I’ve never seen so much process and automated service being discussed in the interior design industry before.
In this service-type business of ours, where most designers covet the special, custom, high-end projects in houses like the one pictured above, I’m rather surprised at how we all want to stuff each and every project into our designed formula or process at every turn.
I’m all about working the way you want to work as a designer and then having your clients fit that mold. But I’m thinking it might be getting a little out of hand.
There is a lot of “process” involved in a Modsy or e-design type service, like my Designed in a Click Q&A consultations. The lower the price point, the more a client has to mold to fit the service.
Because, of course, to get a lower price point for a service, you have to have specific parameters and really not deviate from that to be profitable.
One thing I’ve learned in this business, is that when any client hires an interior designer for full service work, they want customized treatment.
Sure, you follow a general process, you take them through steps that you’ve designed to work the way you want to work.
But, if you don’t make them feel like they are special, like they are being cared for, like they are top of mind, like they are wanted as clients, if you don’t ease up on the boundaries once in a while and give them what they want and need as opposed to the formula you’ve invented for your business…..then the project is doomed to fail.
I’m all in favor of boundaries and only taking on a very filtered client that works for you and your business. I’m all about taking a long time to filter before a contract is signed.
However, I’m asking you to consider today that the first roadblock you might be putting up in your hopefully future relationship with a wealthy, high-end client, might be a long, tedious questionnaire you’ve developed that you think will help you in your filtering process.
Think about your own experiences with long questionnaires.
I was looking for a photographer a few years ago and was investigating a really high dollar one. I wanted one in particular that had been published in design magazines and did some amazing imagery.
Obviously, there were going to be gates to go through to get to her.
The more in demand the service provider, the more gates you have to go through to get to them. And that’s the way it should be.
However, with this photographer, I found too many gates. After I answered the initial questionnaire, then I was sent an automated response with another questionnaire. At that point, I just wanted to chat with someone, and hey, I was busy too. I had a specific question that wasn’t in the questionnaire.
So, I dropped it.
I’m sure it would have been fine if I followed through, but I have a very low tolerance and attention span for questionnaires.
A recent experience with a questionnaire
I recently hired a new painter for my house, to check him out before I put him to work with any projects. At first I was impressed, he sent a professional email. Most of my painters don’t even email. He made an appointment and verified it with an automated response. Okay, that’s good.
Then I got an email sequence with three emails about how they work, what to expect, etc. Obviously he had been to the “email funnel online webinar” and learned how to do that.
However, the last one had a questionnaire. I thought, “Ugh”. A questionnaire for a two day paint job?
I also thought, “Okay, I’m probably going to be impressed here. This is setting up to be a top notch service and I have to go with the program and fit my job into his process to get that service.”
It was a one page questionnaire that I needed to fill out for the first walk through.
I proceeded ahead, did the questionnaire, and even with all the planning and prep I was given, his superintendent pushed my job back by a week and waited till the last minute to let me know, the day he had said they were going to come.
So, in spite of all the prep work and anticipation of their highly processed, efficient service, I got basically what I get with all my painters, with a lot more emails and paperwork. :-)
I don’t know about you, but I kind of feel like questionnaires are time bandits and roadblocks.
Most of what they ask are not necessary, and really most of the answers, (speaking for myself and my own experiences here), are not well thought out or considered.
My goal with every questionnaire I take is to get it done as fast as possible while trying not to grind my teeth in annoyance, if I even decide I want something enough to fill out a questionnaire to get it.
I was at the doctor recently, a specialist, and, of course, there was a multi-page questionnaire. I was mostly through it and they called me back. When I went in, the assistant asked for it and said, “I’ll help you with the rest. I know the ones we really need.”
She proceeded to skip through and ask me the questions face to face and we buzzed through in a New York minute. Plus, there was a little conversation and explanation so that I could answer more clearly. Very helpful for both of us.
It’s kind of like calling your lovely cell phone service provider for a service call and getting the menu of options, questions and then being put on hold.
You have to have a big problem to make you want to waste a lot of time to get an answer or help for what you need because, let’s face it.
They don’t really want to help you. They want to filter you so much that mostly, you give up and don’t bother them. At least that is the impression they leave with their customers. Right?
Do you want to leave that kind of impression with your potential clients?
I understand the need to filter potential clients.
I’m there. I do it all the time. I have a short questionnaire and I heavily filter everyone, probably taking longer than most.
But I’ve also learned that I have to read between the lines and not annoy people too much.
I know that, especially when I needed more work, needed more clientele, didn’t want to push people away, that I really didn’t need a big impersonal, automated-looking roadblock out there for the personalized, custom service experience I was offering.
Besides, how many times do people tell you they want one style in their questionnaire and basically they end up with a style totally different? How many times are people not telling you the whole story in their questionnaires or are even being a little misleading? Especially, for example, with budgets?
I’m not saying drop the questionnaire completely.
I’m saying most people find them annoying and I bet you do too.
If you’re super busy and don’t need new clients (like me now, actually), then go ahead and send out a big questionnaire and then the ones who really, really want to work with you will submit it to your satisfaction and jump through the hoops you want them to. Maybe.
If you’re not super busy, then you might want to be brief with it, break it up in different ways, or maybe find another way to get the answers you need.