“Training” our customers

Most contractors understand the importance of training employees—if you want them to perform the work to certain standards, you must teach them how to do so. If you want them to perform the work a certain way—take certain actions—you must provide the appropriate training. If you want a house prepped a certain way, explain this. We cannot simply assume that they know. The same holds true of our customers—they must be “trained”.

Customers do not buy painting jobs everyday. Indeed, many of my customers have never hired a professional contractor before. In our role as salesman, we must educate the customer. We must “train” them regarding the proper steps involved in preparing and painting a surface.

The same holds true even of “experienced” customers. Even if they have hired a professional contractor in the past, this is no guarantee that they will understand the issues involved or “perform” as we expect and require.

Consider for example, a typical exterior paint job. I expect my customers to prune plants that will interfere with our access to surfaces that we will paint. I expect my customers to remove small items from the work area, such as children’s toys on the patio. I expect my customer to provide access to doors and windows—that is, unlock them so that we do not paint them shut. While these expectations might seem very clear to the contractor, if we do not explain these expectations to the customer, we may find that the job does not go so smoothly.

“Training” your customers goes even further. We have all probably had customers who try to manage the job. They may tell us the order to perform the work, or tell us the procedures to follow, or hold payment until we jump through their hoops. These frustrating situations can largely be avoided with the proper “training”.

For example, if we allow the customer to violate the terms of the contract with impunity—not moving personal items or pruning plants—we have “trained” the customer to believe that they can do as they please. We have “trained” the customer to ignore our agreement. However, if the customer’s actions (or inactions) have consequences, we “train” him that we are serious about our expectations.

I do not mean to imply that we should be rude with our customers or present a “my way or the highway” attitude. But we must be firm. We must make it clear that certain things are non-negotiable. If we want them to act in a manner that allows us to efficiently provide our services, we must “train” our customers.

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