Like a Boss: Covering the Bases With Customer Approvals


Steve Yanulavich, owner of Garden Patios, Inc., based in Quakertown, Pennsylvania, says he’s learned the hard way in the past that you have to get the client to sign off on everything so that they don’t have any reason to come back later and say that the project wasn’t what they expected. While it hasn’t totally solved the problem of customers finding things to be unhappy about — some people are just perpetually hard to please — it has made it easier for him to show that the final results were in fact what was agreed upon from the start.

Yanulavich says that he has always walked his clients through every step of a project and will even lay out the design in the yard with spray paint to show where things will be and how much space it will take up. But there are always those clients who have a hard time visualizing the end result. Having had experience with clients who would say the dimensions weren’t what they expected, Yanulavich now gets clients to sign not only a contract but also the blueprints he has done up of the finished product.

“I have actually asked our engineer to make a little box within the blueprints where the customer can sign it,” Yanulavich explains. “Those drawings have all the measurements on it and I want documentation that the customer has agreed to them.”

Yanulavich says it’s his way of “covering all the bases.” He says that it’s something that can be easily overlooked or skipped — particularly during busy season when contractors are going “90 miles an hour” trying to keep up with jobs. But Yanulavich says that dotting all your i’s and crossing all your t’s goes a long way in protecting yourself. It’s not enough to assume a customer is “nice” or to think that you’re on the same page as them. It’s always best to get customers to sign off on everything — not just the contract.

Pool Patio Water Feature
An unique water feature incorporated into the pool, designed by Garden Patios, Inc.

Of course, Yanulavich says there will always be hard-to-please customers that will even complain after they’ve signed documents agreeing to measurements. He had one client who said the finished product was “smaller than expected,” despite the fact that measurements were agreed to and signed off on. But Yanulavich says that rolling with the punches is part of the business.

“You have to accept that there will always be those people that are impossible to please,” Yanulavich says. “You could do every single thing they wanted and they will still come up with something to complain about.”

But Yanulavich says he doesn’t lose his cool about that stuff. Even with documentation about agreements, Yanulavich says that providing superior customer service also means keeping those difficult clients happy.

“I always bend over backward to keep the customer happy,” he adds. “Having the signed measurements helps show that I did what I said I would, but I’ll still go above and beyond to make them happy if they have complaints. At the end of the day, I want to keep my customers happy.”

Our Like a Boss series highlights some common business challenges landscape professionals face and how they conquer them.