Recently, Xanadu Gallery director, Elaine, sold a couple of pieces by Xanadu artist Jeanie Thorn to a local client. I had the opportunity to deliver and install the artwork in the client’s home. I don’t get to deliver and install every piece of artwork we sell locally (sometimes the client takes the piece home themselves, and sometimes one of my staff will handle the installation, or we will have an art delivery service take care of the installation) but I love doing it when I get the chance. There is something very gratifying about seeing where the art will live, and spending time in a client’s home (or office) is a great way to strengthen a relationship.
Over the years, I’ve made hundreds, if not thousands of these kinds of deliveries and installations, and I’ve developed a approach I find effective. In this post I would like to share that approach with you.
Setting the appointment
When we sell a piece of artwork, we typically try to make the appointment for installation while writing up the sale. We ask something like “Would you like to take the art with you today, or may we deliver and install the artwork for you?”
If a piece is large, or if there is anything complicated about the installation, the client will almost always opt to let us take care of it. If this is the case, we ask the client for dates and times that work best for them, and then match those to the best times for us. We try to cluster our deliveries so we can do as many as possible on the same day.
When setting the appointment, if the client is close to the gallery and first on our delivery list, we may give a specific time (say 2:00 p.m.). If, however, the client’s home is some distance from the gallery, or further down our delivery list, we almost always give a delivery window (between 2:00 and 3:00 p.m., for example). The greater the distance and the more complicated the day, the wider window we give the client.
It is also important, when setting the appointment, to ask if there are any special considerations or requirements for the installation.
If the appointment occurs more than a day or two after the sale, we call the day before the delivery to confirm the appointment and remind the client of the delivery.
Right before we leave the gallery we call the client again. Ostensibly, the reason for this call is to offer a final courtesy reminder, but in truth, it is to make sure nothing has gone wrong with the client’s schedule. I once arrived at a client’s home in North Scottsdale, only to find the house empty and no one home. It turned out the client had an appointment that ran long and ended up being almost an hour late.
In my experience, you can never have too much communication. The client appreciates the attention, and the additional phone call can prevent missed connections.
I always make sure I have all of the client’s contact information with me when I leave the gallery. It use to be that I would have the client’s address and phone numbers, along with a map, printed and placed in a file that I could take with me.
Now, I use Google Calendar to manage my appointments, and so, I have my staff create a calendar event that includes the address and phone numbers. The calendar syncs to my phone, and not only do a get a reminder on the phone, I get a link to have the phone provide navigation, and, should I need to call the client, I just touch their number and the phone dials for me. A recent update to my phone OS made it so that I now get a reminder that tells me when I need to leave for the appointment to arrive on time, taking into account current traffic conditions – I love technology!
Before leaving for the appointment, ensure you have every tool you might possibly need for the installation, and then some. I take a “everything and the kitchen sink” approach to packing tools and installation hardware. I figure it is better to over-pack and have tools and hardware I don’t end up using, than to under-pack and not have the tool I end up needing. Even on the simplest installation, I pack everything.
My tool list includes the following
Drill/screwdriver – with drill and screwdriver bits of every conceivable shape and size
Extra charged batteries for the drill
Pliers (regular and needle nose)
White cotton gloves
Cleaning solution (I use Formula 409)
Picture hooks and pins
Felt pads (for sculpture installations)
Upon arrival, I park the car, and approach the door without anything in my hands. Only rarely do I walk up to the door with the artwork, or tools in my hands. I first want to greet the client and get the lay of the land. As soon as the client opens the door, I state my name and the purpose of my visit. “Hi, Mr. Smith, Jason from Xanadu Gallery, I’m here to install your new art.”
Even though we’ve been in communication at the time of the sale and through our reminder calls, I feel it is a courtesy to announce my name and the purpose of my visit. Sometimes clients will forget your name, and so you’ve now eliminated any possible embarrassment if they have. In an age when everyone is concerned about their security and safety, I feel it doesn’t hurt to announce the purpose of my visit. This is especially true if one of my staff made the sale and I haven’t yet met the client. Obviously, if I know the client very well I’ll forego the introduction, but I’ll still announce my name again.
