Last Friday Nancy Ganzekaufer, Interior Design Business Coach, and I were chatting away in the Weekend Wine Down, which can be seen here if you missed it, about working with high end clients, like really high end. The kind that have millions and millions of dollars, and just lead an entirely different life than the vast majority most of us. And she asked me, if you choose to work with this group, do you have to accept that to some degree, they’re going to tell you how they want to work together?
Some Groups of Clients Will Just Expect More Out of You
And my answer? Within reason, yes. If you choose to work with the elite of the elite, the wealthy of the wealthy, you are going to have to decide which rules are an absolute no for you and which you’re going to adapt and be lenient on. As that’s how the ultra wealthy does business for the most part. They expect, and are used to, things being done their way.
We discussed how my best friend, whose an event planner for the American Bar Association, had a number of interesting “asks” from board members during their big annual conference. First, a woman who upon check in to her complementary luxury suite said that everything was fine, later changed her mind and decided that she didn’t have enough closet space. So she asked for an extra set of drawers.
As getting extra furniture was not an easy fix, my friend was off on a wild goose chase along with the hotel to find an extra chest of drawers. The hotel came up with the idea that, although they didn’t have an extra chest, there was a Target across the street and they could purchase one and put it together. My friend’s director said to go back and offer it as an option, and to see what the board member said (while secretly crossing their fingers that she would say never mind). Now thankfully once my friend shared this as the only possibility to the board member, she said exactly what they were hoping, no, that’s ok. But she could have just as easily said, yes, let’s do that. Then they would have had to fulfill her request, and with a smile on their face.
Meanwhile, another board member requested that my friend come to her room so she could observe how dark it was. And after turning on every single light in the very large, complimentary suite that she was gifted, she stated, “See, it’s just too dark. Bring me some more lamps.” And so that’s what she did, again with a smile on her face.
Some Clients Are Used to Getting What They Want
Clients at the higher end are just used to asking for what they want, and getting it, at least most of the time. And well, that may be part of the very reason why they’re so successful. But also because businesses that are used to serving this type of clientele know that to be successful in that space, that’s just a part of doing business. They know that service is very personalized, and very focused on fulfilling personal requests. The Ritz Carlton is actually quoted with saying “Do not tell customers you cannot do something because it is company policy. If the request is ethical, what can you do?” As that’s what they know they need to do to stay competitive.
You’re Not the Ritz Carlton, So How Do You Manage?
But, the reality is, you’re not the Ritz Carlton. You’re a design firm that may be just you, or you and a few other people. Not hundreds of employees in one building, attached to a multi billion dollar corporation. So what do you do with extreme and excessive requests from clients? Well, you decide where your line of no is.
Before you begin working with clients, at any level, you have to decide what your line of no is. You need to look at your profits, you need to look at your resources, you need to look at what time you or someone on your team has to devote to clients and client service, and then make your general decisions of what you will do, and what you won’t do, based on that.
And you want to do this before you really get too involved with client service and client requests, as you don’t want to get yourself into a spot where you’re over promising and under delivering, or working your tail off into an unprofitable frenzy. It’s easy to say yes to a client’s request, and then ten hours into it you think to yourself, “Why in the world did I say yes?! This is costing me sooo much time and money!” You may have even done this to yourself already.
When it comes to client service and client experience, you want to be providing it to the absolute best of your ability, at the level of you’re at. You don’t want it to be pushing you to this maximum limit that causes you to get irritated with your clients, or your business. And you certainly don’t want it to take a significant portion of your profits. So, you want to make these decisions before you ever get involved with delivering a really high level of service.
Know Your Clients, & Their Typical Level of Service Expectations
And like Nancy and I discussed, accept that the higher you go, the more requests will be made of you, and the more you will be expected to fulfill them. So, still decide what your line of no is. Whether that is you won’t work after five, or you will never work on the weekends, or you won’t accept a text, whatever it may be, but also keep in mind that as you move up the fee scale, things will change. As you move up, you will want to, and need to, dedicate more of someone on your team’s time, to focusing on client service, client relationships, client development, and client experience.
So take some time and consider your line of no. Do you need to raise it higher than it is right now in order to serve your client’s needs to a level that matches the type of fees you charge? Or do you need to lower it a bit to match your fees?
Client service and client experience will always need to be a focus, no matter how much you charge. But as you go up and down the fee scale, your level of service will naturally go up and down as well. Think of time like you think of your budget. The higher your project’s typical cost, the more time (and of course money) you’ll need to spend on client service and experience. The lower your project’s typical cost, the less time (and money) you’ll need to spend. But no matter what level you’re at, one thing is for sure, there should always be some time and money spent on the client experience. As that’s what will keep you memorable, profitable, and referr-able, year after year after year. And let’s be honest, that’s what every designer, at every level, is striving for anyways.
Less than Two Weeks to Sign Up for ‘The Exceptional Experience
And remember, with less than two weeks left to sign up for “The Exceptional Experience,” time is of the essence! You can join myself and an amazing group of ladies who’ve already signed up as we cover tons of information just like we did in today’s post and so much more, like how much SHOULD you spend on a client? How much time? How much money? Is there an exact number?
And how do you take your service and client experience to that totally enviable, high end, sophisticated level? What special touches are needed and what are they? We’re going to be talking about all of this and so much more in this action packed, implementation focused time as we go through weekly action items, share downloadable scripts, templates, and so much more! To be a part of it all, you can join us here before we start on September 9th!