Customer Relations

Root book page, contained

Working With Clients
This this section is for articles about how to work successully with clients

Guiding Principles for Client Interactions

Your clients are your Livelihood

Never forget that it is the client who is your boss, your benefactor.  The client pays your wages, you bills,  your rent,  and puts food on your table.
When dealing with clients, whether they are nice or difficult, you need to gain some perspective. How you treat your clients will greatly affect whether you succeed or fail in business. How you think about and talk about your clients will affect how you treat your clients.

Watch Your Own Attitude

One of the most important aspects of working with clients Is to keep your own thoughts and attitudes under control. If you let yourself get snippy or have a bad attitude, then you can quickly change the whole interaction with the client to become very negative. By contrast, if you always treat them with respect and courtesy and speak pleasantly to them, you may find yourself able to deal with the most difficult clients

Keep The Clients Happy

It is much easier to keep a client happy than it is to try to appease a client once she/she gets upset.

Much of our bad rapport with clients comes from our own for poor relational or business habits, our poor thinking patterns and inappropriate behavior. Just remember, our thoughts lead to our behaviors. How we think about our clients leads to how we treat them. Never say anything bad about a client, in fact do not think bad thoughts about any client. Never ever badmouth any clients,  not even the difficult ones. When you talk badly about a client you are justifying bad behavior on your part.  That will not help you succeed in business.

Keep A Thankful Attitude

Always be thankful for the people who supply our livelihood. Treat all clients and potential clients with respect and honor, even those you don't like. But remember this, you don't have to do work for everyone who comes into your shop. If you sense that a client may be difficult to work with, you don't have to take any work from that client. But, with that said, if you keep your thoughts and attitudes in check, and always do your best quality work, you may find that you can to work for almost anyone and please them.

Keeping a Good Attitude

Being in business it is especially important to keep a good attitude with the clients because the clients are the ones supporting our business. When we choose to have negative attitudes towards our clients, it degrades our character and hurts our business. Clients can tell if we harbor ill-will towards them.

Negative causality:

When we think or believe the worst about a client, we stir up negative karma between us and the client. Then we bring the negative causality on ourselves. Our fear becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In working with clients, it is easy to bring out the worst in us. If the client asks us to do something differently, or if they ask for a lower price, this can trigger some negative or angry feelings about the client. This is why it is so important to be honest with ourselves about ourselves. We all have faults and weaknesses. Do we want others to be thinking or speaking about us in the same negative way that we something do about the clients?

Our own attitude greatly affects the attitude and response of the clients. If our attitude is somewhat negative (although we may think we have a good attitude), it can change a normal question into a seemingly negative negative.

Every relationship has a turning point, which direction will it take. Will there be negative interactions, or will it be pleasant and helpful. The turning point is usually right at the outset. For instance, if a client asks for a discount, our attitude about the question and response to the question will set the tone for the rest of the interaction. For instance:

If we think of clients (who ask for discounts) as cheap chiselers, then when a client asks for a discount, it is very easy to think or to respond negatively. Then, as we encounter more clients who want it cheaper, our negative attitude begins to build towards "those cheap clients". Even if we don't say anything negative to the client, they will inwardly sense it, even it they don't immediately recognize it. The result, at the very least, could be just having them "not connect" with us as their potential upholsterer.

Correcting our attitudes: I would think that we all experience pain and negative thoughts. It's what we do with it the determines our attitudes, behaviors and actions. Here is an excellant article: Seven Major Ways We Lose Force. We bring negative customers to us when we complain about our clients. We damage relations with current and potential clients when we complain or think negatively about any clients.

Pride is a very subtle and very damaging trait. Using pride we blind we blind ourselves to how we actually are and makes us think that we are in the right in most or in all situations.

Monitor Our Own Attitude

In every interaction, Keep track of our own attitudes. It doesn't matter whether the client was wrong, or if they acted bad, we need to manage our own attitude. If we responded incorrectly, take time to correct it. You can say things like, "That is not what I meant to say. What I meant was ....". We don't have to berate ourselves (unless we really deserve it*), but just correct our inappropriate response and go on.

When we let ourselves think badly or act incorrectly to a client (and don't correct ourselves), it becomes easier to think or act poorly with the next client. We are creatures of habit. The more we do something, the better we get at it and the easier it becomes. (Yes, we can get better at being crabby to clients, and that is not a good thing.)

The trouble with "venting" or complaining to our friends or collegues, is that it builds up our sense of being a victim. It also builds up our pride, "I'm better than this. I don't deserve to be treated like this." Over a period of time this leads to damaging our business and personal relationships.

*One problem with berating ourselves is it make us (temporarily) feel bad, but it does nothing to help us change our thinking and our behaving.

The Result

It is very tempting to berate clients. It makes us feel justified for our behavior. But the result is that this speaking ill of our clients (whether it is seemingly justified or not) negatively changes who we are. The result is often very subtle, but the outcome is that many clients will sense something isn't quite right, and so they leave without making a decision.

However, when we focus on ourselves (examining and correcting our own faults, and looking for what we did wrong in any situation) correct our thinking and behavior, then clients feel more at peace around us. They are more attracted to us, not because of anything we are doing to "be attractive", but just because we are more pleasant to be around. As we talk to them about the posibility of us recovering their furniture, we don't try to make them do anything. We don't judge them, but accept them as they are.

When they ask for a discount

When they ask for a discount, or for something extra, we keep calm. We don't judge them, but we honor and respect them and their request. There is no reason for us to take offense at their question, but we can even honor that question. That doesn't mean that we have to agree to their request. (If we so choose to agree, without feeling any anger, that is fine.) We can keep calm, and honor them, and at the same time we can gently tell them again what the price is and what it includes. If they want a cheaper prices, then we can take away some of the things that we are offering in our price. We simply show and tell them that when they want to pay less, they will get less.

When we come to a peace with ourselves about what we will or will not do, then we don't have to make the client out to be the bad guy.

Professional Conduct

 

Put the Client's needs first.

While you are obviously in business to support yourself, when you are working, remember this. The business is not about you. It is about the clients. You are in business to serve the client's needs. This is one of your top priorities. The reason that the client contacted you is that they have a need that they want you to fill. If you forget this primary focus, then the clients can go somewhere else to have their needs met. Then you are out of business.

Know The Upholstery Trade

  1. Know your craft.
  2. Know the fabrics
  3. Know the supplies used
  4. Know the foam types and qualities

Organize Your Shop

  1. Organize the customer area
  2. Organize the fabrics
  3. Organize your tools
  4. Keep your work area clean with tools put away.

Maintenance

Maintenance is what keeps everything going

Selling the Job

My first advice about trying to sell a job to an upholstery client is,

"Stop That!" Stop trying to sell the client anything. "Trying to sell" is actually "trying to manipulate a client" to do what you want. It's all about you and your wants. That attitude will not bring clients to you, no will it make them want to buy your product.

Instead, Look at it from the client's perspective. Think about how you can make the client's time with you a pleasant time, which at the same time, gently teaching them about whatever they ask or that they might need to know. 

Why did they come to you? What do they need? How can you serve them? 

Ask the client questions to find out what they are trying to accomplish

Is the price low enough to get the job?

I have been doing upholstery since 1966, when I began working in my dad's upholstery shop (Which he had just began at that same time. He was learning as I was learning) When I got out on my own many years later, I was very concerned about trying to beat the price of new furniture. Many times I would beat myself down on the price before I would even give the client a price. There were times when we were so short of money that I would knock price way down just to get the work. And the client would often say, "I'll think about it" as they walked out the door. Then, sometimes, after I had a lot of work, they would come back and want me to do it for that low price that I had quoted. Those were some very tight years, which included creditors calling, not enough money to pay the bills, etc. During those years I hated dealing with clients (which led to work for decorators for a few years) Fortunately (or unfortunately) I was too stubborn or too dumb to quit. I just kept plugging on. Eventually things got better. I understand that whole process of trying be cheaper than new furniture and how it didn't work for me or for my potential clients.  

Focusing on Quality, not on having a cheap price

With time I began to focus more and more upon doing quality work. With that decision came the putting aside of trying to be cheaper than new furniture.

