Q: How Long Do You Wait to Follow Up On an Estimate?
BEFORE SENDING THE ESTIMATE
First of all, we start every relationship with a face-to-face meeting. I make it a point to set technology aside, visit the job site and work on developing a personal relationship with the potential customer. Most paint professionals don’t do that, and customers are very surprised and pleased when we show up.
Plus, when I meet with them, I can explain how we would tackle their job, so they feel more at ease with us and better understand what the estimate includes.
THE ESTIMATE AND FOLLOW-UP
As for turnaround, I typically do three or four estimates in the morning, and send them out that afternoon. Our customers tell us that other painters make them wait up to two weeks for an estimate. That makes some customers wonder: If they’re this slow at giving me a bid, what will their customer service look like during the actual job?
When we email an estimate to a prospective customer, we ask them to confirm receipt. If we don’t hear from them, we email and call to make sure they received the estimate and to ask if they have any questions. We generally get a good response with that.
We usually follow up on all bids by the end of the week. Our goal is to have our office manager reach out to everyone we sent bids to in a given week. If we’re very busy, however, we might not follow up as aggressively.
AFTER THE ESTIMATE
If customers have questions about their estimate, we respond quickly. I make it a point to be accessible by phone or email at all times. If customers have questions, I don’t want them to have to wait for me to get back to the office. If their question is about price, I offer flexibility. I recognize that estimates are not an exact science. This is my 25th year doing estimates, so I’ve gotten very good at it. But I’m always open to a conversation about price.
And lastly, it’s important to be gracious if you don’t get the job. A lot of painters get angry when they lose a job and let the customer know it. That type of behavior is unprofessional and makes our whole industry look bad.
When we lose a bid, I respond to the customer and say, “I’m sorry we can’t work for you on this project. But if something changes, we’re here.”
Estimates and follow-ups are really about great communication and customer service. Doing it right, in our experience, can help yield more business.
Kunst Bros., which handles interior and exterior paint jobs for commercial and residential clients, has repeatedly been voted Best House Painters in Marin and was included in the Marin County Hall of Fame in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Active in the community, Kunst is a trustee for the Allensby Trust Foundation and is the scholarship chairman for Elks Lodge #1108 San Rafael. He is also president of the Dixie Schoolhouse Foundation, Inc.
Nick Kunst can be reached at kunstbros.com or (415) 456-4044.