Volume 15, Issue 4 - July/August 2011

AsktheExpert
By Donna Wells

 

In My Estimation

Welcome back to ask the expert! I hope you are having a terrific summer season and are making so much money that you will be attending the International Window Film Tint-Off and Conference™, September 15-17 in Memphis, Tenn. If you haven’t already, be sure to mark your calendars and make your reservations today. (For more information on the event see page 30).
It’s time to talk about this month’s question: should you charge for estimates? I know this is a novel concept in our industry. However, there are many industries that do charge for an estimate.

Questioning Estimates
Let’s look at both sides of this issue. If you are involved in the architectural glass portion of the film industry, you have run into the proverbial tire-kickers. Tire-kickers call for an estimate, but when you arrive at their location, you quickly discover they are not potential clients. Instead you find they are people who want someone to spend an hour or two with them, but don’t intend to do business with you. Or, sometimes you might arrive at an estimate only to discover that the potential client is taking four to seven bids, though he has led you to believe that you were the only bidder.

“The big question is, ‘how do I explain to a potential client that I charge for an estimate when my competition does not?’ In general, if you charge a fee and the client is willing to pay the fee, doesn’t that signal to you that the client is a serious buyer?”

Ask yourself a few questions. Do I have time for this? Can I really afford to use my personal time, my travel time and my gas this way? Several companies I have worked with and others that I have hired for personal jobs charge for their estimates. They charge a fee, which is paid upfront via credit card when the estimate time is booked. The fee then is credited to the client if the client chooses that company for the installation. The big question is, “how do I explain to a potential client that I charge for an estimate when my competition does not?” In general, if you charge a fee and the client is willing to pay the fee, doesn’t that signal to you that the client is a serious buyer? It should also tell you that he is probably not taking bids from your competitors. If the client says to you that he’s made several calls to other companies and no one else is asking for an estimate or measure fee, what does that tell you? You should wonder how many companies have been called, how many appointments have been set up, etc. In other words, it should tell you that this particular client could be a tire-kicker.

At that point, you should be able to decide how to handle the situation. Do you want to waive the fee this time or do you want to let this estimate go to someone else? I might handle the situation by saying something like, “I am flattered that you are so interested in the window film industry by wanting to talk to so many companies. However, my schedule is a little heavy this week. Why don’t you leave me your phone number and I will check in with you early next week to see if you found someone who could help you or if you will be in need of my services.” This will allow you to keep the opportunity to talk to the client again.

No Show No More
You could use this same concept if you are an automotive installation company. How many times a day, week and month do you have no shows—people who make appointments but do not show up? If you were to charge the client a minimal fee to hold an appointment time, don’t you think the client would get there? He might even call you if he is running late, stuck in traffic, etc. Suddenly, those iffy clients would disappear. You could eliminate holes in your schedule and your company would operate more efficiently.

Got a question for Donna?
Please e-mail it to us at khodge@glass.com. Individual names and company names will be withheld upon request.

Donna Wells has worked in the window film industry since the 1980s and is currently sole proprietor of Image Imagination in Huntington Beach, Calif. Ms. Wells’ opinions are solely her own and not necessarily those of this magazine


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