Acknowledging My Failings

I don't ever blame the client. Most of the failings that I have had with clients have been of my own making. That's also the good news, because if it is my fault, then that gives me the power to fix it. I invite you to read some of the articles (and stories of personal experiences) that I have written about Customer relations. You can see them here: http://www.upholsteryresource.com/node/121   

The Furniture

The type of customers that I serve are those who have furniture that:
1. fits a specific purpose (i.e. fits between those two bookcases, etc.)
2. is sentemental.
3. antiques
4. is high quality and well work recovering
5. they really like their furniture
6. and maybe another type or two that I just can't think of right now.

Showing Fabric

Like most upholsterers, I have the typic fabric samples in my shop, that the client can check out. In addition to that, I've set up a page on my website where the client can start their online search for fabrics. You can find that page here: Our Fabric Suppliers

My Upholstery Website

I have my website for my upholstery business set up with dozens of pages to answer almost an question that the client can think of. And any time a client asks me a question that isn't on the website often write out a detailed reply to the customer. Then, in many cases, I take that reply, rewrite it a little, and use the information to put up another page on my website.

Teach them

When a client comes into my shop I never try to close the deal. I spend time teaching them about quality form versus cheap foam (I have a very simple foam quality demonstration test that I do for the client) That immediately teaches them the difference.

Treating Them As Friends

While they are in my shop I treat them as friends. We talk about life, family, hobbies, etc. all while I'm getting the information about their furniture. When I give them the estimate, I tell them that they don't need to make up their minds right then. They can take their time. Even so, many of them say that they are ready for me to write up the work order. So, to summarize, I put the client at ease by not trying to pressure them into anything, but just being their to answer their questions, and to teach them about whatever they need to know to make a decision, whenever that is right for them.

What is Best for the Client

Although we as upholsterers are trying to support ourselves and our families, we are also in business to fulfill a need of our clients. Our main focus should be to help them clarify what their needs are and to help them find a solution.

Connecting with Another Human Being

When a client contacts us it can be easy to look upon them as a pocketbook to pay our bills. We should never lose sight of the idea that our clients are human beings. They have needs and desires the same as we do. We should look beyond our own needs and wants and seek to treat them as beings of great value. Who are they as people? When they come to us, what are they looking for?

Lighting Their Passion

The Client has a reason to call an upholsterer. Part of  our privilege is to listen to the client and help them to birth their passion into a flame. I don't have to try to sell them anything. All I have to do is to help them connect with their reason for being here. I spend most of the time they are here connecting with them as people who just want to be heard. During their time here they get a sense of who I am and my role has helping them achieve their dream.

Sometimes they like the idea of just renewing Great Aunt Jane's favorite rocker. They may want to have me restore as close to what it was when it was new. Sometimes I present the idea connecting their memories of their special relative with their own current lives, making the rocker into a show piece that is in keeping with their own lives and furniture. In other words, making the rocker truly theirs as a fully functioning part of their lives nowadays

Showing them what I do

I also take step by step pictures of each job that I do. This is almost like having the client right by my side watching everything that I do. This choice has prompted me not to cut corners, but to do a much higher quality of work. Many of my pictures go onto my online web photo album, which you can see here: http://pgallery.winterssewing.com Clients can go to that photo album and go through the process and see exactly what I do.

Give them an estimate

Most of my estimates I give by email. They send me pictures and I send them an estimate back. Even when they come into the shop to look at fabrics, most of them don't want to hang around waiting for me to make out an estimate. If I have time while their are here, I make out the estimate and give them a copy before they leave. But most of the time I offer to email the estimate to them. I take them to an example of my estimate that I have posted on the wall and explain how it work. In the estimate I give them price options, which you can read about here: http://www.upholsteryresource.com/node/356

 
 

A Challenging foam Client

 

A Client Asks Advice*

November 29, 2004) One day a client called (and then later came into our shop) inquiring about getting replacement foam for his sofa and loveseat (a total of 5 new cushions). After I estimated the price (about $300), he wondered if it was worth spending that much money on new foam. He had bought the set about 8 years ago and had spend about $2000 for it. He was planning of keeping the set for about another 5 years. That worked out to be about $250 per year of ownership. The $300 cost of the foam, divided into the next 5 years, seem workable.

He Comes to get Further Information

When he came into our shop, he brought in the old foam cushions (which had spring centers, and attached pillow-tops filled with polyester (about 2”thick)). The foam had softened up from age. He mentioned that he had back problems and that he wanted something firm. I had him sit on various foam samples (the foam samples are 12” X 12” X 4”) from 2535 (medium), 2743 (firm), 2952 (Extra Firm), & 2670 (Very Very Firm). He decided that he wanted the very firmest that we had. At that time I told him that it was harder than most people choose. He took his cushions and went home to think about it.

Client Orders Foam

A few days later he decided to just get the foam just for the loveseat to try that out. I told him that I needed a deposit. When I received a deposit, I ordered the foam, (each piece of foam was 24.5" X 25.5" X 5.5" thick, grade: 2670 ) and then stuffed his cushions. Yesterday his wife came to pick up the cushions. I had her sit on it while she was here, and then she paid for it, I made out a receipt for her and then she took the cushions home.

Client is Not Happy With Foam

The next morning his wife came back and said that the two cushions were too hard, that they wanted softer foam. I told her that I would need a deposit to order the new foam. She asked if I was going to charge her again for the foam? I told her that we order the foam for each job, and it is cut to size. After she asked the same question again, we told her yes. I showed the wife some foam samples as a replacement and she chose the 2743. She said that her husband would not be happy having to pay for the foam again. She asked to use our phone and called her husband and talked with him. Then the wife had me talk with her husband on the phone. He said that the foam in his cushions was not acceptable, that the foam samples he sat on were too small to truly tell how they would actually sit (this is part is true, he is a pretty big guy). Later in the conversation he said that the foam sample he had sat on was not the same as what was put in his cushions, the foam was like a board. It was totally unacceptable. He said that he wanted to have the same type of foam back in the cushions like when they were new. (When he ordered it, he said that he wanted it firm.) I offered to order the replacement foam (of those two cushions) at half price. He was not happy with that, and wanted me to just replace the cushions at no cost to him. He said that I was the professional, I should know what product to use. He said that I should work with him on this. (which is why I had offered to replace it at half price) I told him that I would talk with my wife and then call him back and tell him what we were going to do. After I got off the phone with him, he wanted to talk to his wife again. When she got was finished with him, she backed out of the foam that she had chosen and said that I should choose the correct foam. She said that I’m the professional and that I should choose the right foam. About the same time as I was talking with her and her husband, another client showed up and I was not able to talk with my wife about what we should do. The wife took the cushions with her and left. She was not happy. Either while the client was here, or when she came back a few minutes later, she asked for a copy of the receipt, which we gave her. (It seemed important to her husband that she make sure that she have that receipt.)

We Consider How to Respond

After both clients had left, I talked it over with my wife. She had been here when the husband had originally been here when he was choosing the foam. I talked about possible options. It really concerns that neither the husband nor the wife wants to have any responsibility in choosing the correct foam. The fact that they just want me to choose it, and then have them decided whether or not it is right, doesn’t set right with me. If I do this, maybe I’d just be more money out on foam. I don’t trust clients who want to take no responsibility for their choices

In trying to figure out how to handle this situation, I made a list of some possible alternatives:

  • 1. Just give them their money back, take back the foam, and not do anything more for them.
  • 2. I could take a chance and order 1 cushion (of our most commonly ordered foam (2535) and see how they like that.
  • 3. I could order 2 cushions, 1 of 2535, and 1 of 2743 (firm) and have them try out both of them.
  • 4. Just order the replacement foam for the two cushions and just give it to them. (This would be taking a chance on whether or not they'd be happy with the replacements.)
  • 5. I could call the foam company and ask for bigger samples of the foam, say about 22” X 22” X 4” or 5 “ thick. (we’d probably have to pay something for them)
  • 6. I could call the foam company and tell them the situation, ask for advice, and possibly a discount.
  • 7. Any Other Suggestions?

 

Part B

Reply #4 on: December 01, 2004, 07:08:14 AM Hi Jack, Thanks for your very thoughtful response. As I mentioned in my first message (above), when I last talked to the client, I calmly told him that I would call him and tell him what I was going to do. He had been getting upset at the idea that he had any responsibility for his actions at all. My first "emotional" response (which I kept within me) was to just not deal with the client any more. But I've learned it doesn't pay to act out my emotions. So the client only saw me as a calm person who wanted to check out details before giving a reply.

Quote from: Jack on November 29, 2004, 12:48:16 PM First off, don't ever make the choice for the customer without some discussion.

