KBB Collective | The Designers' Corner

Mar 07 2011

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Why it’s not your client’s fault

If you’ve ever been frustrated with your prospects or clients because you feel as if you’re being treated like a design slave, you’re not alone.

What’s the real problem? It’s your perspective.

What do I mean by that?

I hear many designer complain (and I’ve done it myself) that the clients don’t understand how hard they work and that they are actually underpaid.

Here is what is happening. You’re thinking about what you want and expect instead of what your client wants and expects.

It’s common to think about what we want out of a transaction with a client especially when business is slow and we need a project. However, that is the wrong approach if you want to build a sustainable business.

Our clients come to us wanting a result. They really don’t care about the process until they are in the middle of a complete gut and remodel, and then they want the subcontractors and mess out of their homes as quickly as possible.

Unless your client has experienced a remodeling project before, they are totally unprepared for the upheaval and emotional trauma. When they started the project, they really weren’t thinking about the painful process, they were focused on how exciting it would be to have a brand new gourmet kitchen or fabulous spa bath.

How well do you prepare your clients for the reality before your project begins? Do you offer solutions to the negative experiences that are inherent to the project? What do I mean by this? Provide alternatives and options that minimize their pain:

• If you are a kitchen designer and you work with the same contractor over and over, can you design a temporary kitchen that can be set up in a basement or garage?
• Could you work with a personal chef to provide custom prepared meals prior to a major renovation that could be warmed up quickly?
• Do you have a fast-track process to minimize the down-time for your projects?
• Can you arrange a schedule that corresponds with their summer travel?
• Do you wait to start the demolition after all of the materials are on site?
• Do you coach your general contractor and subcontractors about best practices and concerns of your clients?
• Do you prepare your clients for potential challenges so they aren’t surprised? Do you have a list of these you discuss prior to project commencement?
• Can you arrange discount gift certificates with local restaurants to help them through the down-time?
• Can you work out a special rate with a local hotel for your clients during the “peak pain periods?”
• If you’re creating as spa bath for a client, how about providing an in-home massage gift certificate for the after reveal?

Designers also complain about clients not sharing their budgets. Do you have a scripted process for walking them through the budget conversation? This is one of the most sensitive discussions you can have with your clients and it is best to prepare them by showing them typical price ranges for kitchens or baths based on size and quality of materials.

Bottom line, your job is to educate your clients about the price, process, products and pains that are common to each project and uncover their concerns. You’ll have happier clients and better referrals when you carefully prepare your clients based on what is important to them.

Find out your client’s hot buttons and prepare your team to handle the potential problems that might arise. For example, I had one client who HATED dust. I didn’t know about this prior to one remodeling project, and before the husband returned from a trip, the wife was extremely agitated because she knew her husband would go ballistic.

I called a concierge friend and hired a cleaning crew of 10 people (20,000-sq.-ft. house) to come in at 3 in the afternoon and completely clean every square inch of the house before the husband arrived. When the husband purchased another house two doors down from their mansion for a conference center, I knew it was critical to budget for cleaning every week.

—Gail Doby, ASID, is the cofounder of Design Success University, your shortcut to a more profitable and passion-filled design business.

Find out how your fees and income compare to your colleagues. Download Design Success University’s latest Interior Design Fee & Salary Survey eBook ($79 Value). Then, if you’re ready to build a more profitable and enjoyable business, please join us for a complimentary webinar ($97 Value) that has helped thousands of interior designers globally…New How To Avoid Interior Design Fee Fiascos…And Attract Your Ideal Client. Once you download the eBook, you’ll receive an invitation to the next webinar.

This entry was posted on Monday, March 7th, 2011 at 6:00 AM and is filed under Business. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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