Here are the top 10 important questions that I feel a qualified contractor should be able to answer client’s before taking the client’s hard earned money. There are dozens of articles written about questions consumers are told to ask – so read this and know the answer before they ask you!
**1 – Are you licensed to work in this state?**
As professional business owners it is our responsibility to not only abide by state laws, but to also know local laws governing contractors and the projects we are proposing. Some states have stiff penalties for violating laws governing contractors and the specifics of a contract. Ignorance is not an acceptable reason to violate these laws.
**2 – How much experience do you have?**
This unfortunately is where many a contractor falls short. If the project is larger than what you have experience building or has unique requirements beyond your skills, will you call someone in with more experience or will you ‘wing it’ and hope it all works out? It’s best at this point to reach out to your distributor or manufacturer to get the help of a seasoned pro if the project is larger or more complicated than what you are used to doing. You will then not only gain experience working side by side with an experienced professional, you will also ensure that the client gets the beautiful and properly functioning feature they deserve. Remember attending a few ‘How To Build’ days does not equal experience. Not only should you know how to install the products that you are using, you should also have knowledge in: aquatic plants, a basic understanding of fish health, fish care, and various filtration methods to serve your clients.
**3 – Are you a certified contractor?**
Most major manufacturers have a certification program for their products as well as certification from industry associations. You should be well trained in the products and techniques that you are using.
**4 – Can you provide us a list of references and projects that we could visit?**
Let’s face it. Most potential clients don’t call references and just feel too uncomfortable to be walking onto someone’s property. Use this as a great opportunity to take your potential client on a personal mini tour. You will gain much from the invested time of doing this. Arrange for them to visit three to five sites that are comparable to the project you are proposing for them and two or three sites that are on a bit larger scale than their project. When arranging the tour have a few of your existing clients available to speak to the potential client about how it was to work with you, how they felt about the install process as well as your follow up support. At this time let the potential client know that upon completion of their project you will be asking them to allow you the same privilege of bringing potential clients to visit.
**5 – Do you provide any warranty on your work?**
This is the time to back your workmanship up and show the confidence you have in your skills and the products you use! Provide the client with a written workmanship warranty as well as copies of the manufacturer’s warranty; explain the process if warranty issues arise on products installed and what additional costs are involved. Fully explain what is and what is not covered under your workmanship warranty. Remember your workmanship and product warranty speaks volumes about how good your work is and the products you use are.
**6 – Do you have a pond or water feature at your home?**
Having a feature at your home or work location whether it’s a pond or ‘Pondless’ water feature gives you invaluable insight into the day-to-day care needed and enjoyment of having such a feature. You can’t sell a lifestyle if you’re not living it yourself.
**7 – Maintenance and Upkeep–what is involved in my feature? **
I cringe whenever I hear a contractor tell a potential client that there is NO maintenance. Let’s be honest here. Even the best built features have some maintenance involved. Be upfront with the client about what’s involved in properly maintaining the feature you are installing so that they get years of enjoyment out of it.
**8 – Do you offer seasonal maintenance? …and what does it include?**
A professional contractor will not only offer a full range of services to the client, but also see this as an opportunity to stay in touch with the client and form a lasting relationship. This is where knowledge in aquatic plant care, various filtration methods, products and fish health care comes to the forefront. The client will rightfully expect you to keep their feature looking perfect and in proper working order. If and when a problem arises, deal with it quickly and to the client’s satisfaction. You will create a ‘raving fan’ and they will sing the praises of working with you to potential clients.
**9 – Does your company offer any educational seminars? (Plants, fish, etc.)**
Seminars are beneficial to all. They not only provide help to your clients who have chosen to take care of their own feature after the installation but to also promote your company to the general public as well. Use either an existing client’s feature or your own feature as the location for your seminars. If you are partnered up with a retail location, hold the seminar at that location. Make sure in either case you have products that you are using on hand to sell to the attendees. If you are offering a ‘How To Build Day’ try teaming up with a nonprofit location that would benefit from having a feature installed.
**10 – Where can I purchase supplies?**
(Fish food, bacteria, fertilizer tabs, etc.)
Reality is that not every contractor can have or wants a retail location where they can sell products. HOWEVER, it’s good customer service to ensure that the client gets what they need. This is a great opportunity to partner with an existing retail location or to find a reliable Internet source that your customers can go to for the products they need to maintain their feature.
There are many Water Feature Installers out there – some are good, some are “not so good.” By meeting these top 10 criteria, you are helping ensure your client has a great water feature experience.