I’ve now been in the decorating business and in the home services business more generally for about forty years–in fact our fortieth anniversary is coming up in January!! and I think I can say I have a degree of experience in dealing with customers.
I also have quite a few friends and associates who also work in the same sort of business-home services where customer relations form a central part of what the business does. One of these friends used to joke that the decorating business would be a great business to be in if only it weren’t for the customers!! and its true-some customers can be very demanding -but on the whole its more a matter of what you do -0r don’t do-rather than any inherent fault with customers.
It starts from the very first contact. Good manners-listening to what the customer has to say-getting all the information on the original telephone call and answering the customers questions all go towards creating that all-important first impression. Nothing is so off-putting as calling up for a quote to be met with a discourteous, disinterested attitude from the person on the other end of the line who insists on cutting you off mid-sentence, doesn’t listen and is generally a poor representative of whatever company he or she is supposed to be the first contact for.
The first meeting with the customer is possibly even more important than the first phone call. Again, good manners are the key to a successful impression. Try not to be late–not always possible in congested Central London–and if you are going to be late call the customer as far ahead as you can to let them know. Apart from being good manners this often in itself creates a positive first impression–rather than just showing up late and then making your excuses. Look at the customer when you introduce yourself-hand them your business card and offer to shake their hand. Engage them in conversation -but don’t be artificial about it–find something about them or their property that genuinely interests you and talk about it. Ask them about the job–listen carefully to what they say and let them know you have heard them and you have understood what they want. Don’t interrupt them. Don’t be dismissive or disinterested. Let them know that their job and they themselves are important to you and your business–because they are!.
More on Customer Relations later.
Under the following headings:
Making a happy customer.
Dealing with a difficult customer.
We’ve enjoyed a long, warm and dry Summer. Its been one of the best I can remember for Exterior decorating conditions. I can’t really recall any serious interruptions due to bad weather throughout the whole Summer—and even now in October its continuing dry and mild. We still have scaffold up at several sites in Central London–and long may the good weather continue.
The truth is that the London climate is conducive to exterior painting usually right up to Christmas–as a general rule. There are exceptions–like three years ago when we had three feet of snow at the end of November–but generally speaking we can be confident of getting exterior work finished up to mid-December. The temperature rarely falls below 8 or 9 degrees until after Christmas.
We have a policy of not booking exterior painting and repairs in January or February, but to start again in March. January and February are too cold and wet. You cant use paint below 5 degrees Celcius–it just doesn’t flow and wont cover. And its common sense not to paint when its been raining, is raining or is about to rain. Rain and paint don’t mix. If ever you see crazing on paint its often a sign of the paint having gotten wet before it had a chance to fully dry and form an even skin.
So, if you have been thinking of getting an exterior painting or maintenance job done this year and you don’t want to wait till next Spring-call me now and we can get you done and finished before Christmas.
I know you wouldnt think so from the absolutely dreadful weather we’ve been having for the past FIVE MONTHS!!! but Spring is actually JUST AROUND THE CORNER!. No sooner will you know it but the gardens will be blooming, the birds singing and young painters’ thoughts turning to EXTERIOR PAINTING. So put your Parka, gloves, hat and scarf on and take a look around the outside of your house. Look for the ravages of this terrible and lonnnnggggg! winter we’ve had. Paint flaking? Rotten wood? Tiles slipped? Gutters broken? Give us a call now as we are already filling up our schedules for APRIL, MAY, JUNE and JULY. Have faith–we will get some decent weather soon.
Preparation of surfaces
Article number two. Second in a series of articles on preparation for Exterior painting.
Scraping off is the process of removing defective paint and other coatings from a surface which is to be repainted.
How much scraping off is needed depends entirely upon the conditi0n of the surface to be repainted. All loose and flaking paint is to be removed from wood, masonry and metal surfaces before any further preparation can take place.
Loose and flaking paint can be scraped off wood using a stiff-bladed scraping knife. A shave hook for crevices and/or a wire brush can also be used for this purpose. One can have a selection of different size scraping knives and wire brushes to deal with different profiles in the wooden surface.
