I've been reading blogs for a while here on Active Rain about stagers who are staging properties only to have them "re-staged" in their absence.
It hadn't ever happened to me, until a couple of weeks ago, when I was conducting a very through curb appeal strategy for a neglected ranch house (our specialty!). Now, I have to say, we provide our clients beforehand with digital images of our ideas, so they know what the end result will look like, so everyone is on the same page. Our new client was no exception.
He was a fella who had heard about our work from his mother over the course of several months, and we had met him on a couple of casual occasions. When he was ready to begin in earnest, he called our company to increase his curb appeal.
So, we ran some of our ideas by him, and we got the go-ahead, so we jumped in and started the very next day with a full crew. It involved power washing, painting, restoration, landscape removal, new window screens, some glass replacement, new rain gutters, and installing new landscaping. It was a full transformation.
Although we discussed each project and received approval, it seemed like as soon as we got a color up, or a bit of new hardware installed, or brought a plant on site, our client disapproved. For one project painting a pair of service doors in a color he approved beforehand, he became so angry, he stopped talking to us for the entire day. He didn't like the color.
It was uncomfortable, to say the least. But, we just kept on staging, since he didn't exactly tell us to stop.I had never had so many decisions being second-guessed, and I just wanted to get the job over with.
So finally we get down to the last couple of days. The last few landscaping plants we special ordered finally came in, and everything was ready for planting. We worked hard, and when it was complete looked magnificent. We left with only a couple of things left to do to wrap it up the next day.
So, we pull up into the driveway the next morning, and to my horror, I discover he has removed all the key landscaping and relocated it in other areas that already had been addressed with plantings. The major impact zone, which greets visitors, is a large flower bed, where we had planted some shrubs, a large fern, and a luscious bed of white and red periwinkle, and it was now bare... nothing but a 10x10 patch of bark mulch, very inviting to cats, but not to people.
It seems I was still in a state of shock, when he came out and asked me what I thought of his new placements. I didn't censor myself in time, and I told him exactly what I thought it looked like... a great place for a cat to leave a calling card.
Then he asked me, "What makes your opinion on what looks good better than mine?" He wasn't being snide. He was honestly asking. And that was when I knew where I had failed this client, and that I was the problem, not him.
We had been talking to this fella for months, seeing his mom all the time, and discussing the upcoming job so often, I never presented our company to him with a proper presentation with our beautiful Before & After Slide Show and Stats, and while he knew of us, he didn't know about our company. He didn't understand our goals for his property, our experience, or how carefully we planned his budget to insure him maximum ROI.
And I knew better! I know how important it truly is to get every project started on the right foot, but I just dropped the ball completely and totally. It all made sense, the difficulties we were repeatedly experiencing on this job, which we hadn't encountered before.
So, I learned my lesson.
There is no such thing as an informed customer until I, myself, inform them.
We have to put on that suit (pantyhose, pumps, and all!) and grab that briefcase, and explain who we are, what we do, and why we do it. We need to whip out those "purportedly" useless credentials many of us have, and talk about our affiliations and associations.We have to qualify ourselves as an expert to be treated like one.
Even if it seems like they already know.
Even if they are chomping at the bit to sign the contract.
Because if we don't, we deserve to be second-guessed!
Certified Professional Stager, Feature This... Real Estate Staging, www.FeatureThisDotDotDot.com
Lead Virtual Designer, www.CurbAppealForDummies.com
President, Acadiana Real Estate Staging Association, www.AcadianaRESA.com