While taking a parenting class through our local school district, the instructor taught us a technique called, “Learning to Notice.” It was the idea that parents spend far too much time noticing the things that children do wrong. And instead need to “learn to notice” all the things that children do right. It’s something that every parent struggles with, and has to make a concerted effort to do. The same idea is true for working with clients, but displayed in a different way. Rather than noticing good behavior over bad behavior. We have to “Learn to Notice” who our clients are, and what they need from us in ways other than just what they want their space to look like 6 months from now.
Learn to Notice, Watch to Understand
Awhile back I heard a client service story about a family who had just flown in to a new city, and were having a late night dinner at the Four Seasons Hotel. They had a young boy who was growing noticeably tired and anxious to leave, but much to his disappointment was unable to at the moment because his parents were having dinner with a colleague. Seeing the boy’s growing weariness, the restaurant staff swooped in, pushed some chairs together to create a makeshift bed, brought over a fluffy pillow and warm blanket, and allowed him to fall asleep comfortably right there in the restaurant.
What a win. On so many levels. They ticked off about every client service principle there is, “Be prepared,” “Work as a Team,” “Always Look for Solutions,” “Go Out of Your Way to Assist a Customer Even When It’s Out of Your Job Description” and “Learn to Notice.” It why the Four Seasons is what it is. It’s why they can charge $400 a night. But for the sake of not making you read a 6 page essay on all of those principles, which I admittedly would love to write, let’s just focus on the one. Learning to notice. They had learned how to notice. Everything. Even things way out of a usual waiter’s job description. They had been trained to watch. To be attentive. To be prepared to assist when someone is in need. To understand what made that time difficult for their clients, and create a solution when necessary.
Learn to Notice Their Behavior
When working with your design clients, it’s the same. Learn to notice if they’re growing tired at the end of a long meeting. If they’re unsure of the cost. If they’re unsure of the design choices you’ve made. Or even if a discussion is getting too heated with their spouse. Read their facial expressions. Their body language. Their change in behavior. Learn to notice it. And if needed, react.
Ask them if they have concerns or hesitations. Ask them if they would like further explanations on why a design choice was made. Ask them if they would like a moment alone to discuss. Or need a moment to go check on a child. Or if they love the design, but need to break the project out into phases to space out the costs. Learn to notice what about the situation is causing an issue or problem for your client and provide assistance where needed. Recognize when they need a break. Or when they need you to stay out of it. Or to get involved. Learn to notice their needs, and when appropriate, try to fulfill them.
Learn to Notice Who They Are
And it doesn’t always have to be the heavy stuff. Like needing a moment alone to resolve a disagreement with a spouse, or further explanation of a complicated contract, or the awkward discussion of why someone can’t afford your design. Sometimes it’s the small stuff. The fun stuff. Like what they love. What their interests are. What memorabilia or collections they have. And when you notice, make note.
If you’re in their home and notice they always drink a bottle of Starbucks Vanilla Frappucino, write that down. Then when you invite them to your office for a presentation, have a couple bottles of Starbucks Vanilla Frappucino for them. You’ll be shocked at how shocked they’ll be. Especially if they never said anything about it, and you just observed. It’s a big impact for little effort and little dollars. You just picked it up for a few extra bucks on your normal grocery run every week really. But to them it means a lot.
Or let’s say your client in passing says they’re vegan when you first talk to them, but doesn’t go further into it. You make note. Then when it comes time for you to share your ideas about designing their home, you let them know that sourcing cruelty free selections is possible. They’re no doubt elated. You took the time to listen and take note, and made the necessary adjustments. And then to take it one step further, you also make sure that any food you treat them to is vegan as well.
The same can be true for when it’s time to give a gift. At the end of the project, for the holidays, or their birthday. Make note of what they love every time they tell you. Write down what they spend their weekends doing. What collections or memorabilia they have in their home that you could add to. Really listen when they talk, really look when you’re at their house. Then write it all down. And use that information when it comes time to give a gift. They’ll be overjoyed and shocked with just how much you notice. And you’ll have a much easier time giving gifts.
Take Time to Connect
Everyone loves to be paid attention to. Everyone loves to be taken care of. Everyone loves to be noticed. Either with a problem, or just a kind gesture. Yes, it takes effort. Yes, it’s a bit of a learned talent. You do have to make a conscious effort to be really present. To really watch, look, and listen. But it’s so worth the effort.
Take a moment and really see who your clients are as people. To stop the ideas in your head for a moment on how you can rearrange the layout of the kitchen or remove their insanely over the top drapery that looks like it came from the set of Gone with the Wind and replace it with gorgeous, new sleek roman shades. Sometimes because of the creative genius you have running around in your head, you forget to notice the other stuff. The everyday stuff that makes us human. But take the time. And you’ll be rewarded. With a better relationship. A better connection. And a lifetime of client loyalty.
If you’d like even more ideas on how to provide the kind of client service that gets you higher fees and profits, and greater client loyalty, visit the Services page to find out more!