Kitchen & Bath Design News

AUG 2014

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

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46 | Kitchen & Bath Design News August 2014 B eing a kitchen designer can be vastly reward- ing; the combination of industry knowledge and continuing education gives the kitchen professional great infuence over every- thing from design trends to product selections to how environmentally friendly a project will be. At the same time, the de- sign process itself presents numerous challenges, from dealing with clients' unre- alistic budget expectations to determining whether to employ design fees to keep- ing up wit h technolog y. And, while designers overall love the creative aspects of the job, many still dislike the business aspects, such as handling finances and dealing with business man- agement issues. That's according to a re- cent survey that looks at what it means to be a kitchen de- signer, from the greatest challenges to the best ways to learn about clients' needs, preferences and desires to when and how to "fre" a dif- fcult client. The newly released study, which polled more than 265 kitchen designers and deal- ers about the design process, was conducted by Kitchen & Bath Design News' research partner, the Research Insti- tute for Cooking & Kitchen Intelligence (RICKI), a Char - lotte, NC-based organization of manufacturers, retail- ers, wholesalers and others whose revenues derive from activities that take place in the kitchen. PAIN POINTS Design professionals may love what they do, but there are always some parts of the job that are less than fun, and topping that list is having to deal with clients who have unrealistic budget expectations. In fact, when asked about their biggest challenges, a whopping 79% cited this as a problem (see Graph 1). The next most com- monly cited challenge was clients who want free designs and then shop them around to competitors, with 55% of those polled mentioning this as an issue. Unrealistic design expec- tations were also cited by 37% of respondents as a key challenge, while 12% noted appliances specs and/or long lead times as major challeng- es. Of those surveyed, some 10% viewed a lack of creative opportunities and/or dealing with other professionals on the job as presenting dif- culties, while a mere 3% saw challenges relating to the availability of desired prod- ucts/materials. As for their least favor- ite part of the job, nearly a quarter (24%) said it was running the business and dealing with the financial and management responsi- bilities therein (see Graph 2). The next least favorite part of the job was being forced to design with very tight budget constraints, cited by 21% of survey respondents. Some 8% each mentioned dealing with subcontractors and keeping up with technol- ogy as less than desirable job responsibilities, while 7% each cited keeping up with new products and order- ing products/materials, 6% each pointed to dealing with clients and dealing with em- ployees/coworkers, and 5% viewed installations as the least favorite part of the job. While anyone in the cus- tomer service arena has likely had to deal with difcult clients at times, for kitchen designers, the stakes are higher: Unlike most one-time purchasing situ- ations, a kitchen project can take months to complete and cost tens of thousands of dol- lars. A relationship that sours during such a project can be both emotionally exhausting and fnancially damaging. So it should come as no surprise that more than half of those polled have "fred" a client at least once in the past. Indeed, some 49% admitted to fring a client once or twice, while an- other 6% said they've done this several times (see Graph 3). The most commonly cited reason for this was unrealis- tic expectations, or a sense that it would be impossible to please the client, noted by 33% of those surveyed. Some 30% said they'd fred a client for being difficult to work with or unwilling to listen to advice, while 16% dismissed a client due to personality conficts. Another 12% said they'd walked away from a client due to inadequate bud- get and 9% did so when the client was unwilling to pay for design services. Other reasons cited includ- ed indecisiveness, controlling behaviors, "couples issues" that were bleeding into the design process, demeaning or rude behavior, price shopping, or demanding things that sim- ply couldn't be done. THE PROCESS To better understand how dealers and designers do their jobs, RICKI also asked respondents about some of their business practices, from how they gather infor- mation from clients to what they think about designing collaboratively to whether they charge design fees. When it comes to fnding out about clients' likes and dislikes, the vast majority of designers believe that it's all about two-way communi - cation: 91% said they begin the process by having an ex- tensive discussion with the clients covering their needs, desires, preferences, likes and dislikes. Nearly three quarters (73%) also refer their clients to magazines or Web sites to provide additional design ideas and inspiration, while 62% take them on a tour of a kitchen showroom. From the survey, it's clear that two-way communication is favored; only 23% have pros- RICKI SURVEY By Janice Anne Costa A new survey looks at key elements of the design process, from how design professionals gather info from clients to their thoughts on design fees to how technology is integrated into the process. 1. Biggest Challenges for Dealers/Designers 79% Clients with unrealistic budget expectations 55% Clients seeking free designs & shopping them around 37% Clients with unrealistic design expectations 36% Clients who don't know what they want 12% Issues with appliance specs 12% Long lead times on products 10% Not enough opportunities to be creative 10% Dealing with other professionals 3% Availability of desired products/materials 3. Dealers/Designers Who Have 'Fired' a Client 6% Yes, several times 49% Yes, once or twice 45% No 2. Dealers'/Designers' Least Favorite Part of the Job 24% Running the business (fnancial and/or business management) 21% Doing design with tight budget constraints 8% Dealing with subcontractors 8% Keeping up with technology 7% Keeping up with new products 7% Ordering products/materials 6% Dealing with clients 6% Dealing with employees or coworkers 5% Installations 8% Other 24% 21%

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