You are so right, I don't intend to make the decision for the client.

Quote: On the other side of the coin, we don't want to have an unhappy customer either.

Yes, I agree. An unreasonable client can badmouth you to many people.

Quote: The one way I have gotten around this problem is to have in stock a few sheets of foam in different weights, then they have something full size to test.

Good idea. However, at this point, I don't have very much space to stock sheets of foam. I do think that the client brought up an important point. I do need to have larger samples. I've been talking this over with my wife, and she agrees. We called up our foam supplier to see what we could do about getting bigger samples. The sales rep checked with the big boss and the best they can do is give us 10-sheet pricing on the foam samples, which is at least something. I was thinking of getting new foam samples that would be about 20" X 20" X 4 1/2" or 5" thick, which is about the size of a small average cushion. This should give a person a reasonable size to try out. I think that they would cost me something like $10 to $15 per sample. As I write this, I had another thought. Another type of sample that I may also try, is a layered cushion, meaning, a firm center with a softer outside. I just recently had another client who wanted firm foam, but didn't want it to me firm on the outside. I order something like a 3" foam for the center, then a 1" sheet of softer which I glued as I wrapped it in 1 piece around the top, front, and bottom. The client seemed happy with it. I haven't yet decided if I would do this but I might considering making one, or more, of my foam samples like this.

Quote: You will probably end up replacing the foam for the loveseat at your cost, then being able to sell them the 3 new ones for the sofa and not be out to much.

I think you are right here. Now about the client. After I wrote my previous message, I remembered that some months back another upholsterer in town (who is a friend of ours) had purchased some foam at a big discount from some supplier and offered to sell me a couple of 22" X 108" X 5" sheets at the same price. So I had purchase them at that time, and had cut one cushion off one of the sheets since then. This left one of the pieces just a little wider than this current client's loveseat need. I don't know if this foam will be the right firmness for the client, but if it would work, it would save us from having to put out the additional money to replace the client's foam.

After my wife and I talked about how to best handle this, we called up the client and just left a message that we had some foam that we would like them to try out. In preparation for them taking it home, I wrapped up the foam in a very thin plastic to keep it clean. The client called us back and Emmy, my wife, spoke sweetly to the client (Emmy is so good at that) about having some foam for him to try out. He came after work and picked up the foam and told us that he is glad that we are "working with him" on this. (Definition: "working with him"= client gets his way) The client said that he would give it a good try for a few hours in the evening, etc.

The client has had the foam since Monday evening. We thought he might send his wife back with the foam first thing yesterday morning, but we didn't he from him yesterday. We'll see what today brings. If by some chance he doesn't like the foam, Emmy and I have been thinking about getting these foam samples anyway. So, another possibility, which I'll probably do, is order a few of the previously mentioned foam samples of different firmnesses. As long as we'd have to buy some more foam to replace the client's foam, we might as well put the foam into getting the foam samples we wanted anyway. Then the client can take a couple different ones home (and perhaps we could even ask the client to bring their foam back in and we could put the foam samples in those cushion to try out. That way we could get the foam back before it gets to used, and the client could try out the foam sample in their actual use. Once they make a decision, then we could order the foam that they like. They might go ahead and order the rest of the foam at the same time? Who knows. I still don't know how this is going to play out, but will keep you update.

Part C

« Reply #5 on: December 01, 2004, 07:19:28 AM » -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- HI Susan, Thanks for responding. Your thoughts are very helpful. Quote from: susang on November 29, 2004, 02:46:58 PM I guess I would give him the foam that "most people" order and that would be your professional opinion, which you already gave him. Order it, make it, tell him he's going to love it. Good thought. I guess we each have our own way of doing thing. It's not in me to try to tell a client that they are going to like something. That's not my personality. I'm more of the personality type to help the client in finding what the different options are and then helping them to make a decision themselves. I do agree that our attitude is so important. Keeping a good attitude and win clients and help with difficult situations. I'm a slow thinker. I often need to take time before responding to a difficult situation (especially if I'm not prepared). When I give a response, I like to have a solution that I can acceptably live with. Quote: Stephen, let us know how you resolve it, please. Yes, I'll certainly do that. see my response to Jack (above) for current details. Thanks for your ideas, StephenW

Part D

« Reply #18 on: December 12, 2004, 12:08:19 AM » -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Hi, My message is too long for one post, so I have broken it up into several messages. Part 1 of 3

1. Comments Have Been Helpful: I want to thank all of you for giving me your thoughts and suggestions. The replies from the other professionals on this discussion board have helped to validate what Emmy and I had thought we were going to do. Yes, we felt like the client is unreasonable and that we were in the right. But, as one of the replies said, one unhappy client can do a lot of damage. Since my last message I have been discussing with my wife about what the right thing to do is. I’ve also been reading the comments on this discussion board. Thanks for all those thoughts. I haven’t replied to them because I wasn’t sure what to say or how this was going to turn out. I also wanted to wait to answer until we got some resolution into what was going to happen.

2. Trying a Possible Solution: Since my last message, I had remembered that I already had some foam (out in the back shed) that might do the job without having to spend any more money. It also made sending home a sample with the client easier. I went out to the shed and got a piece of foam, aprox size 22" X 57" X 5", and wrapped it up in plastic to keep it clean. We called the client and suggested that he just take this piece of foam home and give it a try. After he took it home, he called back in a couple of days and said that this new foam was too soft. I was disappointed because I thought that it might save us some money.

3. New Foam Samples: 12/11/2004 Now I knew that we had to do something. We called up our foam supplier and told them the situation of the unhappy client. Their opinion was that the client had made a choice and they weren’t going to do anything about it. In all honesty, I couldn’t really expect them to. After talking it over some more with my wife, and giving it more thought, we decided to that we needed some bigger foam samples for the client to sit on. I also thought that as long as we were getting some samples for him to try out, that I might as well order some other foam samples as well. (I wanted to use this experience to look to the future: having bigger foam samples would better serve all of my future foam clients.) We called our foam supplier back and, after talking with a couple different people, they decided to give us the foam samples at the 10-sheet price. At least that was some sort of a price break. So, we ordered the foam samples large enough to sit on, 20” X 20”. I ordered 1” & 2” & 4” of each of the grades that we might be most likely to sell: 2521, 2528, 2535. 2743, 2952, and sizes of 1818 (2” & 4”) and a 1 inch piece of 2670 (which was the same as we first sold in this client’s cushions) I could use these three thicknesses to create every thickness between 1” and 7”, like this = 1”, 2”, 3” = (1” + 2”), 4”, 5” = (1” + 4”), 6” = (4” + 2”), 7” = (4” + 2” + 1”). This also would allow me to try out different combinations of layered foam, such as, 1” medium on 4” firm, or 2” soft on top of 4” firm, and so on.

4. Client Returns 2nd Softer Foam: When the client brought back in the plastic wrapped softer foam, we told him that we were getting some bigger foam samples, and that when they came in, he could try them out. This seemed to satisfy him, then he left. When the new foam samples came in, we notified the client.

5. Client Tries New Foam Samples: A couple days later, on Thursday night, the client brought the two cushions back in. He was in a rush, so I quickly removed the previous super firm foam, that we had sold him, and put the 20” X 20” X 5”samples of the two different firmnesses of foam in his two cushions, firm in one cushion, and extra firm in the other cushion, and sent them home with him.

6. What About the Cost? Up to this point we still had not talked about price settlement. I still wasn’t sure just how to handle that. However, a thought came to me that I toyed with. The new foam would cost a little less than the first super firm foam, and I thought that I should order the new foam in a little smaller size, ½” thinner and ½” less on each side. This would reduce the tightness of the cover a little, as well as reducing the cost a little. At first I began thinking, because of the reduction is cost, how I could only credit back to the client, ½ of the cost of the previous foam to the new foam, and still have it be the same total price. I could work it all out in the computer, and then just create an invoice that would show no prices, just the total cost. Yes, that should work out just about fine, and I wouldn’t loose to much on the job. So I was thinking this over as I tried to work everything out. (however, something about this was eating at me and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it at first. I didn’t feel right about “hiding” the price figures.) Fortunately the client didn’t call for a few days.

