K+BB Collective | The Designers' Corner

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Jul 17 2017

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Artificial Intelligence and Interior Design

Above image: A simulation of a design created by Artificial Intelligence.

It’s not just science fiction. Artificial intelligence (AI) is starting to leak into our daily lives, from Siri to smart appliances and Amazon Alexa. According to a recent report from Tractica, a market intelligence firm, AI software applications will grow from $1.4 billion in 2016 to $60 billion by 2025.

Planner 5D, a consumer-focused interior design app, is currently creating machine learning algorithms that will train on more than 40 million real user projects. The app’s AI is also learning general interior design rules, technical requirements and how to match colors and styles. For example, the app is learning that a TV cannot be placed in front of a window or it will reflect light; that a bed should stand sideways to a window and that a couch should be placed in front of a TV or a fireplace in the living room.

Our question was, will technology like this make professional designers irrelevant in the future? We talked with Alexey Sheremetyev, co-founder of Planner 5D, to find out more.

The Advantages of AI in an App

Speed is the main factor. Any design project takes a long time, because a person working on it needs to think each detail over and sometimes mistakes happen. Computers work much faster and use information that has been collected from other users and projects. AI doesn’t make mistakes either, unless there was a human error in programming. Therefore, AI can design any typical project much faster and with better quality. A user will only have to edit the final product according to their wishes. That also affects the price, making design much cheaper, since the process will be much faster.

AI and Clients

A user has to choose a space they will be designing, put down the walls and windows and indicate the address of the house. AI will then calculate sunlight and other parameters necessary for the project. Then a user has to choose what kind of space this will be (bedroom, kitchen, living room, etc.), select the style (Provence, modern, Scandinavian, etc.) and color palette. In a few minutes, they will have their project ready.

AI and Interior Designers

If a designer is working on creative projects, AI can hardly help. But if a designer is creating various similar-looking projects by using one template that only needs to be adjusted and modified, then this is a job for AI. For example, AI can be successfully used for a multi-apartment buildings or new-build developments where the houses look similar and have similar floor plans. A designer can prepare one project, and AI will be able to adjust it to other apartments or houses.

What influence do you think AI will have on the industry? Let us know on Facebook or on Twitter @kbbconnect.

Apr 26 2017

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Three Tips to Win Customer Trust


After a customer picks us as their bathroom remodeler, we send them a quick survey. At the end of it is an open-ended question, “Why did you select us?” I ask this because I want our whole company to know why and then emphasize our best traits to grow the business.

The most common answer is a simple one: our customers choose us because they trust us. We will be working on their home and in their home, doing projects that will keep their family comfortable and improve the value of their most valuable possession. Of course it’s about trust.

Somewhere along the way, our customers decide we are the experts they trust the most. That can be from meeting our sales team, talking to our office staff or reading something about us online. You can earn more customers by investing in the right resources to build your credibility, and here are the resources we recommend emphasizing:

Awards. Think of all the ways you can stand out from your competition. You’re established, you’ll be there if problems arise, and your installers are the best in the business. These qualities can all be embodied in the awards you have won. We showcase ours prominently when talking with potential customers. The message boils down to this: experts in our field think we run an excellent business, so you can trust us to treat your home like our own.

– Testimonials & Reviews. Customers want an easy way to tell they can trust you with their home. What better way to communicate that than to quote customers who trusted you previously and had that trust rewarded with excellent work? If you can, provide photos of the work you’ve done to go along with the reviews. After all, seeing is believing. New customers seek out reviews and choose you based on how you have treated your previous customers.

– Warranties. This is a procedure I would strongly recommend building into your business, and it ties into winning awards and earning great testimonials. Stand by your products, and do it in writing. If you present a written promise that you will stand by your work, that reinforces the trustworthy impression already given by your awards and reviews.

If your customer hears from multiple sources that you are trustworthy, and you stand behind your work in writing, you are setting yourself up for success. When you think about vital assets for your company, few are as important as your credibility. As a credible company, your customers will come to the table already trusting you to do right by them. Highlighting your awards, reviews and excellent warranties – you build that asset and in turn build your business.

Allen Erskine is the owner of Kansas City-based Alenco Inc. – in business and growing since 1986 and ranked in the top 100 largest remodelers nationwide.

Image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Oct 11 2016

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Hey Siri – How Do I Use You to My Advantage?

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Business is booming in the kitchen and bath industry, as new construction and residential remodeling continue to surge. Because of the Internet and websites like Houzz and Pinterest, clients know more about kitchen and bath design and the latest trends than they ever have. New products and technology are being manufactured globally and getting to our market at a faster pace than ever before. Deloitte Global predicts that in 2016, 2.5 trillion photos will be shared or stored online.

We’re all accustomed to getting more, better and faster information, and we’re getting it when we want it and with our own preferred mode of communication – whether it’s online via chat, email, text, social media or by phone. The amount of information we are creating and sharing is astounding. One solution for swamped kitchen and bath professionals is to add staff to keep pace, and another is to automate menial tasks using Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) like Siri, Cortina, Google and Alexa.

Siri takes dictation faster than a professional typist can type; 100 words per minute versus 60-80 words per minute. I can’t even speak 100 words per minute. Siri’s speech recognition is an amazing 95 percent, and those capabilities get even better as Siri learns your language patterns, phrases and jargon.

