There are so many times when I wish I could read my clients’ minds – so I could really understand what they want and need. I’m sure you’ve all had that feeling, too! It would make our jobs so much easier, right?! But after many years in the business, I do know that there is one thing that every single client really wants from all of us – to LISTEN to them.
And there is a big difference between hearing what they’re saying and really truly LISTENING. Sometimes, we’re in such a hurry to show them our brilliance and to sell them on how great we are that we’re not really paying attention to what they’re saying. We’re thinking about what WE want to say next.
But without hearing them – and that includes the things they AREN’T saying – we’re going to miss the mark. They aren’t going to be happy and we’re going to either miss out on the project entirely, or we’re going to finish the project with a not-entirely-satisfied customer. Not a great thing!
Start at the Beginning
To sharpen up those listening skills, start at the very beginning, when you first meet the client. They’re going to tell you exactly what they want – but some of the ways that they communicate won’t be verbal! Watch for squirming, looking down at the table, wringing their hands, sighing. All of those cues really give you some insight into what they want, and what they DON’T want.
And when they give you their ideas, their favorite colors, their lists of how they live in their home, pay attention and ask questions! Don’t interrupt and don’t assume! I remember that I once asked a client to pin things she loved to a pinboard, and everything happened to be blue. So I just knew she loved blue and delivered a design board full of that color. Yeah – she hated blue. That wasn’t why she pinned what she did, and it was my fault because I didn’t ask any questions! YIKES!
Show Them You Heard Them
Once you get to the presentation, show your clients that you listened to them! I like to use their own words for this. So I might say: “You told me that you loved the peonies in your grandmother’s garden, so I used this subtle peony wallpaper in the powder room.” You want them to really get that you HEARD what they wanted.
Clients REALLY want to feel that you “got them.” After all, being in their homes is an intimate experience. They want to trust you, to feel that you’re on their side. And the best way to do that is to let them know you took in everything they said.
Set a Schedule
Then throughout the project, you have to set time aside to continue to communicate – and listen – to your clients! I like to send an email every Friday to update my clients, but I also set a time to call them, too. Email is great, and really efficient. But again, clients want you to listen to them, too.
This is also the secret to the best customer service. If there is ever an error or issue, you want to communicate immediately with the client. BUT – and this is key – you also just need to listen. Sometimes clients need to vent before you offer a solution! It’s the best way to give them what they need.
To help you keep an open line of communication with your clients, download my FREE Client Communication Log! It will keep you on track with what your clients REALLY want!