7. More Discussion – Let’s Examine The Facts: This morning (Saturday), I was trying to talk out what to do about the monetary situation of the foam with my wife. In explaining my thoughts to her, I had a thought to try out both foams, (my 12” X 12” X 4” foam sample and the foam I took out of his cushions 24 1½”X 25 ½” X 5 ½”) side by side. I first just pressed down on both foams with the palms of my hands (one hand on each piece of foam). They both felt the same: they were indeed the same firmness. Next, I sat on the small foam sample and found the I squished it down about half way. Then I sat to the large cushion foam piece, and didn’t make much of a dent in it: it was almost as hard as a brick. Although these two foam pieces were the same, when I sat on them, they responded differently. Now why would that be? To find the answers, I thought that I would look at the facts. The foam sample measures 12” X 12” = 144 Square inches. When I sat on the larger foam piece my weight was spread out over an area measuring approximately 17” X 18” = 306 square inches. This shows that when I sit on the full cushion size foam my weight is spread out over twice as large of an area as when I sat on the small sample of foam. Consequently, when I am sitting on the small foam sample, I’m putting twice as much weight per square inch as when I sit on the larger foam piece. So, of course the sample would seam twice as soft as the larger foam piece, even though they are exactly the same firmness of foam. (I've included my own struggles with my thoughts (in #6 above) just as an example, having self-centered thoughts is not wrong, acting upon them can damage relationships, harm others, darken our thinking abilitly and hinder our learning new lessons and gaining new insights.)

8. New Insights: What this showed me was that the client, who was even larger than I am, did not sit on a large enough piece of foam to adequately show him how much, or how little, support the foam would give him. He made his choice using faulty information. Yes, a few days ago when I was trying to work things out with him, he had a bad attitude, but that doesn’t change the facts. Yes, I was inwardly angry at him, but, sad to say , even that doesn’t change the facts. Since I’ve had a few days to mull this over, and I’ve seen more facts to this situation, I’ve come up with a different awareness that I originally had.

9. Looking at My Own Mistakes: In examining my own actions, I thought that I’d take myself out of the picture and look at this situation from the standpoint of a judge who would be trying to see who was right. I see that I made several mistakes on this order. First, I had to small of foam samples for clients to adequately choose. The judge would consider me to be the professional who had superior knowledge. I should have known that the small samples would not adequately support the customer to give an accurate representation. And, as the professional with superior knowledge, I should have known that the foam was firmer than any that I had sold for seat cushions before. I had ordered the foam in too large of a size for the cover, which increased it’s firmness. (Also, something that has nothing to do with a judge’s decision, I also made another mistake to my own hurt. I did not charge the client for stuffing his cushions. At the time I gave him the price I was rushing to give the client the estimate and forgot to add that charge.) At last I was ready to face the client and deal with the cost issue.

10. Client Returns Foam Samples: 12/11/2004 4:12 PM This afternoon the client brought back in his cushions (that had our new foam samples inside them.) He said that he wanted to go with the softer of the two (which was the firm). In talking with him, we decided to just order two new cushions of the grade he liked. He’ll try that out for a while, and then see what he wants to do with the cushions in the other furniture. He still has the three sofa cushions that need replacing, and he says that he also has another sofa he may get new foam for.

11. The Cost: After giving it much thought, looking at the facts, examining my own mistakes and my own motives, talking it over with my wife, I’ve decided that I need to just charge him for what he is actually getting, as well as to have all the charges clearly spelled out. I need to eat whatever loss there will be. God is good, he will provide. He expects me to be honest in all of my dealings.

12. Lessons Learned: If I want to look at this from a purely economic viewpoint, with this foam order of the two cushions, with replacing the two cushions, I have lost money: it cost more to deal with him that it would have not to have the sale. But if I look at it from the lessons I’ve learned: I’ve learned that I needed bigger and better foam samples. With them I will be able to better serve my future clients. I’ve learned to check out all the facts before giving an answer. I’ve learned lessons of how give better service to my clients, thus building client loyalty. What I was first thinking about doing, before I looked at the facts, and my own mistakes, was completely different that what I realize that I need to do now. I see this not as a disaster, or as devastating mistakes, but as lessons, as guidance, from God above. My foam samples were faulty in a way that I had not given any thought to. All of the circumstances and the experiences that we go through in life are not important, how we respond to them is what’s important. Did I learn the lessons, is my life improved because of how I responded? Time will tell. I’m a slow learner at times, and so I take my time before responding. My first response is often emotional, and sometimes angry, but I don’t let myself respond when I am in that frame of mind. I like to think things out.

13. Being of Better Service: One of the strong attractions of “custom made” is helping the client get something that fits her, that they will be happy with. Part of doing what is right means to do the right thing no matter what the client does, and not matter what type of attitude the client has. In Conclusion This job is not yet complete, and has not played out. At least now I know how I am going to respond for my part.

Part X

« Reply #25 on: December 14, 2004, 10:54:27 AM » -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Thanks Jack for your encouragement. Sometimes it is struggle to know what is the right thing to do. It's good to have a sounding board.

Quote from: Perry on December 12, 2004, 10:52:18 AM My admonishment, if any, to Stephen...is to not worry if this customer runs his trap.

Perry Thanks for your admonishment Perry, it's good not to take things personally. Update "All things work for good to those who love the Lord" I'm already making good use of those nice larger foam samples. Yesterday a customer called wanting some new foam for the cushions. Their cat had vomited on the the curved center sectional cushion. So she wanted to have it replaced with a foam similar to what she already has. Today she brought the old cushion in. Because I had those nice new foam samples (that came to me through all those struggles), she was able to try out the different firmnesses. Consequently, she place a $140 order, which will come down on the truck in 2 days. In addition, since we have invested a little more into getting these foam samples, I've been talking with my wife about putting a listing in the phone book under "Foam & Sponge Rubber" and I've been thinking about adding a corresponding foam page to our web page. (I have been working with foam for over 30 years and have a pretty good "working knowledge" about the different types and densities of foam. It would help to get some more of the technical info though. ) Of course, I don't yet know what will come of this, but there is a chance of earning some extra income from the foam sales, without much additional investment on our part. As I think about it, none of these other things regarding possibly increased foam sales would I have considered if it I had of just gotten angry at that first foam client and gotten in a verbal argument with him, trying to prove myself right. There is a book that says, "Do everything without grumbling and complaining." There is much practical sense and wisdom here. More Lessons Many seemingly "bad" circumstances have a lesson attached to them, and if we learn from the lesson, life improves. As an example, if I had of just gotten angry at that previously mentioned unhappy foam client and just dismissed them, then I wouldn't have had these nice foam samples. If I only call the client names, put all the blame on them, then I stop myself from thinking and growing. Each time I come to a difficult client, and I take the time to work through any problems, finding the difficult solutions, then I grow in my ability to handle difficult clients. In each problem situation, it is rare that only one person is totally to blame. We each come into a situation with our unique set of previous experiences, prejudices, hopes, plans, thoughts, past problems (which we carry into each current situation). My Purpose As an upholsterer, I am not in business merely to provide for myself and my family. I provide a service to my clients. I seek to find solutions (within my knowledge and abilities) to their problems. When I take their needs into consideration, I can better serve my clients, they are more satisfied with my service, and it builds customer loyalty, which helps me to succeed in business. Prologue Besides being an upholstery and a father, I am a writer, a thinker, and an artist. I take pleasure in looking at my life's experiences and my trials and see what I can learn from them. As an upholsterer, I want to continually try to improve the quality of my work, as well as to improve my methods of dealing with clients. When I have "less than perfect" clients, I am less concerned with how they act than I am with how I respond to them. When some clients are nasty or angry, if I respond in like manner, then I'm becoming like them: I am no better than they are. So, when I have an "angry" or "undesirable" client, I'd rather be kind an nice to them no matte how they treat me, because this is who I want to become. How I act toward others, no matter how they act towards me, is an indication of who I am. So, this the choice I have to make every time I deal with a client, how do I want to act, who am I? As a writer I look for experiences in my life to write about. I try to look on as an observer and write out what I see. I also keep a journal and write out many of my life's experiences and the lessons that I learn. Every now and then something tells me to write about one of my life experiences, and then it's amazing what can develop, such as as happened in this topic thread. When I first began to write about "the Unhappy Foam Customer", I had no idea of where it might lead. Yes, I have given a lot of thought to this, probably more than most people, but that is partly because of the writer-thinker in me. As a thinker, I try to look for problems and figure out better ways to do things. I also notice that there is a writer (me) watching my every thought and my every action, and this helps keep me on the straight and narrow (trying to do the right thing). As an artist, I try to see the balance and harmony in God’s creation. I also seek to express what I see in meaningful ways. At times, when I really understand some concept, I try to make a drawing or other visuals to make the concept simpler to understand. I have not developed this gift as much as I should, but it is a worthwhile ambition, which can compliment the writer side of me.

