Setting Client Expectations for the Holidays
So many people are predicting that this holiday season is going to be one of the best in years. People want to be with their families, to restart holiday party traditions, and to feel festive for the first time in a long time. And as a designer, you know what THAT means. You're about to field a lot of requests to help get homes in shape for visitors! And while there's a lot we can do, we cannot create a brand new house in the time we have between now and New Year's. Let me give you a reality check: It's about 9 weeks until Thanksgiving and it's 13 weeks until Christmas. Given that most delivery dates from furniture and accessory companies are still averaging around 12 weeks, you're not going to be able to order things in time. Even if you started TODAY! So what's a designer to do?? Try these ideas!
1. Be Honest!
Now I know you're an honest person, but when we REALLLLY want a client, we'll sometimes overpromise. But you know what the second part of that is - you'll underdeliver. And with the supply chain the way it is now, there is no way you're going to be able to deliver a full set of custom or wholesale furniture without being very very lucky. Remind your client of the reality of goods and supply right now. And tell them that doesn't mean they can't have a gorgeous and fun holiday, because there are other solutions!
2. Consider Retail
Yes we all want to create the most gorgeous and out-of-the-box looks for our clients. We want them to have spaces that are all their own. But sometimes that isn't possible. So if they are determined to have a new dining room or guest room in time for the holidays, they could go retail with your guidance. You would still charge for your time, of course! And you could work out a discount with the retailer to pass on to your client. Be sure that you DO tell your client that this is not how you normally work and that you are doing this just for them. That is a GREAT way to show them that you're there for them and you want to deliver what they need. You could also try a mix of wholesale orders AND retail. Just get assurances from the vendor that what you want to order really IS in stock. That's been a tough one and a lot of us have been burned.
3. Say Yes
Psychologically, people want to hear YES to even their most demanding ideas. The key to keeping your clients happy is to be able to give them a YES - even if they are asking for a new dining room table two weeks before Thanksgiving. So you could say: "Yes we can do that! Let's go look at three fabulous antique stores and retail shops together!" You want to be seen as the solutions-oriented person. Unless the demands are just too far out there. There's no way you should interrupt your holiday plans to go shopping for last-minute furniture. But as often as you can, turn a challenge into a YES.
4. Follow Up
So let's say you found a temporary solution to your client's problem (I've even known of a designer who lent her client her own dining room table for a holiday! But it was a VERY good client). Be sure to follow up after the holidays with a more permanent solution. You could say, "I'm thrilled we were able to find a longer table for your holiday party! Now let's look at ways to make your dining room look even more spectacular next year!" Maybe they'll want to order new chairs, or to paint and wallpaper that guest room. While that feeling of wanting to show off their homes is still fresh, follow up to see what new services they may want.
This type of customer service is so key! Again you don't want to promise something you just cannot deliver, but you do want to be seen as the person who always has a good solution. These client touchpoints are really the way that you can keep a client for decades! So download my FREE Guide for How to Improve Client Touchpoints! It will help you really up that customer service game!