I've been thinking recently about the variety of wonderful folks who walk through our doors every week.  By and large they are a great group of people.  And we never know what interesting project they may be bringing us.  As they say on Pawn Stars "you never know what's going to come through that door."

But, on very rare occasion, we will get a customer that is a "stinker".  However, most are not intentional stinkers.  What do I mean by this?

Over the past 30 plus years we have had four customers that I would call intentionally impossible.  There was no way to satisfy them, no matter what.  These are real stinkers.  But the rest, maybe a dozen or so, were dissatisfied or unhappy with the result because we did not make something that fit the image in their heads or what they "felt" it should look like.  I take as much responsibility for this as the customer should.  It is my job, as a professional framer, to ensure that I get as close as possible to that design image the customer holds, even though I cannot do that 100% of the time.

At this stage what qualifies the customer as difficult is their reaction to our efforts.  We are always willing to do whatever it takes to make the customer happy with the final result.  But this circumstance, as is even the initial design phase, is stressful to both the customer and the framer.  And different customers experience and express their stress in different ways.  So we need to remember to not take it personally, unless the expression of that stress is really out of line.

Psychologically, people react in many different ways to stress.  And yes, framing a picture can be a stressful situation, especially if the customer has not done it before, has had a bad previous experience, is dealing with a family heirloom, or has something of monetary or sentimental value.  Add to that the stress someone who is not able to express themselves well, and it creates a situation where the framer is sent on a fishing expedition, and the outcome may be little more than a crap shoot.  This in turn creates even more stress for both the customer and the framer.

Different personality types can express their stress and disappointment in several ways including helplessness, upsetment, anger, sadness, aggression, sweetness, over-communication, under-communication, micro management, just not caring, and any combination.  Depending on the customer's particular m.o., we will address this circumstance for the best outcome and customer satisfaction, and have been successful in doing that with the exception of the four stinkers described above.

So back to considering the title of this post.  A framer's ideal client is one who recognizes and respects the value of the art they bring us, and the value of what we will do with it.  Then, in terms of design, they should either have an idea of what they want, or be willing to explore until we hit the "ahhh - I like that" moment together.  This takes communication in some form, and time.  Next they should appreciate the final result.  But if we did not hit the mark, be willing to discuss and allow us to make the necessary adjustments so they leave thrilled.  Then they need to pick up the work in a timely fashion when it is completed.  And finally they need to make adequate provisions to transport it back to their homes.  I can't tell you the number of times a customer will arrive with a sub-compact car to transport something that will barley fit inside and will sustain marginal damage while they load it in.  This is very discouraging to us who, just moments before, handed them a pristine piece. 

A client's ideal framer is one who exhibits exactly the same concern and qualities for the their work, is able to flesh out the customer's mental image of the finished piece, respects the customer's pocketbook and their time requirements.  And most importantly, will do whatever it takes to ensure that this customer ends up with something that pleases him/her without reservation.  The framer needs to recognize that the customer will be looking at the finished piece often, perhaps daily for many, many years.  So the project is never complete when the payment transaction is processed and the art heads off to the customer's home.

Communication, mutual respect, careful treatment of the artwork and a willingness to remove egos and avoid knee jerk reactions on the part of both parties will ensure that there is an overwhelmingly satisfied clientele, and very few sinkers, either customers or framers, to be found.


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