Part X

« Reply #28 on: December 22, 2004, 09:09:49 AM » -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Hi, I just wanted to add more to the story. More to the Story: While I was gone, the (unhappy foam) client's wife came in yesterday and picked up the cushions with the new foam stuffed into them. She gave my wife a hug and said how much she appreciated our working with them. She even asked how much she owed us. My wife told her she didn't owe us anything. (My wife and I had already discussed this and decided that, even though the client originally had a bad attitude, I, and my inadequate foam samples, were largely to blame) The client's wife also mentioned that after the holidays, if these cushions work out OK, she will probably come back and order the foam for the other furniture. We are each different: Each of us has a different personality, we each come from different backgrounds, we each have different levels of experience, we each have had many different experiences in our lives. All this combines to make us unique individuals, with our own unique sets of gifts, talents, attitudes, prejudices and biases, etc. This also applies to our clients. Consequently, each of will respond differently, each of our clients will respond differently. So you can never know for certain just how a client interaction will turn out. If we give the client angry response back to his anger, then that is like throw gasoline upon a fire. This leads to arguments, fights, lawsuits. Now why do I even say this? It has been wisely said, "A soft answer turns away wrath." So what if I lost some money on this sale. I have to look at the overall picture of how I'm doing as a whole. God provides. You loose a little here, but you gain over there. It all comes out in the end. Lessons about myself: One thing I would like to say. Yes, I put a lot of effort into a seemingly small sale. But the important thing to me is that I feel good about how it turned out. I feel good about myself and how I responded to the client, and how I treated the client. His initial anger is irrelevant to me, my response is what I'm concerned about. I can't control him. But I can learn to control myself. I don't have to live with him, but I do have to live with myself. If I cop an attitude, if I put the client down, if I put "me first", how am I acting any differently than he is? So, as for myself, I'd rather put out more effort and have a good result, rather than just take the easy way out of a situation and have lasting negative affects. Those lasting negative affects would go two ways. First, they would build and increase negativity into me. When I respond negatively to one client, I am much more prone to do it again with the next client, and so it builds. Secondly, when I respond negatively to a client, especially one who is angry, then that builds negativity into my client base. As Someone else mentioned earlier in this thread, one unhappy angry client can tell many others, and so it goes on and on. My self-righteous pride increases and I think more and more about myself, and less and less about my clients. I see the needs of my clients as less important than mine. I become more and more detached from my clients. I have more "difficult clients", not realizing that my own negative attitude is contributing to the negative attitude of my clients. But, conversely, the other side is also true. If I learn to handle each client well, even the difficult ones: My ability to handle difficult clients will increase. My feelings of goodwill towards even my difficult clients will increase My skill at my trade improves because I will change the ways that I do things to better meet the needs of my clients. My sense of self worth and feelings of good will about myself will increase The clients, even the difficult ones, will have a better sense of goodwill toward me. I will have less and less (apparent) "difficult clients" because I learn to meet their needs better. In the process I grow and stretch as a person. It has been rightly said: "We see things, not as they are, but as we are" Reply #30 on: December 22, 2004, 07:50:34 PM » --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Quote from: DB on December 22, 2004, 07:17:20 PM Behind every successful man is a goooooood woman. Give your wife a big hug for I sense she gets much of the credit for this wonderful experience you just had.

Yes, Emmy gets much of the credit (and the cash too! ;D ). She has added so much to my life. She my closest and best friend, my life's partner, my lover, my confidant, my business partner, my advisor, my 2X4 (in the head ) when I need it, etc. I would not be who I am if she had not come into my life. Quote: Thanks for sharing your mental growth. Doesn't it make all that we do the way we do worth what we do? DB I couldn't agree more, thanks for responding,

http://www.carrscorner.com/yabbse/index.php?board=10;action=display;thre...

 

Follow Up on this Story - 3 Years Later

Before I had this client, I had been using the small "free samples" for a few years, but my interaction with this client led me to purchase a whole set of foam samples (a decision I am very thankful for to this day.)

The sizes I use for all my foam samples are 20" X 20". I get the foam in 3 thicknesses (1" + 2" & 4") These three thicknesses can be combined to get any thickness between 1" & 7" thick. Since I mostly sell high quality foam for jobs, I have foam samples in the above 3 thicknesses in these qualities: 2523, 2528, 2535, 2743, & 2952. I also have some call for 1833, 1845 (and possibly a little for 1860). I have a 4" sample of the 1833. Someday I'll probably get the 1" & 2" in the 1833, as well as getting the 3 thicknesses in the 1845.Foam Cabinet

I keep my foam samples in a cabinet.
(click on picture to enlarge)

To have the client try out the foam samples, I have a sturdy coffee table that I put the foam samples on and let them sit on various firmnesses. Sometimes, I let them try out a combination of various firmness, for example, extra firm on the bottom and medium of the top. Occassionally, as shown on the right side of the coffee table, I may llet them try out a combination of 3 different firmness: the stack on the left side is firm on the bottom, medium in the middle, and soft on top. 


(click on picture to enlarge)

Since I've had the various samples, I notice that people's preferences vary considerably. Some like it soft, some like it hard, etc.

I must say that I've use the foam samples a LOOOTTTTTT!!!!!. The foam samples were a sizeable investment for me, but it has been well worth it. I sell a lot of foam; I don't stock foam, but only order to the clients' sizes. When I was using the small foam samples, I sold this amount of foam: 1999 = $1678 in foam sales, 2000 = $1768 in foam sales, 2001 = $2218 in foam sales, 2002 = $1731 in foam sales, 2003 = $2381 in foam sales, 2004 = $2092 in foam sales. Then near the end of 2004 I had this incident, in the above story. Shortly after this, on December 4, 2004, I ordered my 20" X 20" foam samples. All the foam samples cost me about $100. Since then, my foam sales have increased to $3240 in 2005, $4532 in 2006, and $5598 in 2007. So that original $100 investment for foam samples has more than paid for itself.

For pricing, I've created a foam price sheet, which you can see here: Foam Price Sheet. I just enter the sizes (shown at the top in red), and then it automatically figures the prices in all foam grades and in all thicknesses from 1" to 7". It makes it real easy for the client to test out the foam and then instantly compare what the price would be for each grade and thickness. (The only part of the foam price sheet that prints out is the part inside the borders.)

Now, as a follow up to the above story, the challenging events of our lives are not nearly as important as HOW we RESPOND to them. If I had of insisted on being "right", then I would have missed out on the blessings (both financial and otherwise)that have flowed out of that event.

Another Update, after another 3 or 4 Years

 I had used one of the "mistake" super hard (2670) foam pieces along the line, but still have one of them. Yesterday I had a client come into the shop and told me that his wife wanted the hardest foam that they could get to replace the foam in their sofa cushions. I brought out my 20" X "20 size foam sample of the 2743 and the 2952 for him to sit on. I was feeling a little jovial so, as a kind of joke, I also brought out the piece of super hard 2670 foam for him top sit on, which I had him sit on first. With a smile on his face, he said that it "is" very hard. I then had him try the 2952 foam and the 2743 foam. He went back to the 2670 foam and said he thought that his wife would like that foam. I explained to him that  I had brought that foam out as a joke, and that it was super-hard, harder than most people would like, but that the 2952 foam was that very hardest that most customers would want and suggest that his wife would be happier with that. No, he said, he was sure that his wife would rather have the 2670 foam. I explained to him that in ordering the 2670 foam that there would be no refunds or exchanges, so he needs to make sure that is what they want before we order it.

During our conversation he said that his wife frequently lies down on the sofa. I told him about the load ratios, that when he sits on the foam he puts a lot more weight per square inch, but when someone lays down on the foam, his weight will be distributed over a larger area, thus making it even harder. He said that he would have his wife lay down on the foam (having the other cushions on both sides to allow her to better lay on it).

Another part of the story is that since the time that we originally got the 2670 foam we have moved and change foam suppliers because our former supplier won't deliver to us out in our new location in the small town of Independence. Our new suppler has this foam (Q61   3.0 lb  61-71 IFD), which I explained to the client.

