Although there’s no good way to know if a client is going to rave over the work you do for them, it’s usually pretty safe to assume that they’re not going to hate your effort. Every once in awhile, though, you may be asked for a better resolution by a client for a job they decide is just too ugly for words.
How do you deal with an “ugly” job? Can you even be held responsible for fixing that?
Start by Managing Expectations
Before you even begin a job, it’s important to get a good idea of what the client really wants and how their expectations should be rolled into your work. Whether they can’t bear a corner that’s beyond a tight 90 degrees or a less than absolutely crisp paint line on a ceiling sends them reeling, you need to know who you’re working with and if you can meet their standards.
Sometimes you simply can’t. And if you can’t, there’s no shame in declining the job. Ask them for some examples of work they really loved and some that they hated and what it was that gave them their feelings about each.
Giving a Workmanship Promise
Depending on the job, clients may expect that you won’t do an “ugly” job, but still want to see that in writing. When you do this, don’t be vague or you’ll end up in arbitration trying to satisfy a client whose idea of beauty is different from your own.
The National Association of Home Builders provides a book that can work well as the gold standard for craftsmanship for modern contractors. If you cite the Residential Construction Performance Guidelines as the guide for your work and your client agrees that it will suffice, not only will you have a solid, detailed explanation to reference for any kind of job you might be performing, your client will have a very vivid understanding of the work they can expect.
Keep Your Standards High
For many contractors, success comes down to experience and having a standard of their own that’s quite high. Even if that means tearing a job down and redoing it because it didn’t come out right, be willing to do the work until it’s done right.
It can really be that simple.
Although you only have to look at the project until it’s done, your clients may look at that deck, wall or siding job for years and years. If you want that job to inspire them to tell others about your services, you need to give them a reason to do so.
High standards alone won’t always come up all roses, but you’ll find that, more often than not, you can far surpass a client’s expectations – and that’s what matters to your long-term survival. Plenty of contractors come and go, but it’s the details that help you stay competitive.
Dealing with an Ugly Accusation
Maybe you’ve already been accused of doing ugly work and you’re trying to sort it. This is a hard line to walk if you’ve not already managed client expectations and gotten a very detailed description of the work you were doing in writing. You may even end up in court if you’re not careful.
Your best bet at this point is to ask the client, in as neutral a tone as possible, just what it is they don’t like about the finished job. It may be something very simple that you can fix in very little time. Sometimes, homeowners find huge problems that a little caulk, a well-placed piece of trim or touch-up with a brush can turn around entirely.
Your willingness to work with a picky homeowner can also go a long way to help establish goodwill.
So, readers, how about you? Have you ever had to deal with an ugly accusation? How did you handle it? Did you learn anything that you now use to help avoid these issues?