The way of the white glove

A nighttime adjustment for focus, a grand reveal and walkthrough, as well as a prepared maintenance plan are essential when installing a new landscape lighting system.
A white gloved hand holding up a silver platter

Landscape lighting has become a huge part of the landscape business as every year more contractors add it into their portfolio of service offerings. Most are becoming very skilled with their design and installation practices. Some need to improve on their post-sale process with white glove service. This includes a nighttime adjustment for focus, a grand reveal and walkthrough, as well as a prepared maintenance plan.

Night adjustment and focus

When bidding a landscape lighting job, it is important to account for a night adjustment and focus. Ask your customer not to look outside during this adjustment. The goal is to perfect the lighting so they see it for the first time at the grand reveal.

Depending on the fixture count and size of the project, this may require several team members to complete. Have your installation truck and inventory on-site just in case any lamps or fixture changes need to be made. Be sure to have additional equipment such as hands-free headlight flashlights and walkie-talkies for communication.

It is always a good idea to strike while the iron is hot. Prepare a lighting maintenance agreement in advance and discuss with your client while they are dialed-in to their new lighting system.

Begin by turning on the transformer manually and start to walk the property. Note all your initial observations. Sometimes the slightest adjustment can make a huge difference.

Be prepared to exhume and move a fixture if needed. Some contractors often leave well lights out of the ground until after the night focus. This allows the well lights to be installed in the correct position without additional holes. Be sure to have extra lamps or optics to provide the maximum effect. Once every fixture has been adjusted and focused, it is time for the grand reveal.

The grand reveal

In previous articles, we’ve discussed providing white glove service and giving the customer that little something extra. The grand reveal of their new landscape lighting should be just that. Consider it similar to the opening night of a production.

It is important that your customer does not see the lighting system on before the night focus and reveal. This should be the surprise. Many designers will schedule this event with their clients and encourage them to invite their neighbors.

Showcase your work and yourself by getting dressed up for this event. Perhaps wear a sport jacket and a nice button-down shirt to showcase yourself in addition to your work. To add to the pizzazz of the evening, you could set out a nice table and chairs with a beautiful tablecloth and serve sparkling water or wine with a charcuterie board. Be sure to have business cards and brochures set out also. This could produce some new business if others have been invited.

If the system uses a smart controller, set up the main switch on a tablet and be ready to operate the system. If the system uses an onboard timer or photocell, be sure the manual switch is ready. Have a team member on the phone or radio ready to turn on the switch. Do a count down with your client: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, lights on!

At this point, you should be receiving a big round of applause. Allow your client to take it in, and then walk to each area to make sure they are completely satisfied.

Explain the lighting effects with enthusiasm! Your positive vibe will reiterate your professionalism and solidify their complete trust. Their friends and neighbors will be asking to get on your schedule.

Present the maintenance agreement

It is always a good idea to strike while the iron is hot. Prepare a lighting maintenance agreement in advance and discuss with your client while they are dialed-in to their new lighting system.

These maintenance services can be performed monthly, quarterly, biannually or annually. Such services include resetting timers, adjusting fixtures, and cleaning lenses and fixtures. If the client chooses fewer maintenance dates, you may offer a service for a small extra fee if they have a special gathering. If you wait to have this conversation later, the opportunity to sell your premium service may be gone. Lighting maintenance agreements can always keep your foot in the door and ready to serve the customer. Remember, they may want to add to their system, upgrade it or even move to another location.

The photo shoot

Schedule a photo shoot of your job soon after the reveal evening. You will need a signed photo release form from the homeowners. This protects you in that you have their permission for specific use and it protects their privacy.

Night photos can be professionally done or do-it-yourself. If you hire a professional, investigate a photographer that specializes in landscape or real estate photography. These photographers are very skilled and offer premium results.

If you chose to do it yourself, invest in a good digital camera, a tripod and some training. Avoid using your cell phone camera, as it can move and distort your picture. Most community colleges and community recreation services offer courses on the basics of digital photography.

After the photography shoot, provide a framed copy of the best photo in the set to your customer, along with a thumb drive containing the images of their property. This will allow them to share with friends and show what a great job you have done.

New clients love to look at pictures of past work. Having high resolution images of your art will propel your business to the next level. Place these images on a tablet or in a leather-bound photo book for ease of sharing.

Keep your customers close and be there for them. This will always lead to a reward in some fashion. Strong after-the-sale service is essential to continue in the way of the white glove!

Kevin Smith is the national technical support and trainer at Brilliance LED, Carefree, Arizona, and can be reached via email.

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