Are You Freaking Kidding Me?!
“I am not making this up”…
I got a phone call the other day from a builder friend who asked me to reach out to one of his clients.
”Tom can you help me out ? he asked. “ I have a client who wants some entertainment work completed as part of a project we are doing for her & it’s costing three times what she wants to spend. She’s confused and doesn’t really know if she has any alternatives. Can you sort through it with her ? I ‘d really appreciate it.”
I met with Amy the next day & looked over the estimate she got from a well known AV firm, and saw why she was confused. The scope of work covered music throughout her home, a basement theater, a computer network, lighting control – both inside & outside, a handful of TV hangs, and an outdoor pool & patio music system.
The “estimate” Amy showed me gave her a budget of between $ 92,000.00 & $ 272,000.00, depending on the level of performance she wanted, which they would gladly develop into a “real” quote if she gave them a $ 3000.00 non refundable retainer. I am not making this up … she handed me the estimate & said, “ Are they #*+#@’ ing nuts I ? , I spent two hours with this guy, he said he couldn’t give me a price until he reviewed the information, he waits two weeks & then sends me this ? “.
I have to say I don’t get it. Whatever happened to listening to a client’s needs, discussing a couple of solutions that address those needs, & then giving them an idea what those solutions cost ? This isn’t rocket science, it’s just customer service 101, and it should happen at the initial meeting.
We have a simple and a straight forward process for initial client meetings :1. We meet with a client, discuss the scope of work, and listen carefully to what they want to achieve 2. We explain a variety of ways to address their needs, and settle on a solution 3. We assemble a budget, right on the spot, that’s accurate within 5 % 4. We adjust budget based on their feedback (up or down until they are comfortable) 5.We take the approved budget & generate an accurate quote within 7 days.
That’s it … no mystery, no Voo Doo, no drama, just common sense. Every client wants to know what a project is going to cost, and a smart, capable firm should be able to provide this information. If they can’t, you are talking with the wrong firm
Here’s the epilogue to the story. After looking over the “estimate”, I walked the house with Amy & her husband, and generated an on the spot budget of $ 118,000 to address the work they wanted done. I was there just over an hour. Based on the approved budget, we assembled a detailed quote which we presented to them 5 days later. They approved a $119,000 system at that meeting, and we completed the project for them over the next few weeks, based on the builder’s time line.
While we do the simple jobs all the way up to the complex, one thing does not change. We give people what they want with clear pricing upfront. Unresolved question marks are hard on everybody.