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How to Buy Your Next Coating

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 12.12.46 PMWhether you are shopping for a new coating, evaluating a coating you have in use or on the brink of ditching your current coating, three factors should be considered:

  1. Service and Support (50%)
  2. Product Quality (35%)
  3. Product Cost (15%)

How people measure the importance of each factor is typically how they fail in the decision-making process. Based on my decades of experience in this industry, this is how I have seen customers be most successful.

It’s 50% Service and Support

If you get a great price on a coating but it shows up a week late, finishes matte when you wanted shiny, and your vendor doesn’t return phone calls to get the problem fixed, that low price doesn’t seem so attractive, does it? That’s just one example of why service and support are so critical and should be weighed heavily.

Measuring service and support isn’t a simple number. You have to consider more qualitative evidence. If you’re talking to a prospective vendor, ask them how they handle communication, delivery issues and product troubleshooting. Compare their promises against how your incumbent vendor has performed for you.

If you’re in a relationship with a vendor, think about how they have served you in the past. Say you gave them a purchase order for 1,000 gallons of coating XYZ on July 20 and it didn’t show up within the pre-agreed lead time — or never was received. Perhaps the order was never processed and you never got a phone call or a confirmation of receipt about it. You should see or talk to your representative on a regular basis, however “regular” you need. When you ask your rep a question, he/she should follow up in a timely manner.

Everyone is different and has different needs. If your vendor fails to address common sense issues that irritate you, making your life more difficult, that’s important. Factor these issues into your evaluation. Measure the accuracy of delivery orders to make sure your expectations are met. Be sure your representative does what he/she says they’re going to do.

It’s 35% Product Quality

The quality of the product is a more straightforward factor to evaluate. If you’ve never used a coating before, be sure it meets the specs you have provided to the vendor. If you’re looking at multiple coatings, subject each to the same battery of tests to see how they match up.

You’ll likely be measuring durability (according to the expected environmental conditions and usage), the appearance of the final finish, how well and quickly the coating dries, percentage of solids, and more. Ask yourself how each coating’s features bring value to your end product. This is the true test of quality.

It’s 15% Product Cost

Unfortunately, it’s usual for customers to look at price first. That simple “cost-per-gallon” seems straightforward to measure, but it’s not — more here. To be a smart buyer, ask the product representative why their coating is better than another one. Is the rate of solids higher? What is the actual applied cost? How many widgets can you get out of a gallon of paint of the incumbent vs. the proposed coating under the same conditions? Which will contribute most to your bottom line?

It’s 100% up to you

There are only two positions in the race: first and last, and no one wants to be last. In order to stay up front, you have to have a process in place to consistently evaluate your vendors and products. Your process can be monthly, quarterly, biannually; the important thing is to get it done. Retest each coating to be sure it still hits the marks and meets the same specifications you required from your vendor on day one.

The bottom line in any assessment is answering the question, “How much value is this coating bringing to me?” When a coating isn’t adding value to your end product (and work life), based on the service and support provided, product quality, and applied cost, it’s time to look elsewhere.

When you are considering a coating and vendor switch, judge whether the prospect is equal to or better than the incumbent. Figure out if the applied cost is better. Related to service and support, ask the new guy for references.

If a frustration, pain or challenge arises related to your coating and you aren’t getting relief, look elsewhere.