" and seeing how he didnt have anything in writeing (contract)their was nothing he could do to get paid for his services..... This is a story i heard a long time ago from a buddy i dont know if its true im just putting it out their for information purposes only. Its something i would look into before i would go doing anything for someone like you are thinking about now or have done.

Chris J
03-23-2008, 10:10 PM
I never said there was no contract. I only said I would allow the customer to back out of the deal if they were not happy. It's basically the same concept as cpel2004 is talking about with his visual presentation except I don't have to go back twice to get the job done. If I would close 100% of the jobs if I did a demo first, then wouldn't this simply be a demo that doesn't need to be taken up and reinstalled later?
But since you mentioned it, I have heard the same thing about the materials becoming the property of the homeowner's once you install it. You can fight them about getting paid per your contract, but you would be breaking the law if you went back into their yard without permission.

pete scalia
03-23-2008, 10:42 PM
I never said there was no contract. I only said I would allow the customer to back out of the deal if they were not happy. It's basically the same concept as cpel2004 is talking about with his visual presentation except I don't have to go back twice to get the job done. If I would close 100% of the jobs if I did a demo first, then wouldn't this simply be a demo that doesn't need to be taken up and reinstalled later?
But since you mentioned it, I have heard the same thing about the materials becoming the property of the homeowner's once you install it. You can fight them about getting paid per your contract, but you would be breaking the law if you went back into their yard without permission.

posession is 9/10ths of the law.

Somebody stiffs me and i'm ripping those suckers out of the ground law or no law.

cpel2004
03-23-2008, 11:28 PM
Hey Pete, from your previous thread, I thought you would have at least changed your name?

Pro-Scapes
03-23-2008, 11:46 PM
The only time work gets done with no contract in hand is if they are an existing client and we have an excellent working relationship. All new clients sign a contract and issue deposit before work begins. Our proposals clearly outline our payment terms which are generally 50% down and 50% due on completion.

Risk free installations are nothing new. Just make sure they are a SERIOUS client. I have done small revisions on projects to satisfy the client.

JoeyD
03-24-2008, 11:33 AM
Well Chris you know how I feel about the Demo, but like Billy said, this is a sound approach if you do most of your install above ground before adjusting. If its all on top of the gorund and they dont like it it will be much easier for you to remove without tearing up the landscape.

Chris J
03-24-2008, 10:48 PM
Joey, Joey, Joey. I do demos, but I call them installations! I'm just so good I don't have to move anything! (more than 1 foot anyway) I don't get this stuff, and you guys are not getting it either. My installs are nothing more than demos, but there is a contract involved. I'm not knocking you guys who do demos, but my pitch is that demos are for the guys who are still "practicing". I've done enough demos in my days that I'm done with that. I know what lights (and what lamps) are going to create what effects. I also know that the customer doesn't know what the hell good lighting looks like! I don't mean to sound like an ass, but they are always satisfied with my results.

Pro-Scapes
03-25-2008, 05:24 AM
keep in mind I only use this approach if the client is overly involved with the design or questions my design and number of fixtures.

Letting them feel like they have some control over the project by it not being completed and buried until we get approval is often times an excellent sales point. It is usually best left to multiday projects tho

MarcSmith
03-25-2008, 07:18 AM
You do what it takes to keep the client happy. On a landscape job, if the client doesn't like the the layouts, then we move the plants...It took a lot of brass to lay it on line like that...Maybe you are on to something.....

Always remember that contracts are like locks.....they keep honest people honest...

NightLightingFX
03-26-2008, 12:17 PM
Chris,
FYI, I have 3 guarantees written on my "Agreements." You guys tell me what you think. Can they be improved or am I putting myself on a limb?
1) "100% JOB COMPLETION GURANTEE:" - Based upon the agreed number of fixtures, 100% of your expectations will be met. If you are not satistied with the stated lighting system, Night Lighting FX will work with you to meet your expectations.
2) "1 YEAR LIGHTING SYSTEM GUARANTEE:" - Every element of the stated lighting system will be guaranteed (fixtures, lamps, & etc) for 1 year after the completion date of the lighting system. Excluding "misuse & abuse"
3) "LIGHTING SYSTEM CONTINUED GUARANTEE:" - Transformers and light fixtures will be guaranteed according to the manufacturer's claims. The stated lighting system will continue to be 100% guaranteed providing "Night Lighting FX" is on a scheduled maintenance program. Excluding "misuse & abuse."
~Ned

