When working with a customer on a color-heavy design/build project, the client needs to be educated about the plants going into the ground, and the maintenance they require. That means contractors have to know their stuff, and explain expectations clearly to customers.
“We provide lots of literature and information with great pictures,” says Jeff Miller of Creativexteriors in Denver.
“We have websites that we affiliate with so they can see some of the product we are recommending. Usually by the time, people get to us, they want something different than the Germaine and petunia and marigold design. We get into very exotic material and they’ve seen our work elsewhere. So we need to educate them and bring samples to them that allow us to get close to them with the colors.”
And while you want to educate them on products that are available, you want to limit those products to only ones that will work with the project, says Casey Vickery, president of Benchmark Landscapes in Austin, Texas.
“We’ll start off by showing them pictures of stuff and what will work for them and see if that can get them going in the right direction and then let them choose amongst that,” he says. “You need to work with them and make them think they are picking it out but at the same time you are steering them in that direction.”
While upfront education is important for the customer, that process needs to continue at the end of a season – for both parties.
“We do a walkthrough at the end of the year before the first frost comes,” Miller says. “We let them say, ‘I like that and don’t like that or that’s to pink or that’s too red.’ We walk that and make a lot of notes, so when we redesign in the winter months, we have a lot of great notes from last year from taking time with our client. That helps us do a better program each year.”