Communication is EVERYTHING when it comes to providing a good client experience and ensuring that you’re the one steering the ship throughout each project! In this episode I’m diving into a few best practices to help you improve your client communication.

Your main goal as an interior design business owner is to ensure that all of your communication is clear and consistent so that your client always feels supported and in the loop. But just because it’s one of the most important things in business, doesn’t mean we’re all experts! 

Through the episode, I share the telltale signs that your communication skills likely need improvement, and ways you can set expectations for your design clients.

I talk about balance, availability, systems and processes to identify, avoid or fix common issues and what I’ve learned from my own mistakes. As designers, we need to take the lead in this arena, so this episode is going to equip you to do just that.



This episode is sponsored by Devix Kitchens

Read the Full Transcript ⬇️

Hey, hey, hey, it’s Rebecca. And you are listening to Resilient by Design. Today, I want to talk about communicating with clients. It’s something that doesn’t get enough attention. I think we focus so much on how we’ve set up our business, our marketing structure, how we deal with contracts and contractors and, but.

[00:00:19] Oftentimes, we forget that there’s a little bit of nuance to working with clients and communicating how you do things and being available to them but not being too available and all that jazz. So it is something that I talk about inside Power of Process. We have an entire module dedicated to communicating with clients.

[00:00:40] But I wanted to just sort of pull The key best practices that I recommend for communication with your interior design clients. So I’m going to talk about one of the telltale signs that people. Your communication skills likely need some improvement and then how you can start to set expectations Surrounding communication with your design clients.

[00:01:03] So here we go. Let’s make you a supreme communicator with your clients.

[00:01:10] So here we are, we’re talking about clients and I’m going to tell you the thing that I say to my team, and I’ve been saying this now for a few years and I talk about this in pop, but I always say, if a client reaches out to us asking us what the next steps are that we have failed in doing our job, we have failed in our communication.

[00:01:36] So here’s the thing. If your client is wondering what’s coming up next. The chances are that you haven’t set the stage for what to expect with working with you. And that’s where I think it’s so, so important to be constantly in communication. But what I mean by that isn’t just like calling them all the time, sending them text messages, sending them emails.

[00:01:57] Okay. There’s one aspect that could be true to [00:02:00] like constantly being in touch with them, but it’s so much more robust than that. And so I’m going to walk you through today some of those reasons and the ways that you can better improve your communication practice with your clients. And I can tell you that this never happens anymore.

[00:02:14] It is very, very, very, very, extremely, very, very, very rare. That a client will call us or email us and say, what’s coming up next? I’m so happy that happened. What’s gonna, what’s going on? What’s the next step? It’s so rare that I say like if it ever happens, we’ve totally, totally failed. So you need to take the lead on the communication with your client.

[00:02:39] You are the guide. You are the expert. You are the professional throughout the duration of the project and your time working with your client. Like you’re the one in charge. This is your Rick and show. This is like you’re in charge, you’re on stage. You need to take the reins. The last thing a client. Now, I’m going to say the last thing a client wants.

[00:03:00] Some clients want to be in control, and you all know those types of clients. We’ve all had them. But I would think the majority of clients are hiring you because they want you to show them the way. They want you to do something for them. It is a service-based business. They are hiring you for your services, whatever that looks like, whatever your core offering is.

[00:03:20] And that’s something that we really dive into inside Power of Process is determining what is your core offering and does it fits with your ideal client because that’s another opportunity for miscommunication. If you’re doing something one way and your client’s expecting that you’re just going to be picking paint colors, meanwhile, here you’ve gone ahead and selected all the furniture, there’s a disconnect.

[00:03:38] So. I’m going to walk you through some of the best practices for communicating with clients so that you can avoid that phone call or that email that says, Hey, this is, we’re really happy so far, but like, so what’s coming up next? Cause I can tell you that clients, when they ask that question, Don’t always feel fully taken care of and it’s not that they [00:04:00] don’t trust you they might still trust you but the more that happens it can start to erode their trust in you and so the more they feel like you’re winging it because you’re not educating them on here’s we’ve done this we’ve done A, B, and C and next up is D, E, and F.