Lawn-Sharks
03-26-2008, 12:21 PM
Chris,
FYI, I have 3 guarantees written on my "Agreements." You guys tell me what you think. Can they be improved or am I putting myself on a limb?
1) "100% JOB COMPLETION GURANTEE:" - Based upon the agreed number of fixtures, 100% of your expectations will be met. If you are not satistied with the stated lighting system, Night Lighting FX will work with you to meet your expectations.
2) "1 YEAR LIGHTING SYSTEM GUARANTEE:" - Every element of the stated lighting system will be guaranteed (fixtures, lamps, & etc) for 1 year after the completion date of the lighting system. Excluding "misuse & abuse"
3) "LIGHTING SYSTEM CONTINUED GUARANTEE:" - Transformers and light fixtures will be guaranteed according to the manufacturer's claims. The stated lighting system will continue to be 100% guaranteed providing "Night Lighting FX" is on a scheduled maintenance program. Excluding "misuse & abuse."
~Ned


Sounds good. Thats putting it Short and to the Point!

David Gretzmier
03-26-2008, 02:52 PM
I'm a 50% down and contract man for one reason. on all the jobs I've been stiffed on over the past 25 years in lawn, landscape, christmas work, there 3 universal common denominators. #1- no down payment #2-no contract, #3- all made at least 10 times what I make. I have had some that tried to stiff that had paid 1/2 or signed a contract, and you can collect those through collection agencies. but an overwhelming majority of folks that don't pay, probably colse to 90% were the handshake deals.

Looking back over the years, I have let go probably in the neighborhood of 100-150 grand in uncollectable accounts.

Once you install anything here in Arkansas it is considered stealing if you go back and get it, even if the customer did not pay for the items. I've never un-installed any plants, lights, etc.

Even though I could find hundreds of folks that would say I am the best at what I do, and worth every penny, the person who does not pay usually has other financial reasons he is not paying. There are plenty of folks I have run into over the years that can write you a check for $2500 for the first half, and then once they have the install complete, just can't seem to pay for the other. Line up 10 folks on the street to look at the lighting, all ten would say it looks and works great. Yet, no final payment after 10 calls and letters.

I truly believe there are folks that try to put off paying you as long as possible with the hope that you will eventually give up.

Ergo, 50% down and contract.

NightLightingFX
03-26-2008, 03:46 PM
I always try to get 50% down but a lot of times I let it slide because it is a small job and I will be done quickly anyway. I have never been stiffed but I am going to enforce my 50% down policy because having 50% down up front enables me to finacially manage things a lot better. In the past where I let a small job slide because I thought I would get it done quickly things came up where the job got extented and finacially I was getting extented. So in the future I am going to be more strict about 50% down.
~Ned

Chris J
03-26-2008, 06:52 PM
Ned, my contract says basically the same thing as yours does. I also have the 50% down clause written in there, but rarely do I ask for it unless it's a large job or the customer gives me the "willies." In the eight years of doing business, I've only once had a problem getting paid and that was a subdivision entranceway. The two people I delt with throughout the process were pleased, but not the entire "board of directors." This was one of my first jobs, and I ended up putting in I think 10 more lights before they would pay me. I don't do subdivisions without the downpayment anymore, and I don't offer them the "don't like it, no charge" pitch. With subdivisions, you will never please everybody no matter what you do. As a matter of fact, we just completed another entrance today and I'm on my way in a bit to do the final adjustments. Several people stopped today to tell us how great it looks so far, but I guarantee you there will be critics tonight who are not satisfied. I'll let you know how it goes.

Chris J
03-26-2008, 09:24 PM
OK, I'm back and everything went very well. About 10 members of the homeowners association showed up and all were oooohing and aaaaahing. No complaints (thank goodness) so another job in the books. This is very rare for subdivisions, however, as usually it is very hard to please everybody. I guess I'm just gettin too good at this lighting stuff! :rolleyes:

JoeyD
03-27-2008, 12:08 PM
Good job big head...I mean Chris! LOL Keep it up!