Managing client expectations: My top 3 tips

Managing client expectations

Managing client expectations: My top 3 tips

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I belong to a few interior design communities.  In these communities, we will often share our wins, discuss design dilemmas, discuss how we all run our own business, and of course, have many, many giggles and laughs!  Managing client expectations is a topic that comes up a lot.

As I was looking at what other Interior Designers were posting on this topic, it occurred to me to share my thoughts on this. So how do I go about managing client expectations?

Be Frank (and honest)

Yes – some of my friends do call me Frank.  I am a huge believer that honesty is the only way to roll.  I remember one time when I was called in to help make a flooring and counter decision for a client.  It was a small job and I was basically hired to just give the Mrs. some piece of mind that she was making the right decision.  Here is what I told her when we visited the granite yard with her flooring and cabinets in toe to see the quartzite that she truly loved:

Not in a million years would I install that quartizite with those floors. 

How I delivered that message was not in a cruel way but in an honest and caring way.

Don’t Lie

There is no sense in lying and telling a client they can have everything they love when it all won’t work.  Take Pinterest for example. When my clients use Pinterest, they pin everything they love.  Many times, clients like a little bit of this, a little bit of that.  What I tell my clients is this:

While you can like and love a lot of different things, it doesn’t mean they will all work in your space. I’m not paid to be your ‘yes’ girl.  I’m paid to ensure your space is going to look like a professional designed it.

Take for example this lovely backsplash tile:

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And now take this counter:

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I would never pair these two together nor would I let a client of mine install something like this.  Why?   The tile has a clean, crisp white while the counters are a ‘dirty’ yellow. This is a clear example of mixing clean whites and ‘dirty’ whites and that is simply a no, no.  I would be frank with my client and let them know the reasons why these two combinations do not work.

Communicate, communicate, communicate

Oh – I can’t tell you how many times I may email, call, or text a full-service client.  When renovations have started, there are many moving parts.  Sometimes, there are decisions that need to be made quickly to keep the project moving.  Often, there are deadlines to be met!  My motto is to over-communicate.

Typically on Friday’s, I like to send my full-service renovation clients an update.  I go over what work was completed for the week, what we have to look forward to in the coming week, and any decisions that need to be made (with a deadline).  Here is an excerpt from an email that I sent to my clients.

I’ve never had a client complain that there was too much communication!

Put it in Writing

This really is crucial that there is some kind of communication trail that has occurred.  There are so many decisions to be made during a renovation, it’s easy to forget conversations and it’s easy to forget what was chosen and bought.

The best way is to have something in writing.  It may be as simple as an email thread (see above), or it may be a more formalized document such as a Change Order.

I have invested in a program that allows my clients to log in to their own studio.  In the studio, everything is kept for reference.  Here is an example of some products that have been decided on for a Butler’s Pantry:

Managing client expectations

My clients can log into their own studio and refresh their memory of what we have chosen for each space.  They can see the contracts we have in place and know that there is one place to get all of the information.

Managing client expectations

When it comes to working with people, we need to recognize our personalities, our strengths, and our weaknesses.  I  know that renovations can be stressful.  I know what is happening at all times when I manage a renovation however my clients do not.  While managing a renovation,  I am there to ensure everything is running smoothly with the trades, I also know I’m there to ensure that my clients are up to date with what is going on as well as happy with everything.


Sheri Bruneau Get It Together


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