[00:04:15] Then that can affect your working relationship. It starts early and often. I always say you need to establish your communication methods early in the process. Before you’ve even started working with them, you need to talk about what it looks like. look like and how are you going to work and communicate with them once they hire you.

[00:04:35] And then once they’ve actually hired you, I recommend that you put together a welcome package and inside that welcome package, you would include a page or half a page or whatever you want that is about how you communicate. It’s your expected method of communication. It’s important that you have this and that you walk your clients through it so that they clearly understand Because sometimes clients can step, can step over the line.

[00:04:59] They can overstep. They can take advantage. So for us, we always say that we can communicate by phone. We have an office landline that they can call Monday to Friday, nine to five. And there is an email address and we give them the email addresses of anybody who would be important to their project. And then of course we give them our address and that’s it.

[00:05:20] We don’t give them cell phone numbers and then we also tell them when our office hours are and that we do not operate outside of those hours. It’s very important. We also encourage clients to email us. We say it is the best, best method because I can tell you early in my early, early, early, I, I mean, I only had a cell phone, right?

[00:05:41] I didn’t have a landline and I would text with clients and they would text with me. And it’s like, you know, that saying, if you give an inch, they’ll take a mile. I had a specific client where things were going sideways with their contractor. They didn’t want to pay him cause the work wasn’t getting [00:06:00] done and then I got kind of pulled into the mix and I was getting angry text messages and they weren’t angry at me, but she was taking out her frustration for the process of the project and the contractors messing up.

[00:06:14] And it was so emotional and heated that I would get messages that I was pregnant at the time with my second child. And I remember getting messages at 11 o’clock at night. I was in bed with my husband. I mean, obviously, I now have much better boundaries. I do not like checking my phone, but also my clients don’t text me anymore.

[00:06:30] So even if I do check my phone, if I see a text message, it is always Only from family and friends. It was extremely toxic for me to be in that situation. It wasn’t fair of the client to put me in a session in that situation, but I let her by opening up the floodgates for communication via text. You have to determine what your boundaries are and communicate those early.

[00:06:52] The next best practice would be establishing those office hours, those things that are inside of that document, that information that’s inside the document. And you don’t have to have an office or a studio. Heck, you could be working out of your bathroom for all I care, but you need, I mean, I wouldn’t take pictures of you doing that, but you know, you deserve to unplug and unwind when you’re not at work.

[00:07:14] Working. And so I think now more than ever because so many of us are working from home, there can be a tendency to like, Oh, I’m just going to check on this thing, or I’m just going to continue working on that spreadsheet or let me just see how that mood board is looking. And that’s fine if you choose to do some work in your own time, but I don’t think we should let our clients into our personal time.

[00:07:33] And so I recommend using those working hours. It’ll let the client see that you have boundaries and you will be able to better communicate with them. And let’s face it, it looks way more professional. The next is, I would say, give them a phone number that is not your personal number, but I recognize that is not okay for everyone.

[00:07:55] So what you could also do is turn off notifications at a certain time, power off your [00:08:00] phone at a certain time so that they’re not seeing the like, Oh, she read my message or what have you. Because personal cell phones do invite clients to connect. during those off hours. Emails could come through.

[00:08:16] Don’t read them. Because the problem is, once you read that email, it’s on your brain. Even if you don’t respond, then you have to spend time on Monday rereading the email and then replying to the email. You could even pause. You could pause your email for the weekend if you feel so brazen. I’ve never done that or so brave.

[00:08:33] Like, good for you if you can. But, I think it’s a great idea. Turn off your slack. Like, that’s internal, these are now, talking, now I’m getting into boundaries a little bit more. But, with the clients, if you can, get another number that is not a Or find a way to have that personal number not be used where you could just, I guess you could ask your clients to simply email you instead, or anytime they text you, you could just redirect them to email and just say, thanks so much.

[00:08:58] I’m going to reply in an email, right? Just keep redirecting them until they get the idea. They get the picture. They’re like, okay, yeah, I’m going to stop texting her. She prefers email. And if they do text you and I had this conversation with actually it was with Catherine of Catherine Joy Interiors on the podcast.

