Have you ever started construction on a pool and thought everything was going well, when your client says, “My salesman promised I would get (fill in the blank),” or “I was never told that”? Because Pulliam Pools is 97 years strong, we paid dearly in “tuition” through the early years. We learned early on that one thing that will sour a client relationship more than anything else is what our company calls “thwarted expectations.” Because Pulliam has built so many projects, our learning curve was faster than most. That prompted us to create and master our systems in every department, and to create concise and repetitive paperwork that a client signs and acknowledges that they were informed of what is on the contract.
We schedule a joint meeting with the client, their designer and their job superintendent prior to excavation. They review the contract and address any and all questions at that time. This gets everything on the table and any issues are solved prior to excavation.
One of the most important forms that our company created is our Contract Checklist. The first paragraph states, “Every contract has fine print, but not every company wants you to read it. We do! We want you to read it - front and back - very carefully. We are proud of our contract and WANT you to understand it. Additionally, there are some things your salesperson has mentioned that you need to make sure you understand fully (please initial each line).” Then we list each item that could be an issue and have that client initial and sign the document.
Another document that we require on every job is an Excavation Checklist. This form reiterates critical parts of our contract. The client signs that they approve the location and depth of the pool, the design layout and many other important responsibilities of our company and the client. On the day of excavation, the client is required to sign this as well as the final design.
The final form signed is our Start-Up Checklist. This form lists everything our start-up technicians are supposed to discuss with the client. The client must initial each item discussed. This is for the protection of both the client and our company. Since it is a mandatory document to be submitted, our technicians cannot skim over details or choose whether or not they can skip something. As a company, we know that the client has been informed about everything pertinent to their new pool.
These systems have allowed our company to significantly reduce job overruns and warranty costs, because we cover anything that could be a possible issue in the future. Of course we want to over-perform on each job; but in today’s litigious environment, it protects both the client and our company when we are diligent in presenting information and addressing issues.
Our clients become part of our family. We have clients who have built four pools with us, and some whose children and grandchildren are clients. We feel education is paramount in managing their expectations.
Have you had to pay for something that was not on contract because the customer insisted they should get it? If so, how did you handle the situation?