14 Dec When Landscape Lighting Clients Take Over
By Mike Gambino
The selection and hiring of a design professional should be done with great care and only finalized after purchaser has done their proper due diligence. Even then, as with any other home improvement project, it is a leap of faith a buyer must make that their landscape lighting project will ultimately turn out to their satisfaction.
Working with clients is sometimes a balancing act. Even though they hire us for our design style and sensibilities and as a professional for our expertise, it’s easy for some clients to become overly involved and end up crossing boundaries by wanting more control of their project. So how do we address their concerns and keep them happy without losing control of the project?
For residential clients, client management is important because residential clients are personally attached to their project. As the experienced design professional, we have to educate the client on the options, and we maintain constant dialogue with our clients throughout the process and openly listen to their ideas, thoughts and concerns. However when it comes to design decisions such as previously agreed upon equipment quantities and placements we know what’s best as we have been doing this daily for the past 30 years and the last time a client designed and installed a lighting scheme was probably never. We know what works and what does not for nearly all challenges that may arise on a job site. Therefore clients must trust and believe that our goal is to build the best landscape lighting system possible within their budget.
While all pros should strive to leave their clients satisfied, maintaining some level of control is essential to completing the project as promised and on budget. Here are four tips for handling situations when clients want to take over.
1- Contrary to our Best Advice
We try our best to accommodate REASONABLE client whims for uncompensated experimentation. Sometimes a client will be uncertain about a particular aspect of the design or would like to see a sample of how it would look to increase our scope of work and illuminate another aspect of their property that was not originally contracted for. We do not have an issue with accommodating REASONABLE requests or mockups when they are viable and make sense. I put REASONABLE in bold capital letters. Such speculative uncompensated experimentation that is outside the scope of our contracted work takes time and additional labor costs. Which is fine if it will result in a better system, client satisfaction or an increase in project scope which we are then properly compensated for. Here is an example of a situation where it’s not ok. When we know what the client is requesting absolutely will not work or based upon our dealings with them know they will not like and ultimately accept. Another unsavory behavior which cannot be tolerated is a request to what I like to call “Robbing Peter to pay Paul”. This is when a client orders, contrary to our consent , the moving of fixture/s away from where they were originally intended and needed and moving them to other areas to stretch budget to the detriment of the finished project. Or deletion of previously agreed upon fixtures for no other reason than to lower the project budget in the midst of work.
2- Set Clear Limits
Unscheduled or unexpected calls or drop-ins from clients can easily turn into never-ending conversations. Time is valuable ($), and making that clear at the start of every conversation can help prevent unnecessarily prolonged or unproductive interactions.
When a client who makes a habit out of ‘dropping by for a quick question,’ I will start out by telling them how much time I have. If their stay drags out much longer than I said I had, I politely excuse myself and suggest another time to meet. By setting very specific meeting times and deadlines we can more efficiently manage workflow. With the micromanaging client, you have to be much more organized and keep them and yourself on schedule.
By being firm with our time, you will stay in control and leave less room for a client to suck up unscheduled time.
3- Having Documents in Order
Solid contractual agreements should be the governing document to guide the design/build process that states everything including that any changes or alterations must be in writing. Having up-to-date and organized paperwork can clear up any misunderstandings and keep projects and concerned parties on track during the build. If our clients have signed off on any documents, then they have no excuse not to understand or be on the same page with us. So if there is any question or disagreement we can just refer back to the contract for a solution. This protects both our clients and Us in the event a dispute does arise.
4- Clear Terms and Conditions
Terms and Conditions in our contract can help clarify who is running the project and set boundaries before they’re crossed. It is not always possible for both parties of an agreement to know if they will be compatible and be able to work together well until after they have begun working together. It is not a perfect process and sometimes personalities, philosophies etc. clash and people cannot get along. If we’ve done everything we can to salvage a project and it’s not working out, we can still collect payment which will be prorated and paid to date of discontinuance and gracefully move on leaving client to their own devices, and the discontinue clause states the fee to cut us loose.
Not Taking It Personally
Our work is important to us and it can often become personal, but keeping our emotions out of it can help avoid conflicts before they start.
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 .
Blog articles may be published with permission on other websites without editing or removing links.