Surveying the installation site
Once the client has greeted me, I will ask to see where the artwork will be installed. The client usually ushers me into the home and takes me to the installation location, where I make certain I understand the exact requirements for the installation and the client’s desires.
Compliment the Client’s Home
On the way to the installation location, I like to begin a conversation. I’ve found that a great way to do this is to praise the client’s home. I am always sincere in my compliments, and I try to give something specific that I admire.
“You have a beautiful home, what a spectacular view!”
“I love contemporary architecture, you have a beautiful home!”
This will usually break the ice and lead into further conversation.
“How long have you lived here?”
“Did you build the home?”
“Where did you live previously?”
All good ways to keep the conversation going.
Bringing in the Artwork
Once I’ve surveyed the installation location, and eliminated any obstacles between the car and the spot, I return to the car and don a pair of white cotton gloves, pick up the artwork and walk it into the house.
I’ve talked about wearing gloves when handling artwork in front of clients before, so I won’t go into the reasoning in depth here, but let’s just say it give the client the right impression about the importance of the artwork you are installing.
Be very, very careful with the artwork at this point. You should always take care when handling artwork, but especially when delivering a sold piece. Your relationship with the art has now changed, as you are no longer the owner. Don’t allow the artwork to bang into anything, and move slowly and carefully.
I won’t go into the finer points of the actual installation here. You can read my extensive post on hanging artwork to get the specifics, but I’ll mention a few things that apply to an installation in a client’s home or office.
Ask for the client’s ideas and input. This is their home, and even though you may have very specific ideas about how to do the installation, ultimately, the client is going to live with the art, and you don’t want to do something that runs against their ideas.
If you do have a suggestion, couch it as exactly that, a suggestion. “I see what you are saying about the height; If we moved it up just a hair, we might find that it would be more in line with the other elements in the room, would you mind if I tried?” Always be diplomatic, and if the client feels adamant about their preference, you should acquiesce.
Measure carefully before putting any holes in the wall. Though you may end up needing to make adjustments to the placement of the art, you want to make as few holes as possible.
Use the appropriate hardware for the installation. The hanging hooks we use have a weight rating (see the video mentioned above), but when installing in a client’s home, I will use hooks that have at least twice the capacity I need. Better safe than sorry. My worst nightmare is hearing that something I’ve installed has come crashing to the floor.
On that same note, confirm that the hanging hardware on the piece itself is secure. Recently, I had the large painting over my fireplace come crashing down onto the dining room table. There was nothing wrong with the hanging hooks, but the picture wire had pulled the mounting hooks out of the frame. Fortunately, the damage wasn’t too major, but it was a good reminder of the importance of checking all the hardware.
When the installation is complete, I use a dust cloth to remove any mess I’ve created. You want the artwork and its new home to look great when you leave. If my hammering or drilling has created dust on the floor, I will try to wipe it up, or, if there’s enough, I will ask to use a vacuum to clean it up.
Take a photo
After cleaning up, ask the client for permission to take a photo of the piece. Photos of artwork in situ are a great addition to your portfolio and website. Sometimes the client will even agree to join you in the photo while you have a third person take the snapshot. Let the client know you will email them a copy of the photo.
Congratulations and Gratitude
Finally, be sure to offer congratulations on the new addition to the client’s home.
“Congratulations on the new art! I couldn’t imagine a better home for it. We truly appreciate your business!”
I want to reassure the client they’ve made a good purchase and that the artwork looks great.
I will also let the client know that we want to be of service in the future, and that if there is ever anything we can do, we’re no more than a phone call away. Be sure that you truly are always ready to be of service.
I do consider the delivery and installation to be a value added service, and, as such, we don’t charge anything for the service, or for subsequent service. I have found that this kind of customer service is an investment that pays dividends for years to come.
What do you Think?
Do you install artwork for your clients? What have you learned? Any tips or tricks to share? Feedback on this post? Please leave your comment below!
In his Amazon.com best-selling book, Xanadu Gallery owner Jason Horejs shares insights gained over a life-time in the art business.