by Susan Bunting

Susan Bunting is the director of marketing, consumer solutions for Datacolor. Having 10-plus years of experience in the paint industry, where she built programs for pros, enables her to help contractors find new ways to grow and differentiate their business.

Q: My customer can’t decide on a color and it’s stalling the project. What do I do?

A: We often hear from contractors about how they don’t feel comfortable helping customers choose a color. There’s good reason for that. If you suggest a color and your customer agrees but then doesn’t like the choice after it’s applied, you’re stuck with an unhappy customer. At the same time, if you stay quiet about the topic of color selection, you may come across as someone who isn’t knowledgeable or doesn’t care. Employing solutions that help your customer choose colors quickly and with confidence will not only save you time and keep the job moving, they could also save your customer disappointment—and even the cost of a repaint.

The solution is understanding some basics about color perception—and employing the right technology tools to take the subjectivity out of color selection for your customer. First, let’s talk a little about color perception, and just how much of an uphill battle it can be to help a customer choose color.

We all bring our own life experiences and perceptions about color and visual acuity to a situation, which contributes to the fact that the turquoise you see, for example, is different from the turquoise someone else sees, even though both of you are looking at the exact same paint sample. At the same time, one in 12 men is considered color deficient, thanks to their X chromosome; only one in 250 women is considered color deficient. This does not mean they are color blind; however, it does indicate that their perception of color is altered.

Knowing how differently we all see color, it’s impossible for you as a painting contractor to understand how your customer is actually seeing color. That’s where technology can work wonders.

An effective paint color-matching tool uses precision optical design and advanced color algorithms to accurately measure, suggest and match colors. It is a precise solution that takes the subjectivity out of the decision-making for a customer to help them identify the most accurate color that matches their vision. Having a tool like this leaves the impression on your customers that your company is innovative and willing to go the extra customer service mile. It’s a value add that also takes you out of the position of recommending the color yourself, and helps the customer feel more comfortable with their own choice.

Here’s how you can be part of the discussion without needing to play the role of color consultant:

Ask your customer about items and furniture that will reside in a room. How do furniture pieces or certain large or small items reflect color? The right technology tool in these situations can also inform you as to which colors work well together. You can measure the color of a couch, then find the closest paint match and complimentary colors that will work well in the space.

Talk about light. Explain that the light in retail environments is different from the light in any room in the house. Natural light can even cast differently in a room throughout the day. And don’t forget shadows. They too have a hand in how a color presents itself on the wall.

Provide paint samples to try in different areas of the space being painted. Have them view the samples at different times of day, too, to see how the changing light influences the color. You can create paint boards, allowing the colors to be easily moved around the house.

Explain sheen’s effect on color perception. Point out that light reflection plays an important role in how color is seen and make sure they utilize a paint sample with the same sheen that will be used for the job or in a particular room.

You don’t actually need to be a color expert to help your customer make a confident color decision. It’s more about having the right tools for the job, along with some basic color knowledge, to support the benefits of those tools. With these elements in place, a customer can then make a confident color decision without delays. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.

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