Kitchen & Bath Design News

JAN 2019

Kitchen & Bath Design News is the industry's leading business, design and product resource for the kitchen and bath trade.

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Designers & Dealers on Difficult Clients WHAT DO YOU THINK? Email your feedback, contact information and the subject, 'Market Pulse' with your message to "I TAKE COPIOUS notes during meet- ings and phone conversations with clients. These notes outline the date, topic(s) and even the tone of our discussions. When a client has an issue, I will always refer them to a specific date/discussion that covered that issue. The ideal situation is email correspon- dence, where I can forward that thread of messages. We've been fortunate enough that we haven't had many difficult clients, but when we do, it's usually over the budget or timeline. In those cases, we haven't started their project and we will say that their needs would be better met at another firm [that offers] more affordable cabinetry." Christine FitzPatrick, owner/designer FitzPatrick Design, Inc. Larchmont, NY "THERE ARE, INDEED, moments when one should 'fire' a prospect or client. I have done so during my career and a number of times wished I had as well. It has proven important to make a distinction between style and substance when making the determina- tion to terminate. If style is an issue, another associate in our firm may be better suited to address the client. If substance is determined to exist, we will work diligently to commu- nicate that termination is likely best for all parties, and ask the clients what they believe will be the best and fairest way for all parties to part company. We note it will likely not make the situation lovely, but manageable for all parties. We do not always agree with their assessment but most always acquiesce to their position due to the horrible cost of conflict resolution and reputation degradation from adversarial activity." Max Isley, CMKBD, CEO/chairman Hampton Kitchens of Raleigh, Inc. Raleigh, NC "I FIND THAT most people just want to know that someone is listening to them. I try to provide them the uninterrupted time to speak their mind and then I ask specific and detailed questions to learn more about what their concern really is. I never interrupt them, I never question their feelings about the situation and never challenge them about the correctness of their concern. When they are done, I ask them what they feel would be a suitable resolution to their concern. And that is when we actually begin to solve their problem or concern. If we are in the beginning stages and we are not able to resolve concerns in this manner, I will usually suggest to them that we are not the right fit. If we are in the design phase, we will do our best to resolve their concerns before moving forward to the next phase. Sometimes we choose to not move to the next phase and suggest other firms that they might feel more comfortable completing the project with. In 30 years of business, there have been a handful of occasions where we have even given the client their design fee back in order to extricate the company from a relationship that we realize we will never be able to main- tain on good footing. The monetary cost to do this is easily outweighed by the potential for problems down the line, not to mention the stress, turmoil and disruption that tend to follow certain people." Todd Miller, architect QMA Architects Ventnor, NJ "THE WAY I handle difficult clients is by laying down some ground rules and setting boundaries early on. For example, during our first meeting I typically let clients know that each meeting will run approximately two hours and that a lot can be accomplished in that time if we stay on track. Meetings that last longer than two hours tend to wear clients (and myself !) out. Some clients can become apprehensive about a large reno- vation in their home, but I always reassure them that the end result will be well worth it and I'll be there every step of the way. If a client or potential client returns time and time again with no significant commit- ment to purchase, I explain to them that, in order to move forward, I'll need a deposit. I let them know I don't want to keep taking up their valuable time and when they're fully ready, I'll be here for them. Another thing I've learned the hard way is never give out your personal cell phone number. Most people are kind enough to call during normal hours, but let them call the office phone. Not everyone will respect your time off. Do make sure you call or email everyone who contacts you as soon as possible. If, for some reason, you can't get back to them the same day, make sure you contact them the very next morning. If you're off the next day, then don't leave until you contact them. I try to respond to everyone within two hours of getting their call/email." Shawn Landau, kitchen designer/sales KBS Kitchen & Bath Source White Plains, NY "TYPICALLY I FOCUS on the end result and the effort involved to get there. Sometimes you have to communicate more than usual, i.e. emails at the end of each day, and end these correspondences with questions that require a response from the client, thus more bridges crossed together. Be honest, and make sure expectations are established early on. I never walk away!" Dale Mohler, general manager Diamond Design, Inc. Lancaster, PA "IF YOU BEGIN with difficult clients, then the object of the game is to get them to be 'un-difficult.' Simple end result? No, it is not. My way of handling difficulty is com- plete and open conversation with both of the people involved. You get to a point where the question is answered in such a manner that all of the issues are on the table. You then take them one by one and come to an agreement or solution to each and every issue. If you find that the clients are not amenable to this type of an approach, then you [inform them of ] the fact that you will create an invoice if necessary to get paid on the percentage of completion, or you have the opportunity to continue on with the vow from all concerned that communi- cation is open and ideas and progress will be approved and signed off if required, so that everyone realizes the goal is to get out of there with happy or satisfied clients and a final complete payment for the project; otherwise, you walk." Dan Roberts, owner/operator Dan Roberts Kitchen and Bath Salt Lake City, UT How do you handle difficult clients? Do you have any specific strategies for maintaining a positive relationship and handling issues? At what point do you decide enough is enough and terminate your relationship with the client, and how do you do so gracefully? 8 Kitchen & Bath Design News • January 2019 MARKET PULSE READERS' OPINIONS ON INDUSTRY-RELATED ISSUES

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