If you’ve spent any time working in an interior design firm, you know that a real day in the life of a designer consists less of perusing books of pretty fabric samples and more of managing the expectations of, advocating for, and ultimately delivering a seamless customer service experience to the client. While the finished product is a room, what we’re really designing is a service. As such, creating a seamless customer-service experience for interior design businesses is crucial.
Learning How to Build an Interior Design Business
Our Role as Interior Designers
Interior designers provide a service. We are not material retailers fulfilling client orders. We are not house flippers creating a generic product to appeal to the masses. We are not hobbyists designing in a void for our own interests. We are service workers. Because we are working so closely with clients, empathy is necessary to do the job well. This is where a certain level of expertise comes in from years of practice listening to client needs and solving everyday problems on their behalf. The service of interior design is about putting together the pieces of the puzzle: the client brief, budget, and vision alongside your skills, network of vendors, and ideas to bring it to life.
Everything we do as interior designers is for the client. Without the client, we are just navel-gazing. The client’s vision, budget, and existing home give us something to push against. They provide structure and parameters to the project that create the challenge we strive to solve. It’s fun and beautiful and chaotic and complex all at once. What sets a good designer apart from an adequate one is our ability to bring the clients along with us through the journey, making them feel supported, heard, and understood during every project stage. What sets us apart is customer service.
The Secret to Good Customer Service
We know what it feels like to have good customer service, and we certainly remember times when we’ve had bad customer service. The root of that good customer service moment is feeling understood and having your needs met, sometimes before even voicing them. The secret is empathy.
Empathy motivates the flight attendant to bring your kid an extra cookie on a long flight. Empathy moves the dress shop salesperson to find your size when you’re crunched for time before an evening party. Those who provide empathetic customer service leave you with a warm feeling and memory that will outlast the cookie and well-fitting garment. Likewise, the interior designers who provide empathetic customer service are brought back to design the next wing of the home, the vacation house, or the office. While the finished interior might be fabulous, the experience is what will motivate the client to return.
How to Design Customer Service for Interior Design Businesses
When designing a customer-service experience for your interior design business, you want to create…
Service That is Fast
The expectation for real-time service and always having the lights on continues to grow. While we can’t always be fast (this process is slow and complex), it’s important to be timely. We must anticipate client needs and address concerns with a call or personal note. The key here is timely communication.
Service That is Personalized
Every type of interior design client is different, so it’s our job to personalize the experience around them and meet them where they are. Jumping into our world of industry speak can be overwhelming for some, leaving them lost in the technical details. Many clients with the budget for design services are successful and used to being the smartest person in the room. So, it’s uncomfortable for many to be thrown into the design process, not knowing what to expect. Remember to bring them along the journey with you. Explain the details, bring them up to speed, and leave the technical jargon for your talks with the builder. As designers, this is our everyday. However, we must empathize with clients who are brand new to the experience.
Service That Provides a Connected Experience
We’re designing a home for the client, not ourselves. Creating a connected experience means including the client’s wants, needs, and tastes in the design plan so it feels like their own creation. Imposing our design style will not give the client that warm, welcome-home feeling. They will love the design (and your service) if you can bring their vision to life in ways they never thought possible. Our job is to connect and elevate our clients to feel like the best version of themselves.
Service That is Proactive
Being proactive means offering a resolution before a disruption occurs. Did the builder tell you that a wall can’t come down? Don’t present the problem to the client to fret over. Instead, come to them with solutions. As designers, it’s our job to solve problems before they ever become problems. Always have a plan B in your back pocket.
Service That Builds a Relationship
When hiring an interior designer, I tell folks to choose someone they can build a relationship with. Interior design is a team effort; we’re all going on the journey together. As designers, we need to be there for our clients through the ups and downs of the process, offering reassurance, solutions, and empathy.
Designing Interiors and a Service
While we’re designing interiors, what clients will remember is the service we designed around them. The root of good customer service is empathy, which means listening to what your client wants, anticipating their needs, and setting out to create a seamless experience from start to finish.
Be honest, set good expectations, and keep communication simple.
Amity Worrel is an award-winning interior designer based in Austin, Texas. She has worked on high-end interior design projects for celebrities and tastemakers in NYC, LA, and the Bahamas. In 2008, Amity decided to bring her passion for diverse design back to her hometown of Austin. Her spaces pull from timeless design concepts ranging from coastal contemporary to cozy cottage to Austin eclectic. Emotional connections, functional flow, and a touch of humor remain central to every interior design scheme. Her work has been published in national and local publications, including The Wall Street Journal, House Beautiful, HGTV Magazine, Better Homes and Gardens, and Austin Home. In her free time, she loves perusing estate sales and diving into design history. Learn more about Amity.