Whether you’re a woodworker, kitchen and bath designer, architect, builder, or contractor, the relationships you have with your clients play an important role in their satisfaction. When the last nail is in place and the project is complete, they will enjoy their new space. But they will also remember what it was like to work with you. How do you ensure that you leave your customers with a positive opinion of working with you? Is there anything you can do to make sure they’ll recommend you to their friends and family based not only on the quality of your work but also on a pleasant working relationship?
I asked some of today’s top kitchen, bath, and interior designers…is there a secret to creating happy client relationships? The prevailing answer was always the same: earn their trust. Here are the top ten things that you can do to build a trusting relationship with your clients.
- Meet in Person
Sure, it’s easier to email or send a text, but face-to-face meetings are essential to building solid relationships. You’ll both learn a lot more about each other when you meet in person. This goes double when it’s time to discuss fees and costs. You’ll get a better understanding of how they really feel based on their body language and they won’t feel like you’re hiding behind your iPhone.
- Don’t Avoid the Dollars and Cents
Ideally, you don’t want to launch straight into money talk. However, be prepared to discuss rates and pricing if the client asks. Answer their questions about cost as honestly and directly as you can. You don’t want them to feel “tricked” by skipping over fees that might not be obvious to them. This is especially true if it’s a first time remodel and your clients aren’t familiar with the ins and outs of custom construction.
- Be Specific About What You Do
If this is the first time that your client is working with a custom woodworker, interior designer, architect, or contractor they genuinely may not know all of the details about what you do. Don’t be afraid to talk in detail about everything that goes into their finished product. Explain your process. Give examples. They may not know how much goes into selecting a paint color or a finish. They likely have no idea about the amount of behind-the-scenes time you put into each project. Let them know!
- Stick to Your Guns, and Fees
After you explain your rates to a client, it’s important to stand by them. Negotiation is dangerous territory. Going back on your word with fees can harm your credibility. And once word gets around that you changed fees for one client, they’ll all expect you to do the same. Show that you value your reputation and that you stand behind the quality of your work by taking a hard line on fees. It may be tempting to lower your rate just to land the job, but know that doing so might just make you seem desperate. Also, don’t apologize if a client seems shocked by your fees. They wouldn’t think to question a doctor’s rate, so why should they question yours?
- Give Honest Feedback
Remember, you are the professional. They hired you because they trust your judgment and expertise. But this can be tricky to do when a client has bad taste. If you disagree with a client’s choice, be straightforward. Tell them why something won’t work or just tell them it’s a bad idea. You can use phrases such as “In my professional opinion…” Honesty is the best policy.
Remember, if you have to work hard to convince a client that you are “worth it,” then it probably isn’t the right client for you. In sum, be flexible. Be confident. Listen to what a client has to say and share your own honest thoughts and opinions. From there, you can work together to cultivate a trusting relationship. It could be the beginning of a great partnership!