Why You Have to Be Upfront with Your Clients!
This is one of the strangest times I can remember in the interior design business. We have clients clamoring for our services, but at the same time the supply chain is completely broken. Which of course makes it hard for us to deliver on those services. And if there was ever a time to have your customer service operating at its highest and best level, this is it. But one thing that many designers forget is that customer service is all about being honest with your clients. Sometimes brutally honest. Because that honesty helps build trust and a stronger relationship. So here are my best tips for when, why, and how to be completely upfront with your clients!
Don't Fudge on the Budget
I know a couple of designers who always assume that the client has a bigger budget than they're willing to reveal. So they just add another 10% or so in their heads to what they're presenting. WOW. That can lead to BIG issues with your clients down the road, and they'll be suspicious of your motives, too. Not a great way to build a long-term relationship. Or sometimes a designer will avoid giving the client the REAL budget because they're afraid of what they're reaction will be. Also a big mistake. We don't want to have the same trust factor as a used car salesman! We want to be completely honest about the budget AND where we think they're could be overages in the future. Your clients are trusting you with their investment. Don't lose that trust!
Be Honest About Supply Chain Issues
Your clients probably have some idea of issues with shipping, materials, and more. But, they may not have made the connection to their own orders for furniture or the supplies needed for that kitchen renovation. I would start EVERY project today with a frank discussion about why furniture is going to take weeks (or months!) longer than usual, and how we're all going to have to be patient with the poor contractor who can't get wood, metal, cabinets, or anything else he needs. One of the amazing ROI designers, signs her emails with a gentle reminder that she cannot control the status of any orders once they are placed and, unfortunately, the industry as a whole is experiencing numerous backorder and shipment delays. So, do yourself a favor and go over the new deadlines and issues we're all facing.
Own Those Mistakes
Ok, so you've waited months for that gorgeous sofa to come in ... and it's all wrong! UGH! And worse yet, it's your mistake. This is definitely not the fun part of our business, but you have to face it head on. The client needs to know ASAP, and they need to know what you're going to do about it. Everyone makes mistakes, but it's how you move on from that mistake that makes all the difference. And what if the mistake wasn't your fault? You still have to reveal it right away and offer solutions. It isn't about pointing the finger, but instead making sure the client is going to have a great solution that works for them. Be the person who makes all those challenges and issues go away. That's your job.
Another way to be upfront with your clients is to set up expectations from the very beginning! So download my FREE Guide to Setting Client Expectations. And keep that honesty flowing!