Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Getting Into The Customer's Head

If you are thinking about using your airbrush to make money, chances are you'll be working with customers. Granted, some folks will be using the airbrush to create original designs they hope to sell, but those of the custom world don't have that luxury. And yes, after working with some difficult customers, it really does seem like a luxury.
Don't get me wrong. The customer/custom painter relationship can be a great thing. Much like tattooing, you are making someone's personal vision come to life while adding your own personal touch. In some cases, which are rare and rewarding, you'll get the holy grail of customers: the man or woman that says "Do your thing!" I pray every time I get a phone call that this is who is calling. A person that not only trusts your abilities and judgment but also is open to new things. I got into this business to work with people like that. To take what I learn from them and make something truly unique and personal. It's a wonderful thing.
On the flip side there are those that may have a different way of communicating what they think they want. I say this because often times the customer may be talking in concepts rather than in realities. "Give me a sky with clouds," could mean "Match the gray and white of my truck to what I just said even if it doesn't work". I use this as an example because I recently had a customer ask for a sky, clouds, a portrait of his mother, some doves, and his mother's name. After finishing the piece he said he hadn't wanted the blue. Obviously, there was some sort of communication error on both our parts. He mistakenly thought a sky wouldn't be blue and I mistakenly took his saying he wanted a sky to mean he wanted blue.
All of this could have been avoided had I taken the time to work up some renderings. I have some Photoshop skills at my disposal and I could have made a quick mock up of what he was asking for to see if this was in the right direction. I also work in a shop with a gentlemen who is the owner/operator and has been the face of the shop longer than I have, so communication went from the owner, to him, to me last. Also the customer seemed reluctant to make the trip to see any progress and only saw the work in photos. He, of course, liked the photos but didn't like the finished product. Why? Because I didn't get inside the guys head. I didn't work harder to understand what it was he thought he would get and to communicate what it was I was actually going to be doing.
Yes, bottom line - once in a while you get someone who wears their ideas on their sleeves, knows what they want but also knows you will do your own thing when it comes time to lay some paint. But more often than not you will get a customer that has a vision but isn't sure how to explain it. Someone specific who may not be able to explain the specifics of what he or she wants. I've said this before and don't seem to follow my own advice, but I have to say it again: always draw up a sketch for customers of this nature. Bring them a long for the ride and let them see what is going on so that any changes that need to be made can be made early. Don't rely on third party cell phone photos to convey what is going on. Be the guy the customer deals with and make sure everyone is on the same page. This isn't the first time I've been in a situation where the customer gave me what they wanted but upon seeing the final result decided that I was no where near what they'd requested. It's discouraging but there are lessons to be learned from it and that's what is important. Learn from these mistakes and you'll be golden.

Today's Video of the Post will be from Vl9153x:

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