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Three Very Expensive House Painting Customers

July 3, 2019

If you’ve been running your business for a while, there’s a good chance you can estimate how much profit you make off of an average day’s work.  But not many days are average.  Sometimes it’s an unexpected snag in the painting itself that holds you up.  Sometimes you or an employee gets sick or has to deal with a personal emergency.  Either of these can cut into a job’s profitability, but neither of them can do the damage that a bad customer can do.

Bad customers don’t just eat away at your profitability – they can cost you thousands of dollars in future revenue.  They can increase your stress, consume hours of your time, and generally make owning a business much less enjoyable.  And sometimes they’re hard to see coming.

Here are three types of horror story customers:

The Victim

Is a customer having difficulty discussing the job without talking about how badly their last painting contractor treated them?  That’s probably not a good sign.

Everyone’s gotten hurt by one business or another, and it’s reasonable to bring up a bad experience when it fits into the conversation.  But if someone is so angry about their last interaction with a painting contractor that they can’t let go of it, that might be a sign that your business is next in line.

It’s possible that their last painter made a major mistake.  It’s also possible that they weren’t able to complete the job on time due to something outside of their control, like weather or employee issues.  Either way, if you take this customer, you’re only one failed expectation away from having your reputation attacked constantly for the next several years.  It’s probably not worth it.

The Princess

Have you ever had a customer ask you for a quote and then tell you fifteen minutes later that they’ve already found someone else?  Unfortunately, that’s all too common – and not irrational at all.  Sometimes, two or three businesses get back to a customer within fifteen minutes, and they arrange multiple quote visits scheduled almost immediately.  It pays to be fast.

What is irrational is if a customer sends an email and is upset that you didn’t respond within the hour.  You’re a painting contractor, not an ambulance service.  And while it might be tempting to overlook a comment about your slow response and try to earn their business, it’s probably not wise.  There’s a good chance that nothing you do will ever be good enough for this type of customer, and the time and money you spend attempting to keep them happy will far outweigh any profit you make from the job.

The Haggler

People may be looking for different things out of a painting contractor, but price matters to almost everyone.  There’s nothing wrong with a customer asking if they can get a better deal by using a different paint or having the work done at a different time of year.  What is bad is if they’re enjoying asking for that discount.

Competitive bargainers want to brag to their friends about how much money they cut off the sticker price.  They talked their way into $5,000 off of their brand new car!  They negotiated their kitchen table’s price down by 70%!  To these people, another five percent off of your price might be the difference between a good deal and a good story.  If it is, they’ll try to get that five percent after the job starts, probably by pointing out some small aspect of the job that didn’t go as expected.

Not only do these customers eat away at your margin, they tell everyone in town about how much they talked you down.  Your customers will haggle with you for years.  Let the guy across town be their next great story.

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