This learning capability comes from Artificial Intelligence (AI). In 2014, Siri had a brain transplant when Apple baked AI into the iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple TV operating systems. You are walking around with a supercomputer in your pocket that uses AI to act on your voice commands and has the ability to help you interact in new and better ways and to navigate the many aspects of life including how, when and where you do business.

Three Siri Productivity Hacks for Kitchen and Bath Professionals:

1. Search everything with Siri. You can search online: “Hey Siri, search Kohler.com for Dickinson farm sink.” You can also search the App Store, your email, your photos and your notes.

2. Use Siri to dictate to Notes and Mail. Use the Dragon Dictation App for everything else that’s at least a paragraph long.

3. Use Siri with Calendar to schedule meetings, change meetings, email people about meetings and cancel appointments all by voice:

Considering all the computer technology for business that’s now available, speech recognition and voice input might just be the most significant since game-changing computer input methods only occur about once every 40 years. The mouse and touch-screen input methods of the 80s overtook the keyboard input method that’s been around since the 1940s. The voice-input era is still in its infancy, but it’s already providing businesses with competitive advantages – especially to those folks who are very mobile like many of us in the kitchen and bath industry.

– Scott Koehler is a 27-year veteran of the kitchen and bath industry and owner of Dream Kitchen Builders, a design-build firm doing business in the state of North Carolina. Image courtesy of pannawat at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Sep 15 2016

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To Advertise or Not to Advertise

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KBB recently asked our KBB Designers Network on LinkedIn about using social media and other advertising techniques to draw customers.

The following is a constructive conversation among three members of our group with some useful input and tips to succeed:

Paul McAlary, Main Line Kitchen Design, Narberth, Pa.

We post and use paid advertising on Houzz, Facebook and YouTube. We pay money to belong and advertise on Angie’s List and pay for review updates and listings on Customer Lobby. We post on our Twitter and Instagram accounts and have a listing on Yelp and dozens of other listing sites. We post and maintain a LinkedIn profile and company profile and participate in the groups we belong to.

The list goes on and on and includes Google+, Klout, Pinterest, Scoopit, Median, The Garden Web and Home and Garden. Add to the social media sites the money we spend on PPC advertising on Google and Yahoo and what we spend on SEO and our website and the “chat box” on our website, and you are talking a huge financial and time-consuming undertaking. And we haven’t even mentioned the organizations we pay to belong to like multiple NARI chapters, the NKBA, the BBB, etc. All these thing make your business visible and findable on the web.

Anne Harvey, AKBD, Fresh Kitchen & Bath Design, Cary, N.C.

Of all these avenues, which ones have brought you the most business?

Paul McAlary: Besides referrals, the best investment to least:
The chat box on our website, our website itself, Houzz free listing, Houzz paid listing, blogs, Facebook dark posts, Youtube, Customer Lobby, PPC Google ads, PPC Yahoo ads, Remarketing Ads, Home Adviser, NARI Memberships, Yelp, Angies List.
After these there is little determinable ROI on our other efforts, but even so our efforts on Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, etc., help us come up better on internet searches. In comparison, we monitored a large Yellow Page ad for a year and received zero leads.

Anne Harvey: Being a natural skeptic, I have come to some conclusions regarding social media; mainly that their main objective is to make money, not help me be successful – although they are more than happy to take my money and make empty promises about how paying for their service will get me more clients.

We have a society of window shoppers and DIYers. Many users of social media are not out there looking for professionals no matter what the “pros” tell us. They want free ideas they can execute themselves or as cheaply as possible.
I don’t answer the phone when I see Houzz, Home Advisor, etc., on my caller ID. The most successful designers and trade professionals get all their new business via referrals and stay booked months in advance.

Paul McAlary: There is no question that referral business is the best, but no business can grow or even remain static without non-referral customers added to their pool of customers. Getting fresh customers from varied sources also makes a business more sustainable during tough economic times. Advertising – even if it’s simply putting out flyers or signs on lawns – is essential. And the best ways to advertise change yearly.

I am the biggest of skeptics but also try to be open to new ideas, products and advertising trends. Mastering using social media to create business is difficult, and most people selling their services to help you do it won’t succeed unless your business is a very common type that there are known techniques for. And you must excel at any type of advertising to make it work. I know business owners that do incredibly well using Houzz, Home Advisor or Angie’s list, but they put a huge effort into making it work for them,

Denise Butchko, Butchko & Co., Chicago

Not having a presence on social platforms is equivalent to not having a website in today’s market. Your online presence and image are researched by customers to develop trust before they contact you. These platforms are not created to help fill the top of your sales funnel, and you can’t “spend your way” to leads. You can, however, support your organic efforts with paid efforts to increase the qualified leads that can come to your business.
Yes, all platforms will accept your money. That doesn’t guarantee business any more than a Yellow Page ad or even a print or TV campaign guarantees leads.

Anne Harvey: I may not be a fan, but it is a necessary component in today’s world. I have a website, Facebook page, etc., write a blog, create customized flyers and have lawn signs. I didn’t mean to imply that I don’t use social media.

Paul McAlary: Here’s a funny story of how bad advertising won’t help you.
Thirty years ago there was a tool company that advertised in the Yellow Pages across from my ad as a general contractor. I know from the size of the ad that it cost $500 per month in 1986. The advertisement should have read:
Whatever your needs may be, we have what you are looking for. Unfortunately, for five years before they went out of business, it read:
Whatever your needs, maybe we have what you are looking for.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net