Clients are the lifeblood of your interior design business. There’s no arguing that. Without clients, your business would cease to exist. This means that providing excellent customer service must be at the heart of everything you do. While there may be countless other interior designers to work with, your clients will choose you because of your unbeatable customer service. Good customer service will not only attract new clients but also inspire former ones to consider you for future projects. Let’s discuss how to meet the needs of your clients.
Why Does Customer Service Matter?
Customer service isn’t the first thing you think about when building an interior design business. You’re focused on drumming up new business and bringing your creative ideas to life. That’s not to mention the other day-to-day tasks you’re also focused on when running a business, such as paying bills and working with vendors. Because you have so many things to do, customer service becomes more of an afterthought.
Sure, you want to be courteous with your clients. Sure, you want to deliver professional service that meets their needs. But if you’re not focused on it, customer service often devolves into an inauthentic “thanks for your business” note at the end of an invoice and nothing more.
Without a fierce dedication to providing top-notch customer service, the only ways you can convince a client to stay with you is by the power of your own design genius or by your low, low prices.
But remember that no matter how great your designs or how competitive your fees, your interior design business can’t survive on subpar customer service. Most clients are willing to pay more for better customer service. It’s that important. Lowering your prices won’t persuade clients as much as improving your customer service. In fact, if you raise your level of customer service, you may be able to raise your rates, too.If you raise your level of customer service, you may be able to raise your rates, too. Here's why: Click To Tweet
1. Segment Clients Based on Their Needs
A basic definition of customer service is tailored service that’s provided to meet the specific needs of your clients.
While you may not be able to administer every individual need to your clients, you can do the next best thing through segmentation. Segmentation allows you to provide personalized service by grouping your clients according to similar needs. For example, you can group clients based on their preferred method of communication (i.e. phone or email). Or you can group clients based on how often they’d like to stay in touch (i.e. once a week, several times a week, etc.).
When you segment your clients like this, you’ll be able to deliver service that’s on par with their expectations.
2. Set Client Expectations
Speaking of expectations, make sure that you give your clients a guide for working with your design firm. Some of your clients may have never worked with an interior designer before, or perhaps they’ve worked with other designers in the past and are accustomed to a different order of business. It’s up to you to set (or adjust) their expectations. During your initial consultation, discuss how you work and what you need from your clients. This is a great time to invite questions from your prospective client so that you’re both on the same page.
3. Be Prepared to Listen
Even though you’ve been there and done that, you probably haven’t heard it all. In order to deliver the best customer service to your clients, you must actively listen to what they want and need. Don’t make assumptions. Don’t bulldoze over the client’s wishes. Clarify what they need if you’re unsure and then do your best to accommodate them without compromising yourself. By listening, you’ll be able to respond accordingly.
4. Address Problems Right Away
Once problems arise, step into action right away. Don’t allow problems to fester when you can immediately rectify the issue. Empower your staff so that they may resolve issues on the spot instead of waiting for you to handle it.
5. Focus on the Main Touch Points
During every interior design project, there are multiple, vital touch points between you and your client. The initial consultation, the down payment, the design approval, the weekly check in are all critical points of contact. Tackle each of these touch points with top-notch customer service that anticipates the client’s needs and state of mind at each of these points.
For example, when requesting a down payment for your services, it may be helpful to include information about your payment schedule and the forms of payment you accept. Then, upon payment, send a prompt acknowledgement of payment.
6. Be Empathetic
Empathy goes hand in hand with active listening. It’s important for any interior design business to understand their client’s point of view. Imagine the design process from the client’s angle. You may have done the same type of project a dozen times, but for your client, it’s a completely new experience.
Be sensitive to your client and provide resources that will reassure them throughout the process. This often includes a weekly project update or an email with a list of what the client should expect next.
7. Stay in Communication
Make communication your top priority. Use the client’s preferred method of communication, but don’t feel the need to completely change the way you do business to bend to the needs of one client. For example, if you don’t like using Skype, don’t offer Skype as a communication option. However, you should offer multiple options that can work for both you and them, such as phone, email, or via your preferred messaging tool.
8. Communicate the Right Way
Remember that your clients aren’t likely to be interior designers themselves. They may not be familiar with industry terms and jargon. Erase buzzwords and speak to your clients in a language that they can understand. In other words, make your communication as clear and concise as possible.
9. Make it Possible for Your Clients to Help Themselves
Some clients won’t feel comfortable reaching out to you with their questions or concerns. But, when left unanswered, these nagging concerns will consume the client and make the process of working with you an unpleasant one.
For clients who don’t like to ask but need to know, ensure that you have a knowledge base or resource page in place. Here, answer the most frequently asked questions surrounding the interior design process in general, and give the clients specific solutions to potential problems that they may have.
10. Eavesdrop on Your Clients
Believe it or not, you can actually eavesdrop on your clients to discover what they’re saying about you and your interior design firm. Set up a Google alert for your firm and get emails whenever someone mentions you. You can also get a social listening tool like HootSuite, Mention, or BuzzSumo to find out if former clients are talking about you.
If you find negative feedback when eavesdropping, don’t ignore it. Address it head-on but in a professional and positive manner. Your public response (in forums, in comments sections, over social media) may be able to dampen negativity while also showing that you care about your clients and appreciate their concerns.
Don’t sacrifice quality customer service in favor of other business tasks that you deem more important. There’s nothing more important than providing unbeatable customer service to your interior design clients. Use these tips to stand out from your competitors.