I gave this client a choice of (1. bringing his wife out to us and letting her try out the foam, 2. paying a deposit and taking the foam home for her to try out, or 3. ordering the foam and paying a 1/2 deposit on the foam. If he chose #3, then we'd let him take home the foam sample for his wife to try out, and we wouldn't cash his check or order the foam until he called us back to confirm that his wife liked the foam. He decided to go with choice #3.

When I made out his invoice for the foam order, I put this on the Invoice:
Hi,
 Another followup on this story. I had used one of the "mistake" super hard (2670) foam pieces along the line, but still have one of them. Yesterday I had a client come into the shop and told me that his wife wanted the hardest foam that they could get to replace the foam in their sofa cushions. I brought out my 20" X "20 size foam sample of the 2743 and the 2952 for him to sit on. I was feeling a little jovial so, as a kind of joke, I also brought out the piece of super hard 2670 foam for him top sit on, which I had him sit on first. With a smile on his face, he said that it "is" very hard. I then had him try the 2952 foam and the 2743 foam. He went back to the 2670 foam and said he thought that his wife would like that foam. I explained to him that  I had brought that foam out as a joke, and that it was super-hard, harder than most people would like, but that the 2952 foam was that very hardest that most customers would want and suggest that his wife would be happier with that. No, he said, he was sure that his wife would rather have the 2670 foam. I explained to him that in ordering the 2670 foam that there would be no refunds or exchanges, so he needs to make sure that is what they want before we order it.

Another part of the story is that since the time that we originally got the 2670 foam we have moved and change foam suppliers because our former supplier won't deliver to us out in our new location in the small town of Independence. Our new suppler has this foam (Q61   3.0 lb  61-71 IFD), which I explained to the client.

I gave this client a choice of (1. bringing his wife out to us and letting her try out the foam, 2. paying a deposit and taking the foam home for her to try out, or 3. ordering the foam and paying a 1/2 deposit on the foam. If he chose #3, then we'd let him take home the foam sample for his wife to try out, and we wouldn't cash his check or order the foam until he called us back to confirm that his wife liked the foam.

When I made out his invoice for the foam order, I put this on the Invoice:

Quote
Customer has been warned how hard the cushions are. No Refunds and No exchanges once the foam is order.
Client will take home a sample and confirm this is what they want before we order it.

He read over the invoice, signed it and paid the deposit. An hour or two later his wife called back and said that she liked the foam and to go ahead and order the foam.

The moral of this story has several parts.
1. I sure didn't think that anyone would ever want cushions that hard.
2. Because we had that piece of foam we had a sample to let him and his wife try out.
3. His cushion sizes were 24 x 28 x 6 and we'll make over $300 over the cost of the foam on this order. This, again, helps to continue to reimburse for that original foam mistake.

Another part of the update. 
So, here is a summary of how my foam sales have been affected.

This is a list of my foam income for a few years before the original "challenging" foam client came into my shop.

Year        Foam sales for the year
1999        $1678
2000        $1768
2001        $2218
2002        $1731
2003        $2381
2004        $2092 <<< Nov 29, 2004 Challenging Foam Client
2005        $3240
2006        $4532
2007        $5712
2008        $3799
2009        $5076
2010        $4848

The Challenging Foam client came into my shop near the end of 2004. Shortly after that I got new 20" X 20" foam samples, as describe in the previous message:

    So, we ordered the foam samples large enough to sit on, 20” X 20”. I ordered 1” & 2” & 4” of each of the grades that we might be most likely to sell: 2521, 2528, 2535. 2743, 2952, and sizes of 1818 (2” & 4”)  and a 1 inch piece of 2670 (which was the same as we first sold in this client’s cushions)  I could use these three thicknesses to create every thickness between 1” and 7”, like this = 1”, 2”, 3” = (1” + 2”), 4”, 5” = (1” + 4”), 6” = (4” + 2”), 7” = (4” + 2” + 1”). This also would allow me to try out different combinations of layered foam, such as, 1” medium on 4” firm, or 2” soft on top of 4” firm, and so on.

From the time we received the new foam samples we have been making about an additional two thousand to three thousand dollars per year above what we were selling before that time.
So, to restate, having that "challenging" foam client was really a blessing to us. It caused us to correct a problem of insufficient foam samples. The result was increased sales.

Another part of the message is that when we have challenging times, or difficult clients, it is very important to watch our attitudes. Many times those things happen to bring correction into our lives, and we are blessed (if we watch our attitudes and actions).

*This was originally written as messages on Carrscorner Upholstery Discussion.
I have not yet had time to edit and rewrite this, but this is just raw text.

An Undesirable Job

What do you do when you end up with an undesirable job. Perhaps you somehow took it in way too cheap, or it has a lot more work than you knew about?
You answered your own question, " I'm having trouble though leaving these broken pieces in there. " Listen to your inner voice. You are writing out the story of your life with your every action. What do you want the story of your life to say? Every time we take a compromise our inner voice, we cause ourselves stress. When you look back at this job in the future, what do you want to remember that you did? You are the one who sets your standards. What do you want your standards to be? Only you can answer that.
While you are thinking about that, I just want to share a personal experience of my own. While the experience is not the same, it still addresses a basic issue of how do deal with clients when it cost us money out of our own pocked. Here is a story about a foam sale that seemingly went bad.
 

Appearing Competent

We upholsterers are humans like everyone else. We each have out own weaknesses and failings. Even in the upholstery trade each of us has our own areas or expertise and areas of weakness or lack of skill. When clients come into our shop, or when we go into their homes or places of business, they want to know that we are competent professionals who can do their jobs.

In the midst of this we have to be real and honest, both with ourselves and with our clients. If a job is way out of our area of skill or knowledge, we need to know when to say "no" and to hold firmly to it.

In a large part when we interact with a client we are acting in a play. In other words, we are "acting as though we are knowledgeable and competant" even when we are quivering and fearful inside. For example, when we have to give a price or an answer about something that we know nothing about, we might be inwardly quivering and saying to ourselves "What do I do about this? I don't have a clue!" <grumble, grumble, grumble> Even so, it does not help our relationship with the client to let the client see our uneasiness and fear. So, no matter what is going on inside we "act as though" everything is fine. Now, in the midst of all of this inward turmoil, and our playacting, we balance that with being real and authentic with the client. We only tell them the truth. (At the very least, we at least don't tell them any lies). We be as real as we can be.
Then, you might ask, "When the client asks me questions and I don't know what to say, what do I do.  First, Tell NO lies. You can start with clearly defining their questions. Write them down. Then tell them, "I'll find that out for you." all the while acting like a professional.

In any trade or career there will be things that the people don't know and have to find out. That is a normal part of living. So don't stress out about not knowing or thinking that you will look foolish if you don't know.

Appearing competent is not about knowing all the answers. No one does that. Rather it's about being real and honest while keeping calm and asking the right questions so that you can find out the answers.

Acting Competently

 

Making Mistakes

What about mistakes? Does that mean that I'm not competent. Of course not. Everyone makes mistakes. Not one is born knowing everything. The differences is that an amatuer may try to hide or cover up his make hoping that the client won't notice it. In contrast a professional more quickly notices his mistakes and promptly corrects his/her mistakes. When a mistake is corrected, it's as though it never happened.

In Conclusion

In order to "appear competent" one must consistently act in a competent responsible manner. At first it may be "an act", but with continued repetition it will become second nature and you be truly competant

Correcting Mistakes

This section is about correcting mistakes

Correcting a Mistake with An Estimate

 
I had given an estimate by email. She had interacted with me ... Before she decided to proceed she had sent me an email. In the email she mentioned that she couldn't find my estimates. So I decided to send her another copy. Most of the time I think I would have just sent them out again without another glance. But for  some reason that I can't explain I decided to have another look at  the estimate. That's when I found some major mistakes that could have cost me hundreds of dollars. After making the corrections I decided to send her a precise detailed account of what had happened and what had been corrected (changed). Below is a copy of the email that I sent to her.
 
