03 Aug Gambino Landscape Lighting’s Process For Scheduling Landscape Lighting System Installations
By Mike Gambino
A story of First Come First Served. I want to share a story of a very unhappy client or potential unhappy client, depending on how you look at it.
This is not an exact actual verbatim recollection of what transpired in one situation but more of a composite of a few different variations of the same scenario that plays out a few times every year with site meetings that should but do not result in us doing the landscape lighting design build installation.
Here is our disgruntled non client…
A few months ago, I went out to look at this project that had a failed landscape lighting system that needed removal and replacement.
It was for a backyard landscape of a residential property, actually a very nicely kept contemporary home.
I looked at it with the owners and we talked about what needed to be done.
I walked them through the landscape and described my design ideas of how I thought to best illuminate it. I showed them the actual fixtures I was going to be using and they were very impressed with the aesthetic look, build and material quality. They did question the amount of fixtures (which is a common concern) I was proposing with concerns the property would be over illuminated. I explained to them that every fixture would be tuned to perfection and the project wasn’t complete until they were totally satisfied. They were ok with this and ready to move forward or it seemed. I asked for a place to sit at the kitchen table to write up and sign the agreement. That’s when I was told that they didn’t have the time right then to do it just send or email the agreement and they would mail a check ASAP. It came as kind of odd to me because up until then all was going so well and they had verbally committed to me, seemed all in with me and my products and ideas and the only thing left was to take another 15 minutes to complete the deal and place them in our construction schedule with a deposit in the form of payment for the lighting fixtures.
I didn’t push the point to be rude but explained to them the 6 week start date that we had discussed during our site walk was predicated on signing and depositing at this meeting and if another deal came in (which happens often) before them signing and depositing then their date could get pushed back as first money gets the spot in our construction schedule. This should have come as a concern to them as they were planning a big party for late June and wanted the lighting completed before the event. Instead I was given a much smaller check for the design consultation fee which would be applied towards the much larger amount due for the fixture payment.
It was clear that this small amount of money did not constitute a deposit towards an agreement to design and build their landscape lighting system.
I got the proposal/Agreement out to them via email that same night when I got back to the office and had a few follow-up email conversations the next day.
We agreed that If early June worked for them, that would be great as it currently worked for our schedule. A few more emails went out from us later on in the week when we didn’t receive the signed agreement back with fixture payment which were not responded to by the homeowners.
June 1st came and went and I get a very concerned phone call saying, “when are you guys coming?”
I said, “what do you mean?”, because I had talked to him about a month and a half before and made it clear about a signed contract and a deposit, to get him on the schedule.
He never sent that signed contract nor did he send a deposit.
Our process is a deposit and then progress payments, if it is a larger multi-day/week job and then final payment due upon completion.
His project didn’t get put on the schedule because it didn’t follow the process.
If we don’t have a process like this, as a company grows, we can’t remember everything.
We can’t remember everything we say to every customer no matter if we write it down. The only thing that matters and that gets our attention is a signed and Deposited Landscape Lighting Agreement.
With no or agreement or commitment, it’s very easy for someone to say- “Oh, we changed our mind”. In the meantime we paid for their materials and lost jobs because we couldn’t schedule some other project for the time period we blocked out for them.
Guess what! Shame on us for letting that happen-They had no skin in the game.
If there wasn’t any process to actually schedule them it is all too tenuous easily cancellable not only by them but by us.
What if something else came up with the client? They might have had an unexpected expense and we are now on the backburner. We are not as important as we were a week or two ago.
In the following few paragraphs, I’ll explain our “Scheduling Process”.
Site Visit/ Write Proposal/ Sign contract/ Collect deposit:
This step is going to eliminate the rest of the process if it actually happens.
We do our site visit. Visit the family and meet with the decision makers. Find out what their wants and needs are, put together a design that we feel with suit their lifestyle and determine what type and what material quantities will be required. Consider the degree of project difficulty and determine a selling price for that system and present to the clients.
If all goes well we write the proposal and get a signed contract of acceptance right there and then and pick up our deposit which is payment in full for the lighting fixtures.
If all goes well, they are motivated and excited about the project and they are looking for that proposal.
When that happens, If they can sign it, we’ve got rid of all the other hectic time consuming stuff and we are very happy.
We have something on our schedule and both us and client just saved ourselves a ton of time which is returned to our client in goodwill and extra special attention with their project.
Most of our projects are signed on the first and only site meeting visit but if it doesn’t happen, we are going to start on the following process.
1. Send Proposal & Contract:
We are going to send the proposal and the contract by email, which is all in one.
2. Follow up With Phone Call/Email:
In this step we are going to follow-up with a phone call or an email. Ask and answer any questions.
Most times, we do have homeowners that are very proactive.
They ask the questions and thank us.
Ask for the contract.
3. Receive Signed contract & collect Deposit:
Here, we receive the signed contract as well as a deposit in the form of payment in full for lighting fixtures. To get on our schedule, requires purchase of the fixtures, which is part of the amount that we propose.
Once we receive the signed contract and the deposit, it then goes to the schedule. If we don’t get the deposit, it does not go to the Installation calendar.
4. Signed Contract Received But No Deposit:
If we receive a signed contract with no check, then we follow-up. It happens.
People sometimes honestly forget to put the check in. Sometimes they think they will get it to us later on and that we just wanted to get a signed contract.
When that happens, we have to make a phone call or send an email. Hopefully we do not have to Follow-up multiple times.
Remember, the process to get on our schedule is, signed contract and a deposit.
Guess what, by us following this process we don’t have any cancellations but do have very satisfied clients.
Some people will wait, and we will schedule at a later date.
However If people don’t have any skin in the game, which is the deposit, very likely, we will probably never hear from them again, because they may not be completely sold on us and all of a sudden someone is going to do it for a couple dollars less than we are.
That’s our process. We know that our client’s lives are just as busy as ours and if they want their property illuminated by us, they are going to gladly follow our process and secure a space on our construction schedule.
Especially if it’s been on their to-do list and they haven’t done it yet.
We have processes to actually enter a new project and what we need to do from that point on to get their fixtures built and ready for their installation date.
This landscape lighting blog is published by Mike Gambino of Gambino landscape lighting inc. all rights reserved. Mike is a professional landscape lighting system designer/ builder and has been designing, installing and maintaining landscape lighting systems for more than 28 years. Mike resides in the Los Angeles area with his wife and 2 sons. To visit his website go to www.Gambinolighting.com . To inquire about hiring Mike please click here .
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