Time spent per customer


MGF, Master Grumble Framer
Apr 18, 2004
This has been one of those days. I have numerous customers who bring me their framing, leave it, and say, "you know what I like" or, "just make it look good; I trust you." Then, I have the ones who when I see them coming I want to run and hide. They don't have a clue what they want and can't decide on anything. Moulding is too narrow, too thick, too dark, too light . . . . . I won't even mention mat selections.
My question is, on the average how much time do you spend per customer on a single framing order including measurements, work orders, and other pertinent information.
How deep of a hole do you want...

If we are lucky we are blessed with those that drop and run saying, call me when you have created your usual masterpiece.... :D

And then there are the ones you want to shoot before they enter the door....because after, you just want to shoot yourself.

If in all that you could find an average, I'm sure it won't be near what the "mean" is...

I once worked for a guy who used to (with the PITA customers) put a kitchen timer on the design counter set for 7 minutes.

He never said what it was for, but those that would normally take an hour or three, where usually done in 10 minutes... and without saying anything when the VERY loud timer went off....

I don't know where he learned that trick, but over the years, I have been tempted.

I'm interested to watch the other responses to this age old question.... Bob Carter should be along in about 2 weeks.... to top it off. :D

Good question Sister.
I really don't think there is a way to get around those people who just "suck the life out of you". (that's what we call them... life suckers!)

I've found that sometimes when you have one of these people, it's helpful to limit the choices and as soon as they say they don't like something, pick it up and hang it back up - that way they can't keep revisiting it. THat way you can narrow things down faster (plus, I just can't stand all the clutter...)

And you know what's even worse than someone who doesnt' like anything? The person who just stands there and says nothing! Quite often if they are doing that I'll just come out and say "ok, so we're not going to get anywhere if you don't tell me what you like or don't like" and then it's like giving them permission to say it out loud. I don't know if they are afraid that they are going to hurt your feelings or what!

I remember I went to a framer once with a piece for my son's room. Its very colorful and fun. She put this drab and dreary gray and brown stuff on it and I told her that I thought it was a bit drab, can we try some brighter colors?? Well, she got so insulted that she threw her hands up in the air and said "well, I told you what looks good and you didnt like it so you can decide yourself!!" (I worked at this place but in a different dept)

The WORST thing though? The Life Suckers who spend all your time, and then DON'T LEAVE IT!!


At least if they leave it then you can feel somewhat vindicated - but if they don't - an hour or more down the drain!!

I love my decisive customers!
oh my.....

Well I tend to narrow things down right from the start, Wood or metal? Do you like a rustic look, or more ornate? Which color in this really grabs your attention, or what color do you particularly like?"
I always get them to decide on the mats first, or at least narrow it down to one or two choices, then move to the moldings.
If a customer definatly dosn't like a molding then it goes back on the wall, if they sorta like it or just want to look at other options it stays put! The minute they like something then its--Can I give you a price on this one?

I have no qualms about telling people "I don't think this really enhances your piece, let's see if we can't do better!" or worse yet---Those two shades of white are so close that either one of them would work very well, why don't we use this one!
Yes I like decisive customers, the worst are like you said the ones that just stand there and don't say anything!! The even worse ones say after an hour-I'd like to get my husband, mom, sister, neighbor, and cats opinion on this, I think I'll come back later!---GRRRRRR.

I think it needs to take as long as it takes!
If you think it's only suppose to take (Insert amount of time here) then you start to get impatient and antzy! That comes through to your customer--many, many times customers have said to me "Thank you for your patience" my reply..
"You are spending a lot of money, you are going to be looking at this piece for many many years, I want you to be happy, and proud of it, it's not a problem to spend this much time with you!"

And that makes a very happy customer, that comes back and maybe tells there mom, sister, neighbor and cats what a great place your shop is!!

Originally posted by elsa:

I think it needs to take as long as it takes!
If you think it's only suppose to take (Insert amount of time here) then you start to get impatient and antzy! That comes through to your customer--
Elsa, I think we all pretty much go through the routine you described in helping a customer. The question is just a general one, not that I believe every customer should be allotted a certain time. Believe me, I have had the patience of Job, and too get thanks for the time given assisting the customer. Some of them realize how indecisive they are; some are a PITA in everything they do. My shop is inside an antique mall which sells gifts and accessories as well. We see all types!
I think any time we have a lapsed time of 1/2 hour helping a client..............we have a problem here.

With that said, even a "do it like the last one" will take 10-15 minutes....once you say hello and how are the kids........it takes time to measure, pull out 2-3 frames samples and fan through some mats and calculate the price (manual or POS) and prepare the necessary paperwork, then place the art in a storage rack or drawer. And did I forget to mention "get a deposit".