Again one can use scraping knives, wire brushes and shave hooks for crevices. The object is to remove ALL loose and flaking paint from the masonry surface.
Caution should be used when using a wire brush on masonry surfaces. One can easily start removing perfectly sound paint from the render, brick or stonework and this is unnecessary and simply creates more work than is needed. Sound paint–i.e., paint that is adhered well to the surface, not cracking, crazing or showing other signs of defect, need not be removed prior to repainting. ( unless of course it has been specified to strip off all paint)
Normal metal surfaces encountered in exterior decorating are iron railings, gates, balustrades, staircases and rainwater and soil pipes and gutters.
One will normally use a wire brush and scraping knife to remove loose paint from metal surfaces. Another method is ‘tapping off’ and this involves the use of a small ball-peen hammer to ‘tap’ the loose or old paint surface. The paint is thus broken up and it is then scraped off with a scraping knife or wire brush. This is actually used in conjunction with or as an alternative method to ‘burning off’ when one is attempting to remove all or most of the old paint from a metal surface–though it can be used–with care–to effect removal of loose and flaking paint only.
A common problem with iron railings and other iron items is rust–or oxidisation. This is a natural chemical reaction of iron with oxygen. Rust erodes iron. All eroded and rusted iron must be scraped off prior to painting. After scraping and wire brushing off the loose rust one treats the rust affected areas with lead tetroxide ( red lead ) primer or some other proprietary rust primer. This seals the rust-affected areas from any further exposure to oxygen and thus halts the rusting process. Sometimes two coats of such a rust primer may be needed prior to painting.
This word simply means, in the context used here, ‘ the surface below the paint’
So with a painted wooden window the substrate will be wood, with a rendered wall the substrate is the sand and cement render, and with a cast iron railing the substrate is the iron itself.
More on substrates later.
The following series of blogs will deal with the different important elements of exterior painting. The first series will concern Preparation, to be followed by Base-coating then Top-coating.
Preparation of surfaces. article 1.
Someone once said that when planning any event or performance–the maxim is –8O% preparation, 20% event!!
This principle applies equally well to exterior decorating.
Preparation of exterior surfaces for painting is at least fifty percent of any exterior painting job.
What are the stages of preparation for exterior painting?
This applies anywhere in the country but especially so in large cities such as London. Masonry and wood surfaces become ingrained with carbon, soot, dust, soil and all the other pollutants that are part of the everyday atmosphere of a busy city. Surfaces must be cleaned of these before any exterior painting is commenced. Paint will not adhere to surfaces which are soiled, greasy or carbonised.
The amatuer decorator–or the negligent or untrained one–will not give this step the importance it deserves. And unfortunately this omission will not always become apparent until a few weeks or months after the painting is ‘finished’. This is because it is not possible to detect ‘uncleaned’ surfaces once the paint has been applied. The surface looks freshly painted–and it is–but the probability is that the paint finish will not last anything like as long as it would had the surface been properly and thoroughly washed down.
There are two main methods for washing down.
1. High Pressure water.
If the access permits it, and one has a power and water supply available, power washing can be an efficient and effective method of cleaning exterior surfaces. One must take care with the angle of the jet not to dislodge mortar joints or to spray the water jet through cracks or gaps in windows and one does not apply this method near to electrical fittings, lights, cables etc.
2. Bucket and sponge.
The traditional method of bucket and sponge is perfectly satisfactory. One uses a small amount of detergent in the water to help with cutting through carbon and grease deposits. If you have to increase the detergent it is important to rinse with a second bucket of clean water to remove detergent residue. Again, take care with electrical fittings, and not to cause water damage to internal surfaces or furnishings.
Use a crevice brush to access awkward places.
Clean off all soil, dust, carbon and grease. This action alone will often greatly improve the appearance of external surfaces–and it will leave the masonry, brickwork and woodwork in a clean and grease-free condition ready for the next stage of preparation and subsequent painting.
I hope you find this useful. If you have any questions about preparation of exterior surfaces or about any other decorating topic please contact us. The next article will deal with repairs to masonry, brickwork and exterior wooden surfaces.