[00:09:14] And she was saying that you know, she gets a text from a client as off hours. She doesn’t respond to it until she’s like back on a Monday morning, which I think is brave and amazing. Okay. Maybe you have employees or you have independent contractors or freelancers that are going to be in touch with the clients during any part of the process during any part or period of their project.

[00:09:38] I highly recommend you introduce these people either in person or virtually or in an email at the beginning of the project. So often when I was, you know, a few years into my business and I knew I was going to be bringing on designers to help, but I wouldn’t bring them in right away because I wanted to wait and see if the project really turned into a job.[00:10:00]

[00:10:00] So I’d go to the consultation and I wouldn’t bring a designer with me or I’d bring the Just anyone who could help. And I wasn’t clear to the client that they were going to have a project lead that wasn’t me. So that then once they paid me and we were like, okay, we’re setting up trade day. It almost was like a bit of a bait and switch where they thought they were getting me.

[00:10:20] And here I’m like, and here’s, you know, here’s Gallup. He’s going to be your senior designer. He’s going to be, Be your main point of contact and they were kind of like, what I thought you were so just make sure that if you do have a team member on your team, who’s going to help, whether it be somebody who’s simply going to be emailing the client, giving them updates, it could be someone, an administrator, make sure you introduce the client and say, this is, this is Alberto.

[00:10:43] He’s in charge of our administration. You can expect to hear from him for invoicing for order placement, et cetera. This is Ashley. She’s our senior designer. You can expect to hear from her, blah, blah, blah. You just need to determine what that is for you, but please include that connection with your clients early.

[00:11:00] This one goes without saying as a best practice for communication, but I’m going to say it anyway. Set an out-of-office reply if you’re away. From your work, if you’re away from your desk for an extended period of time, obviously not if you’re just going to the bathroom, but whether you’re on-site for a morning, maybe you’re off for the day skiing or playing golf, or you’re on an extended vacation, please set an auto-reply.

[00:11:25] There’s nothing wrong with telling your clients that you are not available. What’s great about it is it lets clients know that their email has been received and that you’re just going to get in touch. so much. At the next chance you get, as opposed to you ghosting them and not responding to their email for a couple of days.

[00:11:42] I, you know, sometimes we’ll switch up these out-of-office replies, it’ll be quirky, it’ll be fun, and I’ll say like, Oh, like I’m, I don’t know, it’s, it’s Valentine’s Day and so I’m taking some romance, you know, I’m having some fun with the romance. I don’t know, I don’t say that. You can, you can get quirky and funny if you want if that’s your [00:12:00] jam.

[00:12:00] But. I really do like doing this, especially leading up to a reveal. So if we have like a week of installations and it’s like back and forth and different members of the team are on-site and we’re coordinating deliveries and you know what those days are like, it’s really hard to be on top of your email while also be helping the art installer place and hang the art, rolling out the carpet, polishing, like all the things that are happening.

[00:12:24] And so during. During those install weeks, I will put an out-of-office reply and let them know we are busy serving our clients. You know, it’s installation week. It’s an exciting time for her. Our team, we’re dedicated to our clients. And so we are all like boots on the ground on the job site. So we will be a little slower to respond.

[00:12:43] What I like about that is not only does it let them know that like, okay, we got your email. We’ll get back to you soon. But it also shows them that you really prioritize your clients so that when it’s their turn. They’re going to get the same we’re going to get the same attention from you. Let’s talk about what I mentioned early on in this episode, guys, this is like a teaching episode.

[00:13:04] I feel like, I feel like this is a lot of like, do this, do this, do this. You guys might already do some of these things and I might be stating the obvious, but for someone who’s new and hasn’t even started their design firm, this is probably really useful advice. So like, hang in there. I’m going to have a few more juicy nuggets as we go through.

[00:13:21] The next one is to email your client on a regular schedule. This is something I talk about a lot inside POP. It’s important to develop a consistent schedule for email communication. This way your client can learn to count on you. And they don’t have to worry about asking because they know they’re always going to get that email from you.

[00:13:40] We used to do our weekly updates, or we call them progress what do we call them? I think we call them progress, no. Progress, I don’t know. I obviously am not the one writing them anymore. I don’t remember. Something to do with progress, updates, something like that. Project progress. That’s what it is. We used to do it on [00:14:00] Fridays, but then we found clients who were emailing us over the weekend and that stressed me out.