Like most, the PIAs are those who can't make up their mind on which which "white" to select, or is "xyz frame" available to match this silk screened (litho, digital, paint, or whatever) color. Then there is the "kiss of death"............I have to show this to my spouse............
I guess we have to spend what it takes to get the order, but I'm sure few of us like it when it drags out. After all, time is money in our business and I really don't like working a lot of overtime to get the jobs done I have planned for the day if I don't have to.(even though that's part of business at times) Usually if they keep dragging their feet, I'll just start looking at my watch. I think most customers don't want to waste their time either. I find that looking at my watch every few minutes or so doesn't insult them and most wake up to the fact they need to figure out what they want if I can't help figure it out for them. The funny thing is sometimes when this happens and after they leave, I'll be so frustrated that I'll go pour myself a cup of coffee and waste my own time.

Originally posted by Rock:
The funny thing is sometimes when this happens and after they leave, I'll be so frustrated that I'll go pour myself a cup of coffee and waste my own time.
That is too funny because I usually go for some chocolate with the coffee.
For the indecisive or the rushed (the former has all the time in the world and the latter is double-parked with the engine running and three kids in the car) I've had very good success with the following strategy.

I'll get a little general information and invite them to leave the project with me for a day or two "to play with."

When they come back, I'll have, at most, four stunning combinations to look at (or sometimes one stunning design and three that are placebos.) It's amazing how quickly we can seal the deal on that second visit, and I've used my slow time to do the design work - sometimes revisiting it a few times before I make my selection.

I think they are overwhelmed by the selection initially. Once you can get them to focus on very limited choices (and you subtly suggest that you've spent the past 24 hours examining every possible combination of mats and frame) they become remarkably decisive.

Honestly, my biggest problem with time and customers is that quite a few of them are very interesting and likable and I have to resist the urge to chat with them all day.

I have the same problem on the phone at my new job.
We have a customer that takes up about 50% of the design time in our shop. She is hard to please but once she makes up her mind about what she likes she wants it and will pay for it without another question.

In order to save time when she comes in, and with her agreement, we set aside the appropriate frames, mats etc in a section of the shop assigned for the task, usually on a carpeted section of the floor which we call the "Play Pen", provide her and her friends with coffee, tea or whatever and let them design their own frame jobs. These are trusted clients and would not ever abuse the freedom we permit.

Jack Cee
My longest stretch at the counter was 4 hours with the same lady. She left the work and was happy when picked up but compared to that marathon all other sales seem easy.
In thinking about this... 20-30 minutes is the norm. There are many that take less and the few that seem to take forever - those life suckers!! One I worked with for nearly 2 hours on one piece - the piece was beautiful in the end - and well worth the time. But when you have a customer that doesn't seem to react to anything and doesn't like anything you show them and you show them everything... I had a gal walk with that situation last year and it really bothered me... what can you do?

I did work with a customer the other day for 3 1/2 hours and we did about 6 pieces but she was fun and easy to work with so it wasn't a drain.. That is ok!

The newest thing are the customers that bring in ready mades from "other" places (bb) and want you to change the mat, glass or whatever.. and they can take longer than a full design project. This happened recently for a customer on 2 small pieces and 2 plakits - I was so frustrated at the end of the 45 mins (!) it took... I wanted to literally cry. But I have been nice as pie to her rather than strangle her... like I want to!
I'd guess about 15-20 minutes on average.

I did work with one gentleman on a cross stitch his daughter did for him. 3 hours later he says, "I just can't decide, let me call my wife." The wife comes in and we basically start again. (another 1/2 hour or so!) Of course, we wound up with pretty close to the first design I did!
I'm on the same page as Cliff. I'd say about 20 minutes on an average, start to finish.

How about the other side of the coin? I brought a shadow box to one of my former shops at Christmas. No rush, I knew it was difficult. I told her what I wanted, she didn't have to pull a thing out-cherry Picture Woods, UV glass, blue paper on back, blue fabric mat on top, red and white underneath, plaque in center that says such-and such. I practically designed it for her. She finished it mid May for alot of $$$. I don't mind paying for something, I don't mind waiting for something, but five months? The kicker for me was a couple of weeks later, she sent me a post card "twenty percent off orders the month of June".
20 minutes +or-.... Me, I like the design part as much if not more as the rest of it. It is then that I get to be most creative and establish a relationship with my customer.
What a fun question,, Mostly it takes about half hour. And sometimes it's just me being too chatty when it takes longer.. :D

I have also sent corner samples home with clients who are indecisive. They are most happy to try them out in the room the picture is going into.

Husband and wives together can be the worst. Usually one doesn't really care or the other is trying to make the other happy. I had one couple get in an argument in front of me and that was real fun. :eek: They later returned to apologize.
I had one artist years ago who took 1 hour per picture to pick out just the mats.
He frustrated me so much one day I said, (nicely) "You are difficult to work with"
Hmmm, I'm almost convinced he was thrown out of another frame shop..