This weekend while celebrating Aaron’s birthday, we ran into a bit of a situation. We had gone to his favorite Korean BBQ restaurant and arrived at 5:45 assuming we’d have loads of time to get to our next event, walking through Christmas lights at the Botanical Gardens. But, the event was timed. Our entry time was 7:45. We had hemmed and hawed about what time to choose but eventually decided, that was plenty of time for eating and driving. But, it wasn’t.
When we walked into the restaurant at 5:45, we were told that we would have to wait 30 minutes for a “grill table.” The stress started to ensue. Uh oh, are we going to have enough time? What happens if we don’t? Do we have to buy a whole other set of tickets if we arrive too late?
As the time continued to pass, we became more and more stressed. We hit 40 minutes of waiting. Then 45. We were inching towards an hour when Aaron went to check and see if we would be seated soon. I started searching our tickets and the gardens website for what happens if we arrive late. No answers.
Then I found a tiny phone number listed at the bottom of our tickets that you could call for more information. Not sure if they would pick up as it was late in the evening, I was thankfully greeted by a cheerful woman. She let me know that our entry time only means that we have to enter after that time. So, no matter if we arrive at 7:45 or 8:30, we’ll be fine and don’t need to worry. What a relief.
Now, ideally, it would have said that right on the tickets. Or at least the website. As I’m sure many people are juggling this when do we eat and when do we arrive at the gardens event. But, even though it wasn’t posted anywhere, thank goodness for well informed employees.
Keep Your Employees in the Know
Nothing is worse than calling a company for answers about their own events, products, or services, and the person on the other side of the line has no clue what you’re talking about. You, the customer, actually has more information about their place of work than they do. That shouldn’t happen.
The thing is though, it’s not their fault. It’s not the employee’s fault that their manager hasn’t chosen to regularly keep them informed. The manager is having a promotion right now because of the holidays? The employees definitely need to be told. And they need to be told very specific details about it, the start and end date, what qualifies for the promotion and what doesn’t, how much of a savings it is, etc. Have holiday hours for your business? Don’t just post it on Facebook and your website, let your employees know too. Let them know as much about what’s going on with your business as possible, so they don’t have to waste their time, the customer’s time, and your time asking you the small questions that they would be perfectly capable of answering. If they had only been told the answers.
Empower Your Employees So You Can Be Efficient and Profitable
Now what does that mean for a design company? Well, things like, what type of services do you offer? What are the prices associated with each service? How far out are you currently booking? Does the designer travel? How far? If you run a holiday promotion for designing homes for the holidays, what are the exact prices, services, and the time span for that?
To consistently put your money to good use, keep your employees informed. Empower them to answer as many client questions as possible. Now, of course if something is a serious issue or a major change to a design plan, you’ll need to speak with the client yourself. But if your clients are calling in and asking, when is my design presentation meeting? Or, how do I prepare for the installation day? Or, who will be coming to my home to measure and take pictures? Your employees should definitely be able to handle that.
Regularly Update Employees
Now, how do you do this? Hold a weekly, or even twice a week, meeting with your employees. Update them on the progress of client projects. Let them know what’s holding a project back. What crises have occurred. How they have been handled. Ask them for both their own ideas on how to handle these crises, and if they’ve had any of their own this week. Keep them as engaged and empowered as possible. An engaged and empowered team is an active, problem-solving team. A team who knows that their purpose is only to listen, and not ask questions or provide ideas, is a team just waiting for the clock to read 5. Your meeting agenda should look something like this.
“Updating the Team” Agenda
1. Start off on a positive note. Share any good news you have about how things went last week. Recognize accomplishments and contributions of employees as well.
2. Review of any current promotions you’re running, especially if you also have a retail store. Include the start and end date, what qualifies for the promotion, and how much savings a client will receive.
3. Review of any events you may be having, especially during the holidays. Any client appreciation events, client lunches, etc.
4. Review of the current projects and their status. Share any crises that have come up since the last meeting and how they’ve been handled so far, and any ongoing crisis. Ask for further ideas on how to handle them.
5. Review of the main objectives for the week, both for the entire team and per person. Objectives can also be emailed after the meeting as a reminder. This is something I do with my husband and we call it “This Week in Preview.”
5. Ask employees if they’ve experienced any crises this week. And if so, how it’s being resolved and do they need any assistance.
6. Ask employees for any additional thoughts, ideas, or questions and thank everyone for their time.
Unless things are really going wrong or you’re running a lot of promotions, most meetings will probably only last 20 to 30 minutes. Not much time spared really for a huge return on your investment. And you don’t have to go over every single point every single time. Especially if you’re having the meeting more than once a week.
An Informed Team Upgrades Your Client’s Experience
But, letting all of your employees know as much as information as possible is key to a great client experience. Although it may sound like a good idea to just handle everything on your own so you’re sure it’s of the quality you want, it’s really not. You don’t have time for that. And neither does your employee. Or your client. You want your design team to come off as just as capable, confident, and professional as you are. Because the client really sees you as one.
You don’t want to have clients saying to their friends and family, “Working with Jennifer was spectacular. But her team leaves a lot to be desired. They’re nice, but they just never knew what was going on. Every time I called they said, I don’t know. I’ll have to ask Jennifer and get back to you.” That makes people hesitate. Do I really want to work with a designer that’s wonderful and does beautiful work, but has an incompetent team? Maybe, but maybe not.
You Need to Let Go, So You Can Have a Break
So do everything you can to have an informed, engaged, and empowered team. Make sure they know your mission, your values, your promotions, your crises, your objectives, and how everything should be handled. Is it a lot of information? Yes. It is. But it’s information that’s necessary. For some information, write it down. Give employees a handbook with the things that are less likely to change, like your office hours, values, mission, services, and prices. With the items that are constantly changing, a one page handout or email can do so they can go back and reference it. But no matter what you do, do inform your employees. Make the best use of everyone’s time. Make the best use of your pay to them. And enjoy your extra time designing, finding new business, or just taking a break once in a while. You deserve it.
I’m also excited to announce that I was recently a podcast guest on Michelle Binette’s Business Homies radio! Click here to check it out!
If you’d like even more ideas on how to provide the kind of client service that gets you higher fees and profits, visit the Services page to find out more!