No truer words have been said than “under promise and over deliver” when it comes to client service. Why? Because it’s all about setting the right expectations. It’s about not promising the moon to your clients and then delivering a rock. It’s about not promising that you can get every single item delivered and installed by a date that you know is impossible. Or that you’ll deliver the design to them in 4 weeks, and then push it back 2 more weeks until you really feel ready. Always tell clients that you’ll need longer than you really think you’ll need. And then let them be pleasantly surprised.
Plan Meetings Like There’ll Be an Emergency
Now, am I telling you to consistently lie to your clients? No. Definitely not. What I am saying is that you need to bake in the possibility of an unknown emergency arising . And in order to keep you technically “on time,” always give yourself a little more time than you think you’ll need. At least a week.
If you need 5-7 weeks to get your design presentation together, tell them 6-8. If you need 4-6, tell them 5-7. Because it’s far better to bake into your timeline a possible emergency, then to call them up and say, hey, something happened and we’re going to have to push back our presentation. The client may understand, but they won’t be happy.
Give a Range for Your Deliverables
And if you notice, you can give a range. Business is unpredictable. The design business is extremely unpredictable. You never know when that awe inspiring, magazine worthy, couldn’t be more perfect fabric is suddenly going to be discontinued. And you don’t want to have to tell your clients that you’re going to be late because the project is now at a standstill because of a fabric. They just want to see what life changing room you’ve created for them. Not hear excuses.
But, when you do give a range, remember that people are going to expect it at the lowest part of the range. If you say 5-7 weeks, they’ll start thinking, ok we’ll see the design in 5 weeks. So, try to stay as close as possible to the earliest part of the stated range. You only want to use the entire 7 weeks if there’s nuclear warfare happening at your business. So, do keep that in mind.
Pleasantly Surprise Your Customers
The entire idea though is, pleasantly surprise your customers. You don’t want to push yourself for the sake of impressing them with how fast you are, only to falter upon that promise because something else came up. Not fulfilling a promise is far, far worse in terms of the service experience than it is to tell the client a timeline that gives you more time than you probably need. Because well, they don’t know how long it will take you anyways.
And best case scenario? You come in a little under the range you gave them. You finished it in the time you expected because you didn’t need the “emergency” cushion. You told them that it would take you 5-7 weeks to create the design. And it only took you 4 1/2? That’s awesome!
But do be a little wary of going too fast.Ever gotten your food mere minutes after you sit down at a restaurant? You’re not impressed. You start to wonder, is the food actually made to order? Or was it someone else’s meal they gave to me? How did this food get here so fast? What’s going on here? You start becoming verrry skeptical of why this food got to your table so fast. But, if you assume it will be 20 minutes worth of waiting, and it was only 15. Now you’re pleasantly surprised!
Client Service Isn’t Like Deciphering Morris Code
Now I know this all might sound confusing and impossible to navigate. Be fast, but not too fast, give them a range, but always finish before the range or at the earliest part of the range. Seriously? Well, yes. But it’s easier than you think.
It comes down to this. Clients want to know that they can trust you to manage this project well, and that you’re putting every last drop of design creativity into their project. They want to know that you’re dedicated to them. And only them. They don’t care about your other projects. Or your emergencies. They expect you to handle your business like a professional. Like someone who is fully capable of handling their project with the utmost care and precision, no matter what other chaos is happening around you. Or in the world.
So set yourself up for success. Rather than disappointment. When you’re giving timelines for the design presentation, any revisions, the installation, etc. always give yourself a little more time than you need. Give yourself a little extra cushion just in case. In case there’s an emergency at the office. In case you’re out sick for days. In case you find an incredible piece at the last second that you now want to work into the design. Give yourself a little bit of extra time, so you can fulfill your promises. Exceed their expectations. And do an incredible job each and every time.
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!