Hi Jane Doe,
 
I'm very sorry, but I have found some major mistakes in our first estimate to you for the loveseat. I discovered the mistake in the following manner. When you mentioned that you couldn't find our estimates to you, I decided to send them to you again. I decided to look over both estimates before I sent them again. That's when I found some major mistakes in the loveseat estimate. When I had originally filled out the estimate I had correctly listed all the prices in the left-side white areas. However, I had neglected to activate the prices in the columns by placing the appropriate quantities is the columns to the right. (The prices of the supplies and foam and had been left out of all the Options) You can see what I mean by looking at page 2 of the estimate. I have circled the unchanged prices in red in the left side white detail area. What I have corrected is now I have added the quantities (which I've circled in green) in the columns. That activated the corresponding prices for the supplies and also for the foam that are listed in the top description of each colored column. While that only minorly changed the yellow Base column, that has significantly changed the totals at the bottom of the other columns. (The footstool estimate hasn't changed, it was OK.) As before, the prices for working in Client's fabric is shown in green at the bottom of the estimate.
 
I am very sorry that this mistake happened. I realize that these corrections may make it infeasible for you to proceed, and that is Ok. You can decide to pursue other options if you so decide. Let me know what you'd like to do next. If you have any questions feel free to contact me. Best Wishes, Stephen Winters
I then sent her a text that said:
Hi Jane,
When you mentioned that you couldn't find my estimate I decided to resend it to you (which I have). However, in the process I found some mistakes. You might want to look at them, in your email.
Best Wishes,
Stephen
 
 
 

Doing a "Quick" Little job

A Lesson About Doing Quick Repairs

Here is a lesson about doing a quick job for a client. No Matter how small, don't fix it immediately right in front of a cient. If the client sees that it only takes you a couple minutes, he won't want to pay you much for your skill. Here is an example of how I made that mistake and was reminded of this principle again.

My Initial Assessment

Recently a guy called me about possibly getting a car seat repaired. I normally don't work or car seats and didn't know if I could do it, but told him that I would look at it. Later on he carried the car seat into my shop. I had him bring it back into my shop and put it on the table. He showed me that the bottom edge of the seat was coming loose and wanted to know if I could fix it.

As I looked at the bottom of the seat I saw that it had a plastic fastening strip around the bottom edge of the vinyl cover. The plastic strip had come out of the track that it fits into. It was similar to a repair that I had one on our own van this last year.

My Mistake: I fixed it in front of the client

So I just put it on top of the table, climbed up on it. I put my weight on it to compress the seat enough to flip the fastening strip back in place. As the guy watched me and saw what I was doing he also started to help twist it back in place. All told it only took a couple minutes to fix the seat.

Another Mistake: My Hesitation about stating a price

He asked me how much he owed me.  My first thought was not to charge him anything because it didn't take much time. Then, I thought I'd just ask him what he thought it was worth. He didn't want to say. Then I thought I'd ask Emmy, so I went into the car to ask her while he carried the seat back out to his truck. I asked Emmy what she thought. She didn't quite know, but then I thought I ought to charge his twenty five dollars, but as I went back out I back off and thought maybe I'd only charge him twenty.

The Client's Response:

When he came back in I asked him what he thought about twenty dollars. He said that he thought it was out of line. It was way too much for only a couple minutes work. I was taken aback by his response and hesitated and felt embarrassed. He opened his wallet and found he only had nine dollars in it. He was about to go out to his truck and get some more money from his wife. However, I told him that I would take the nine dollars, which I did.

My Assessment of my Mistakes

As he left I'm sure that he thought that I was trying to overcharge him. After he left I realized that I had made several large mistakes on this job. For one, I hadn't given him a price up front. I also remembered that I didn't have my labor price rate poster posted, I promptly went into the computer, printed out several copies of the poster and taped it up around the shop.

Some of the other mistakes I made is to fix it right there in front of him. I should have sent him away and let him come back later.  Another mistake I made is I stumbled around with giving him a price. I didn't value my skilled services and I displayed my lack of self-value to him, and he ran with it. Because I had not given him a price up front and he saw how quickly I fixed it and I acted very insecure (non-professional) about hesitating in  giving him a price, he jumped right on that. He also didn't value my services.

A Professional is Worth His Wages

The thing I need to remember is that I fixed it so quickly because of my skill. I am a professional and am worthy of my wages. You couldn't go into any doctor's office, or auto repair shop, or other professional place and expect to only pay them nine dollars.
In looking back at it, my service was (or should have been) worth a lot to him. I put a seat back together that was falling apart. If I had of handled it correctly I should have charged him based upon what the job was worth, not on how long it took me. I knew how to fix it, he didn't. That is why he brought it to me.
In addition, I have lost a potential customer. I'm angry at him and don't want to do any more work for him. But really, I'm angry at myself for caving on the price and not handling it correctly.

Now, here is the justification for charging him for my services.

  1. He only came to me because he saw my advertising. I had to pay money to get him to come to me.
  2. I took time out to answer his phone call.
  3. When he came in I got to his job right away.
  4. The reason he came to me in the first place is because he couldn't fix it.
  5. The reason I could fix it so quickly is because of my many years of experience. It was an "easy" job because I knew how to fix it. Easy means you know how to do it.
  6. It costs money to pay for my shop space and to pay for the utilities for heat, lights, and tools.
  7. I have a lot of money invested in my tools that are there waiting for jobs.
  8. I can only be there to do repairs if I'm paid for my services.
  9. Whenever I do a job, even a little job, I have to make out the paperwork and enter the bookkeeping for it. This takes either my time or my wife's time. That times needs to be paid for.

Have a Ready Answer

Sometimes having a ready answer can save you from troublesome situations. For example, what do you say when a client calls up and wants to know when their job will be finished, or some other situation. It's easy to quickly answer by promising something that you can't deliver. One especially useful phrase that I use a lot is, "I'll check on that for you. Please give my your name and phone number" Usually the client wants a prompt answer, so I'll tell them I'll call them later today, or I'll call you tomorrow.

Sometimes someone will call us and ask about their job. Sometimes they may want to know when it will be finished. I never give them a reply until I check on all the detail.

Take time that you understand their question. If needed, ask some questions. It is really useful to have a ready answer of how you want to reply to a client who calls up and puts you on the spot.

After the client asks me the question, I usually say something like, "give me your name and phone number and I'll check on it." After writing down their info, I say, "I'll call you back later today." Much of the time, when the client is on the phone, I may not remember who they are and what job they had. So, after hanging up, I check on all the components of the job. I find their Work Order in QuickBooks. I also look in my Business Journal to find any notes that I may have previously written. Then I check to see if the fabric has arrived, and also if we have the foam or other supplies that go with the job. If we don't have all the pieces of the job in the shop, then I go through the records, notes, etc to find out what the situation is. If needed, I also call the suppliers to find out whether or not we placed the order and/or if the fabric  has been shipped or back ordered.

Always tell the client the truth if at all possible. If for some reason you can't tell the truth, at least DON'T LIE TO THEM.

Reasons Why Clients Reupholster Their Furniture

Most of my clients don't have something reupholstered because it is less expensive than new furniture (because it isn't). Generally there is a reason that makes sense to the client. I've narrowed down why many of my clients will get their furniture reupholstered.

1.) Quality: The client has high quality furniture that needs a new cover. Or she realizes that her old sofa or chair has a better frame than what is made nowadays.

2.) Sentimentality: the client has a piece of furniture that is sentimental to her. Perhaps it belonged to her mother or grandmother. Or when her children were babies she rocked them to sleep in the rocker. etc. 

3.) Purpose: The furniture fits a specific purpose or location. Perhaps she has a loveseat that fits just perfectly in that little corner. Or she has a sectional that fits just right in her living room. Even though the client may have searched, she hasn't found a suitable replacement.

4.) Preference: The client really likes her furniture. They may have had their furniture for many years and she doesn't want change it to something else. Her furniture just fits her needs and likes.

5.) Antiques. They have antiques or older furniture that has historical value.

Selling Foam

Selling Foam
     In the past I had the little foam samples. While, on occasion, a client might want a very firm foam, I used to mostly just sell the same firmness of foam one grade of foam. Most clients wouldn't even ask about the firmness, but just knew they would get new foam. For the few that would ask, I let them "feel" the small foam samples with their hands. Now that I have the large samples, and let the clients try out the different foams, I wonder why I didn't do this years agos. It's so much better for me and for the client.

