To continue our discussion from last week, in the past couple of decades DIY is on the rise, and so is disrespect for the professional opinion. And you’re tired of it. Proving that you should be hired, that you should be paid what you ask, that you can’t actually have a spectacular and completely custom design delivered within two weeks, is exhausting.
And although it may feel like designers and those in creative fields are singled out, it’s actually happening to pretty much every public facing industry. And in the post last week I talked about the first two kinds of customers who don’t value your expertise.
The first, a customer who genuinely doesn’t understand what you do. They have little experience with designers and the design process, so their lack of respecting your worth, is a little bit more forgivable. They mostly need education, a real sit down of exactly what your role is, what the design process is, and all the work, stress, and worry you’ll be taking from them.
The second type of customer is the one who thinks they understand what you do, but are actually clueless. They’re a bit condescending and presumptuous, and are more likely to make you feel disrespected. Again, education is key here, but emphasize a bit more why a professional (rather than them doing it themselves) is needed to be able to achieve what they want. Most of these types of customers need a bit of a reality check, in a sweet and smiling tone.
So moving ahead to this week, let’s talk about our last two types of customers. These two are little more difficult, and could really make you second guess whether or not you want to even work with this person. It’s of course a tough call, but anyone who consistently makes you prove your worth, is not the client you want to be working with long term.
The Unpredictable Customer
This person is a bit unpredictable in how they treat you. If they’re having a good day, they’re easy enough. But if they’re having a bad day, you might be the target they shoot nasty comments to. One time they tell you, “I love the design you’ve put together. I really can’t wait to see it.” But the next time they tell you, “You know, I should have just done this myself. This is too expensive and taking too long.” It’s a hurtful statement, but not so awful that you should fire them asap.
With this person, a delicate but direct response is the best option. More than likely, it’s something else in their life causing them stress. Not you. A spouse didn’t want to spend the money on furnishing and designing the home anyways. They’re feeling the pinch of the investment. They’re worried about their job. It could be anything. You’re not the problem, you’re just the scape goat because you happen to be standing there.
So your job is to let them know, I hear you, but you need to let me do my job. “I know this is a long and expensive process, and one that can be very stressful. I completely understand your frustration. Other clients have felt the same way at times. And once they let me handle the stress and pressure of the process, they were relieved. And at the end let me know, they were so happy they did. Because they were able to just look forward to the beautiful results at the end, rather than worry about all of the complexities of the overall design and project.” They’ll get the picture. That what you’re really saying is, “It’s time to stop badgering me and let me do my job. And we’ll both be a lot happier because of it.”
The Just Plain Rude Customer
Then there are those who just think they’re better than everyone. Their job is very important. They think they know how to do everything, extremely well. In fact, they could even do your job, probably better than you. They just don’t have the time to do it. Or, they consider your job below them.
And maybe they’re older than you. Or younger than you. Or a different gender than you. Or richer than you. Or they think you’re a country bumpkin because you’re from the Midwest not the East Coast. Whatever it is, these people always have some reason to claim their superiority. If you’re forced to deal with this kind of person, it’s important to stand your ground. Backing down is exactly what they prey on.
This unfortunate customer makes comments like, “I’m not paying you that. All you do is look for pretty, frilly things all day.” Ok, those are fightin’ words. Your response should be direct and confident. When it comes to most situations, I’m all about bringing to attention to them indirectly. But when someone attacks your value, be direct.
“While I do find beautiful things for clients, that’s only a small part of what I bring to every project. And with recent changes in the industry, the public can order a lot of the same items that I can. My true value lies in my ability to listen to your dreams for a new space. And then make that a reality through a long and complicated curation process where I’m able to bring together seemingly separate pieces to make a harmonious and stunning space. A process that can be extremely difficult for a non-professional to do on their own. I also use my well established vendor relationships and contractors to ensure my clients get the best quality pieces and work possible, while also managing the logistics behind each ordered piece to make sure that it arrives safely, on time, and is properly installed by the right professionals. I’m an absolute resource for any problems that may occur along the way. So it’s actually a very complex and dynamic process that when left to professionals like myself, the results can be spectacular. But without the help of a professional, the results are often noticeably quite unfortunate. “Which result do you want? “
After that, they’re not likely to have much to say. They may still not want to spend the money to pay for your expertise, but that’s ok. You don’t want them as a client anyways. And you stood up for yourself and your fellow designers, so be proud of yourself.
The Brave New World is Scary
Navigating this new world of people who think they can do it all by reading a few blogs is tough, and hurtful. But there are so many out there who still respect a professional opinion. They don’t want to risk ordering a couch that’s the wrong color, with the wrong cleaning code, that will break within two months of getting it, with the wrong proportions, that doesn’t make sense with the other pieces in the room, from a horrible big box store that will never return their call.
But when you do run into someone who questions your valuable expertise, remind them that when stakes are high, DIY should not be the answer. Create your own flower arrangements for a baby shower you’re hosting? Absolutely. Create your own flower arrangements for your own wedding of 300 people? ABSOLUTELY NOT! Go to Pottery Barn and pick out your own bath towels? Absolutely. Go to Pottery Barn and spend $30,000 furnishing your house with a random sales person who has no design experience and might quit tomorrow and if they do, you have no way to get in touch with them? ABSOLUTELY NOT! Most people, when reminded of the true chaos that can ensue when taking on a large DIY project, will make the better choice, hiring you, a true professional. And if they don’t, well, you know how it ends up. Unfortunate looking.
If you’d like even more help with handling tough client situations, go here to find out how!