Curtailing the customer’s desire for perfection and setting realistic expectations before an installation is crucial with paint protection film (PPF). In fact, Josh Poponick, owner of Blackout Tinting in Latrobe, Pa., says that goal falls second only to customer service and a quality installation.
Guiding the Customer
“Expectations are ridiculously important,” Poponick says. “It’s one of the first things we train our salespeople on when they start with us. The biggest problem we have is miscommunication between the salesperson and the customer. They don’t set expectations, and now we have a customer we can’t make happy. They came into it with the wrong mindset, and now we can’t go backward.”
In addition to Latrobe, Pa., Blackout Tinting also has locations in Pittsburgh and Miami. The company has eight installers facilitating PPF projects, which is responsible for 41% of the operation’s sales.
“Most customers don’t expect perfection,” Poponick says. “But if you don’t tell them anything, they do expect perfection because they don’t know any better. Most start with an unrealistic expectation, but once you describe PPF to them, 99.9% get it and are cool with it.”
Blackout Tinting guides its customers to better understand PPF through a 10-point user agreement outlining several installation factors. The Imperfections portion details the following:
“Though we strive for perfection in our installations, due to the nature of the product, some degree of dust contamination or minor imperfections are present in every PPF application. Also, pre-existing flaws, scratches and rock chips on the paint are often much more noticeable after the PPF is installed. Paint protection film will have minor imperfections like orange peel. Used and older vehicles will have more imperfections due to age.”
Poponick learned the hard way regarding user agreements, citing that “you can have as many conversations as you want. If you don’t have it in writing, you’re giving a refund.”
“The customer comes in, and we explain [the waiver] to them, and then we walk around a car with film on it,” Poponick adds. “We show them what a relief cut and seams look like. We then show them the patterns going on their car so that they can identify where those things will be.”
Painting the Picture
“We take an advanced approach to PPF,” says James Melfi, general manager at AutoNuvo in Holliston, Mass. “We do a lot of dismantling; we’re pushing the envelope by doing more bulk installs than pre-cut. We talk with the client to figure out what their expectation is first. If we have a [Porsche] 911 owner that wants no seams, I’ll move him into a custom installation with a lot of dismantling.”
PPF installation bays are not airtight, and rogue strands of hair and pieces of dust trapping themselves within the film are possibilities that squash any ideas of a perfect installation.
“I try to paint that picture—as much as we want it to be as crisp, clean and perfect as possible, that’s not the film game,” Melfi says. “I will only talk through that line if I get a sense from the client that they have an unrealistic expectation. Find out their expectations and talk them through certain points based on that.”
Brent Knott, owner of Design It Wraps and Tint in Fernandina Beach, Fla., encountered his most challenging customer after applying PPF and a ceramic coating to a 2020 Chevrolet Camaro SS.
“This guy picked out the two smallest specks of dust on his quarter panel,” Knott says. “He then looked over the entire car with a fine-tooth comb and found the smallest things.”
Today, Knott’s team documents the entire installation process to safeguard the business from false accusations and negative reviews.
“Now we take pictures and videos,” he says “If I’m installing a piece, I will take a video of me showing that the [imperfection] is in the paint while I’m installing the film. I have enough data for the customer.”
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