     I've change the way that I sell foam, because of an experience I had with a foam client explained here: (Challenging Foam Client)

Foam Samples
     That experience encouraged me to get bigger foam samples, which I keep in a cabinet,  shown here:


Click on picture to enlarge

     When we ordered the foam samples, we bought them all in a cushion-size of 20" X 20" in 5 different grades from soft to extra firm (2521, 2528, 2535, 2743, & 2952). We got each grade in 3 different thickness, 1", 2" & 4". By combining the different thicknesses we could have any thickness from 1" up to 7" thick  (1", 2", 2 +1=3", 4",  4 + 1= 5", 4 + 2 = 6", 4 + 2 + 1 = 7")

Client Testing of Foam
I also have a coffee table that I use to let the client try out the different firmnesses of foam.

Click on picture to enlarge

     I find that no amount of my explanations to the client, no amount of information that I might give them about foam, or info that I might get from them about their needs, does nearly as well as just having them try out the the various firmnesses of the cushion-size foam samples.
     Sometimes, when appropriate, I also let them try out what layered foam would feel like. For instance, putting 2" medium (2535 on top of 3" firm (2743 or 2952 (extra firm) etc.).
     This way of selling foam really empowers the client to make their own choices about what's best for them, and it takes the stress away from me "trying to figure out what is best for the client."
 

The Psychology of Working With Thrifty or Impatient Clients.

At times a client will seem to want to press you to either lower your price, or to have you do the job quicker than your schedule will allow. It may be tempting succomb to their demands, especially if your work is slow, but if you do, the job may turn into a nightmare. Unless you have some good reason, it is much better to hold to your price or to hold firm to your schedule at the risk of loosing the job. If you do hold strong, it is true that you might loose the job (and sometimes you will loose the job). But the blessing is this. If they then do leave and go someplace else they may find out that your price or your schedule is no more that other places. Then, if they do come back (and sometimes they do), they are much more reasonable about what they are willing to pay or will be more understanding about waiting for your schedule.

First, if the client is trying to rush you to give a quick price to them, don't do it. Tell them that you need a few minutes to figure out the price. Sometimes you can send them on to finish their errands and come back later. Sometimes you can get them looking through your sample books (which can get them occupied) while you are figuring out the price.

I find that whenever I give a quick price I usually forget to add some things. So I like to figure out the prices when I'm away from the clients. Sometimes, if the client is in a rush to leave, I'll get their name, address, telephone number, and email address and send the estimate or work order to them.

If the client stays while you figure the price, make sure you have included all the costs. I usually list all the items, with the associated costs, on my estimate form. My estimate form can have up to four columns, giving them options for cheapest to most complete. Some of the things are manditory, while others may be optional. If the client wants a cheaper price they can choose from the lowest cost column.

No matter how you figure the price, the important thing here is for you to have confidence that you have given a fair estimate, and that you know what it includes. Then, keep calm and either give the client options, or keep calmly repeat your price and what it includes. If they again ask for a lessor price, again calmly repeat what the price is and what it includes. As long as you keep calm and keep firm, the client has no control over you.

If the client finds out that they can't get you to change your mind, they usually leave (which will be better for you) or they often just settle down and accept what you can do or are willing to do.

The Role of Video in Client Relations

In working with clients we occassionally need to discuss some of the details of the job with them. Sometimes the clients live an hour or more away from our shop, so it is often impractical to ask the client to come back to the shop so that we can show them the challenge.

In dealing with clients I like to be as transparent as possible, to show them in detail when I need to add an extra charge. For instance, if I priced out a job that did not include spring repairs, then I like to show the client the actual condition of their springs.

That is where video comes in handy. Here are several jobs where we used video to bring the client into the discussion without having them make an unnecessary trip.

Validation of Extra Charges

When giving prices to clients it is sometimes difficult to tell the true condition of the springs or other interior parts of the furniture. So, I may bid a job for a certain price based upon a certain presumption of a specific condition of the furniture. However, if the furniture needs more work than  was specified on the work order, I like to show the client what is needed and thus showing the reason for the extra charge.

Here is a video I made showing that the chair springs had some broken ties and needed some work that wasn't charged for on the Work Order. (I had put a note on that work order that there could be an extra charge for the springs if needed.).

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Here is another video I made for another client about the condition of the springs in their chair:

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Discussing Details of a Job

Here is another video I made for a client to show the client some details of the job that I had questions about.

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Working with a Distant Client

Not long  ago I had taken in a job of recovering 4 antique dining chairs from a client who lives an hour away from my shop. At the time that he was here I had carefully talked over the details of the job with him before I wrote up the work order. As I was getting ready to order the springs for the job I realized that, as written on the work order, the top of the seat might end up to be 21-23 inches tall. I was very uneasy. What should I do? Should I just do the chair and take a chance that it would be OK? I don't like to proceed when I figure that there is a chance for the client being unhappy (and somewhat rightfully so).

Well, I needed to talk to him about the chair seat height. But I hated to have him drive an hour just to I could talk to him. That would be quite an imposition on him. So, I ended up making a short video of me showing and discussing my question with him. Here is that video, as an example of something that might be helpful to others. (Yes, I know I made a mistake and called webbing burlap. Oh well.)

I sent the client a link to the video and also restated my questions. He got back to me and told me that he wanted me to take the top wood strips off, and to make the chair seat so that it would be no higher that 19 with the casters removed off the chair.

Looking back at this situation, I can say that making the video and sending him the link, along with my questions, was a very good thing to do. I'm sure that it has saved me from a potential troublesome time. Now I feel at peace because I have a plan that seems quite workable and had been approved by the client. In working through the solution I gave the client an assignment so that they could realistically answer my questions. This was a good method to remember.

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Writing a Code of Ethics

What is a code of ethics?

When you operate a business, then life is no longer just about yourself. You cannot only say, "I'm in business to make money." While that is partially true, there is so much more than that. If your only focus is making money, then it is easy to forget about our obligations to our clients. What we need to remember is that when we are in business, we are providing either a product or a service (or both) to people, who are just like us. We need to have guiding principles of how we treat others. For example, it could be summarized in a few simple words, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." This time honored principle is spoken of in many of the great religions. These principles should also be practiced by businesses, and especially our businesses.

When you have "just a one man business" it is easy to think "a small business like mine doesn't need a written Code of Ethics. It's too much trouble to think out and write one." However this is not the case.

Michael Connor, the editor and publisher of the online magazine Business Ethics, believes that that there's no such thing as a business being too small to benefit from a code of ethics. Having a code is "often viewed as a luxury or something that is an added cost," he says. "The reality these days is that the business that does not have a code of ethics subjects itself to a much greater risk in its day-to-day operations and if there is an unfortunate incident, they expose themselves to much greater risk [from] regulatory and prosecutorial authorities." Inc. How to Write a Code of Ethics for Business.

A Code of ethics is part of an unwritten, and often unspoken, contract with each client. We each operate by our own code of ethics, whether it is written or not. Our code of ethics governs our interactions with our clients. In a business sense it is an outline of business practices and a code of ethics.

"A code of ethics is a collection of principles and practices that a business believes in and aims to live by. A code of business ethics usually doesn't stand alone, it works in conjunction with a company's mission statement and more specific policies about conduct to give employees, partners, vendors, and outsiders an idea of what the company stands for and how it's members should conduct themselves.

The key in distinguishing a code of ethics from these other documents is to hit the right level of specificity. It should address both the particular nuances of the company's industry as well as its broader goals for social responsibility and should be concrete enough to serve as a guide for employees in a quandary without laying out rules for every situation that could arise." Inc., How to Write a Code of Ethics   See also: Inc., Code of Ethicks

Why we should write our own Code of Ethics

We are humans, who have both an immature selfish side, which always wants its own way and always thinks of itself as right. We also have a (for lack of a better word) spiritual side which calls us to a higher life of living for others, of living by ethical principles.

"Creating a written mission statement, business plan and code of ethics were completed long before we opened our doors a year ago," says Jim Boutin, vice president and general manager of the Longmont-based Colorado State Glass and Mirror Company. "As a new entity in a highly competitive market, we needed to be sure we were all on the same page from day one on how we would operate the business, build our customer base, conduct ourselves and clearly handle issues that come our way. With partners, we knew we needed standardized guidelines for behavior and manage our day-to-day business operations to ensure consistency when dealing with customers. It's made a difference in helping us to build solid relationships and bring in repeat customers." The USGlass News Network

What should it contain

 

References

Why have a Code of Ethics

Creating a Code of Ethics for Your Organization

Inc., How to Write a Code of Ethics

Inc., Code of Ethics

The US Glass News Network

Business Ethics, The Magazine of Corporate Responsibility