WaterShapes

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Hearing Voices

10-year logoBy Brian Van Bower

‘In all of the discussions in print and in seminar rooms about advancing the watershaping trades,’ declared Brian Van Bower in opening his Aqua Culture column in WaterShapes’ July 2006 issue, ‘it seems to me there’s been a missing voice – that of the client.  

‘We spend lots of time dissecting, praising, disputing, criticizing and encouraging one another, but somehow we seem to have bypassed the thought that we should pay much closer attention to the people who pay us.’  He continued:

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‘As individuals, we really should know what it takes to improve and produce a better buying experience related to watershapes of all types and sizes, commercial and residential.  Without this direct feedback from our clients, how on earth can we possibly know whether or not we’re truly giving people what they really want?’

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‘As an industry, unless we figure out some way to pool this feedback and codify it in some meaningful way, we will be forever doomed to a dialogue filled with partially educated guesswork.  I believe sincerely that we need to fill these gaps with sound, reasonable observations, not speculation.’

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‘We all know (or should know, anyway) that a happy client is by far the best marketing tool any of us could ever have.  The firms with happy clients often keep the fires burning purely on referrals and can basically step away from any form of marketing.  Conversely, we know that dissatisfied clients often will go out of their way to make it known to family, friends and associates that their experience was negative.’

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For most of us, satisfying clients isn’t a matter of extremes, but is instead a process occurring somewhere between those lines.  No matter where we are – leaning toward the positive side or struggling to avoid the negative – there’s no question that, without specific feedback, we’re only just guessing at what our clients want and leaving success very much to chance.  With feedback, however, we just might be able to get a bead on a formula that will enable us to build our registries of success stories.’

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‘For us as individual practitioners, these lines of inquiry would likely yield a genuine roadmap upon which we could rely.  We might, for example, learn that returning calls, setting reasonable expectations, establishing valid time frames and keeping job sites clean go a long way in building client happiness.’  

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‘But beyond individual watershapers polling their clients to get basic feedback, I also think it’s time that we, as an industry, find a mechanism for gathering this sort of information and sharing it generally.  We need to move forward together, let go the fear of the truth and see once and for all if we’re actually doing our jobs – or at least how well we’re doing them relative to client expectations and desires.’

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‘And this is as much about the design and construction process as it is about the end product.  For my part, I sincerely wonder exactly what we would find out and am completely tantalized by the possibility.  I know this much for certain right now:  We’ll never be sure what’s out there until someone, somewhere decides to invest the time, energy and resources in making it happen.’

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‘Certainly, there are clients who are inherently difficult and essentially impossible to satisfy, and there’s nothing at all wrong with taking what you hear from them with grains of salt.  But it’s not the individual voices that matter most:  The key is assembling an amalgamation of feedback that will help you see what’s going on and be most helpful to you in setting future courses.’

If this exercise yields consistent responses from across your client array, positive or negative, you can attach great relevance to those informational nuggets.  Unless you’re in total denial,’ Brian concluded, ‘my suspicion is that the truth will set you free.’

What do you think of Brian’s notion of survey the watershapiong industry’s client base to learn more about what they think of the ways watershapers do business?  Would it be frightening?  Or could it prove invaluable?  Please share your insights by commenting below!

 

Brian Van Bower runs Aquatic Consultants, a design firm based in Miami, Fla., and is a co-founder of the Genesis 3 Design Group; dedicated to top-of-the-line performance in aquatic design and construction, this organization conducts schools for like-minded pool designers and builders.  He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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