Setting Realistic Expectations
by Barbara Peyton
"I've heard that stained concrete is cheaper than tile...is that true?"
"There's a particular color I need you to match...when can I show you my swatch?"*
I sometimes spend as much as eight hours a day on the phone with potential clients. And, more often than not, I find myself trying to talk them out of staining their floors. There are some people who are simply not good candidates; others need a realistic appraisal of what to expect. While cost is on everyone's mind, price becomes secondary if the finished product doesn't match expectations.
A good fit between what the client wants and what we can provide is essential. It it's not a good fit, we need to find out from the onset and create an atmosphere that results in an amicable separation. Now, try as you may to dissuade them, there are still those who will take the plunge and go with stained concrete. I have one client who is a complete perfectionist. She admits that there would have been a time that she could not have handled all the imperfections: "This is a real shift for me," she explains. "I've come to realize that ‘character' grows on you. And, as we mature, even someone like me realizes that life is not perfect. We are so there."
So, how do you screen clients without leaving a bad taste that could be passed on to their friends and acquaintances?
The selection process must work both ways.
Clients must choose the applicator they think will do the best job at the most reasonable cost. Similarly, applicators need to "select" clients who truly love both the look and benefits of stained concrete. Some people are just better off with another floor choice. If you push too hard to "convert" someone, you could have a disappointed client in the end.
For people only interested in cost, tile or carpet may be less expensive. For perfectionists, a floor that is flawless and predictable may be a better answer. We have found that when you present both the pros and cons of stained concrete, most people appreciate your honesty and even find it refreshing.
We post a "Frequently Asked Questions" page on our website that helps (http://www.stainedconcrete.org/pages/505649/index.htm). It provides fairly candid answers to questions that range from "How do I know if stained concrete is right for me? to "What do you charge for your services?" In addition to the FAQs, we ask our builders to have their clients sign an Agreement of Understanding before we begin work. This agreement calls their attention to some "common characteristics of stained concrete." For example, it makes sure they understand that:
Wide color variations, mottling and unevenness of color is normal and desirable.
- Imperfections, such as hairline cracks, are naturally occurring and add character.
- Color may differ from the samples shown on our color chart.
- Flaws caused by construction, such as glue, paints, chemical or oil spills, tape lines, nail holes, may not be concealed, despite our best efforts.
Floor samples on the client's own concrete ensures
that the client knows what to expect.
We also provide instructions on how to maintain stained concrete floors after move
in. Contrary to what many believe, concrete floors are not maintenance
free. All will eventually need either another seal coat (outdoors) or a wax coat (interiors). Also, certain precautions need to be taken, like putting felt pads under sharp edged chair, table and barstool legs to prevent scrapes and gouges.
Despite efforts to prepare and please clients, there are still those few who will be disappointed with the results. We had one client who claimed that the final floor did not match our sample. She had even taken a picture earlier of the sample to prove her point. Instead of arguing with her about the range of colors one might get from a digital camera, differing lighting conditions, and such, we asked what we could do to make her happy. While we thought her floors were one of our best ever, we still ended up giving her a discount just to make her happy. It apparently worked, because about six months later, we received a referral from her corporate headquarters for a large commercial job.
In a perfect world, we would all have sophisticated clients who knew all about stained concrete. That, unfortunately, is just not the case.
Avoid getting into a business pinch that requires you to take every client who walks in the door. That is one of the sure causes of small business failures. Instead seek out good candidates. Take them to homes or businesses you have stained and provide them with materials to read and agreements to sign.
Creating an educated consumer usually results in a win/win and makes life so much nicer.
- Stained concrete is usually less expensive than tile IF we get to work on new concrete and if the total square footage exceeds 1000 square feet. We charge on a sliding scale as the area increases, the price per square foot decreases. On the other hand, if an old floor needs to be removed first and the concrete underneath needs to be ground, shot blast or capped, it may be a lot more economical to put down tile.
- We can't "match" a color to a picture or a swatch. We can only provide samples of our colors on the client's own concrete. This helps to determine what the acids will do on that particular floor.
Stained Concrete by Peyton & Associates