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Business + Management: Marty Mcghie

Correctly Setting Expectations

Best practices for handling client expectations for vehicle wrapping



Setting a client’s expectations is an art in itself, and it takes a bit of finesse to come off like an expert, rather than a vendor making excuses. Being up front about your entire process, any challenges and any delays or issues is always the right way to operate. After all, that is what you would desire from any vendor you use and your clients expect the same. The truth always makes sense and you never have to figure out what to say: Just say the truth.

Vehicle wraps have so many steps involved that there are many opportunities for contention between you and your client. The purpose of this month’s column is to present a few of the most common areas for miscommunication, disappointment, and frustration based solely on the client’s expectations. Being proactive on these items should make for a happier client, which is always a good thing for us as the vendor.

The quote process
Providing a great solution begins with asking the right questions and, just as importantly, listening to the answers. With a vehicle wrap, you need to know the year, make, and model. You will also need to know everything you can about the application for this wrap. Keep mind that when I say “application,” I’m not talking about the installation; rather, I’m referring to the application in which this vehicle will be used. Is it a personal daily driver for a small company owner that will help increase awareness for his/her operation? Or is it a service van that’s part of a fleet that hopes to gain market share while parked in front of a house during a service call? These questions and answers will provide you with a good feeling of how this wrap will be used.

With that information in hand, you must keep an eye out for anything that would negatively affect the customer’s best interest. From the opportunity to quote the job to the day you deliver the vehicle, you need to guide the customer through the process as an expert.

Let’s start with the quote. If you did not include graphics for the roof on a van for example, make sure you call out that detail. If the quote is for a Chevy Avalanche with the plastic panels where vinyl will not stick, again call that detail out. Clearly state the warranty details, as well as what is included and what is not. Be up front about how long the vinyl on the hood will last. Let them know that the window perf material is not warrantied as long as the rest of the graphics.

My point here is that if they get quotes from three vehicle-graphic producers and you are the only one that informed them of these details, the client will likely see you as the expert, giving you an edge over your competition. They can start to build a trust with you, like the good mechanic that your whole family goes to, who will always tell you the truth. Whether the new is good or bad, it is most important that you relay the truth as early as possible. It takes years for some people to get this simple point: Start out every job on a good path by clearly communicating the details of the quote.


Assuming you get the job because “the client appreciated your candor as to the limitations of the materials,” it’s now time to let the client know how the process works, how long it will take, and what happens if the client misses any of the process deadlines. This is the time to under-promise and over-deliver. Think very hard before you make the rookie mistake that I made for years: telling the client how fast you could get their first design proof done. The client will be much happier if you deliver a proof in three days, as promised, as opposed to delivering it in two days when you promised them one day.

Again, you are setting the client’s expectations so there are no surprises and no avoidable delays. When you deliver that proof, let them know when you would need approval by in order to hit their install date. If the client would like you to make some revisions, let them know when they can expect to see those revisions and if there will be any additional charges. The same applies for color proofs of match prints: Let them know what to expect.

Print and install realities
If you have made it through the quote and design process with a happy client, I’d say you are off to a good start. However, in the spirit of being up front, I must tell you that was the easy part.

Now we need to let our client know what they can expect in print quality. You’ll need to find a process that will allow your client to have the correct expectations for the three main areas of potential conflict: color accuracy, print quality, and resolution – three factors that can easily be areas in which the client’s expectations differ from the reality of wide-format digital printing.

Many of our customers are accustomed to screen printing and offset printing, where spot colors and very high line screens are used. This means that they not only have knowledge of printing, but they may assume they can expect the same level of output. This is all the more reason to make sure they know that CMYK has a color gamut, and that some PMS colors are flat out outside of this range, meaning you cannot get that color, period. The client must know that our machines were meant to print signage with a viewable distance of at least two feet or more, and the resolution will not be the same as the last round of brochures they printed. Once the client understands that you are an expert who is being up front about the differences and limitations of our technology, they should be very pleased with the final print quality, as it was exactly what they expected.

If this project is a standard poster or banner, you’re likely in the clear already. I wish it were always that simple, but that’s not typically the case.


Now, it’s time to perform the true magic that customers come to us for: the install. I am still amazed daily at what our install crew is able to accomplish on a three-dimensional vehicle with a roll of two-dimensional vinyl. But even our own award winning install crew has its limitations, and it’s our duty to let the client know about those limitations. One example is setting the client’s expectations to how well a graphic element will line up across the hood and front fender of a 1963 VW Beetle. Other examples include explaining that we recommend removing most manufacturer badges, or how the vinyl will perform or fail if we wrap over them or cut around them. Many clients would incorrectly assume that every square inch of visible painted surfaces can be wrapped. There are many instances where this is just not the case, and if the client is expecting one thing and gets another, it becomes difficult to explain these items away after the fact.

Be up front when explaining that the door gaps on H1 Hummers are so wide and deep you will see the factory paint color when the install is completed. Let the client know ahead of time that you cannot wrap between the bed and the cab of most pickup trucks. Inform the client that they can expect to see some damage if they take their cut-vinyl vehicle graphics through an aggressive car wash with spinning brushes. Let them know they need to contact you if they see any vinyl lifting or any fading or cracking. Explain to them, or better yet, publish and hand to them the correct use and care procedures for their new wrap. If your client is upset in six years when their hood is faded, it might be possible that you did not correctly set their expectations.

Over deliver
My primary point here is that as the expert you cannot forget that what is common sense to you may not be common sense to your customer. You should constantly be setting their expectations through the process. Tell them how it works, what they can expect, and then over-deliver on those expectations. You want a client who, at the absolute least, gets exactly what they were promised. That is a client that will leave your shop with a satisfied feeling that they made a good purchase from a great vendor.



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