[00:14:03] So now we do them on Thursdays. That way we’ve got Friday if the client wants to like get in touch with us to talk about anything that comes in that email, we do it. But they always know. And I can tell you that. But clients start to, clients start to look forward to these emails. They say, Oh, I always, I’ve had clients say, I always love getting your update email, Rebecca.

[00:14:22] It’s just so exciting. I know I’ve been talking to you all week, but there’s something about that email. I just love knowing that you guys are on top of things. Do it. It’s a game-changer. Anytime. Here’s the next one. This is a good one. And this is the last big juicy one. If you come from corporate, you probably already know this.

[00:14:42] Took me a long time to learn this. Always, always follow up via email after an in-person meeting or discussion. I’m going to repeat that one for the cheap seats at the back. Always, always follow up in an email. After an in-person meeting or discussion, you want to make sure that what was discussed verbally is captured and documented to ensure that everyone is on the same page, ensure that you have a key, a record, a written record of key decisions, and to make sure that you didn’t misunderstand or mishear something, and you send it to all parties who are present so everybody can confirm, yes, that is what we agreed on, the plumbing is happening next Tuesday, yes, you’re correct.

[00:15:34] We like to call these sorts of our site note summaries. So after we’re on site, the designer who’s with you will go back and type up our site notes. And it’s just a summary of everything that was discussed and talked about, and then we send it to all parties. That way there can be no confusion and none of this, Oh, he told me on-site.

[00:15:53] Oh my God. Does nobody remember that? You know what I’m talking about? Okay. I mean, [00:16:00] as your business starts to grow, especially as you start to grow your team, Okay. You want to make sure that you have a clear communication policy so that everybody’s on the same, everyone’s on board. All of your clients know and expect to hear from you at a certain time.

[00:16:15] They know how to communicate with you and you can help to eliminate miscommunication. So many times where I’ve found frustration on site between a contractor, designer, and client, it often comes back to a miscommunication. And oftentimes it’s completely, it’s a simple, honest mistake, right? It’s like, Oh, I heard this and Oh, I assumed that’s the other one.

[00:16:41] I assumed they were talking about that thing, but it was the other assumptions that are the absolute worst thing in business. Never make an assumption ever period. Don’t assume, because that’s when things start to go sideways and you can start to lose and erode the trust that your client has. Okay. So, assess the communication that you’re in, where are you at with your communication right now in your business?

[00:17:07] Is it something you think is already a well-oiled machine? Maybe it’s something that you feel like you need to work on. That’s something I dive deep into inside Power of Process. You know, you can even get access to the welcome guide that I share with clients. It is, we have all these extra templates this year that we’ve included.

[00:17:26] And I think you’ll really feel fine that that is encouraging and supportive. What I also love about Power of Process is the community. So you might have an, if you have a client communication challenge or an issue, or the client said this, or I’m feeling frustrated. You can voice that in the group, not just in the Facebook group, but like in Zoom with other designers.

[00:17:44] Let’s talk through what’s going on in your business and let’s help you figure it out. Because when there’s a breakdown in communication, there often tends to be strife, frustration, And mistakes. My, [00:18:00] I guess I would say my what’s the word? My, not my ask, because you don’t have to do this. My challenge, my challenge to you would be to create a communication policy if you don’t already have one.

[00:18:11] Just go into Google Docs, it’s a one-pager. What do you want your communication policy to be? Maybe you’re not quite there yet, and maybe this is just sort of idyllic, like, Oh my God, I would love to not talk to clients on weekends. I would love to not go to consultations in the evening. Start writing it down, like you’re envisioning the future of your business.

[00:18:30] And slowly but surely, you will find that you find ways to implement this into your business, and it is going to make it a lot less chaotic and a lot more fun. I hope this episode inspired you to pay a little bit closer attention to how you are communicating with your client and possibly I’ve inspired you to create a communications policy for your business.

[00:18:51] Let me know. I hope to see you inside Power of Process where we can fine-tune all of this fun stuff. This is all part of having systems and processing your business. It makes running a project that much easier. Okay, guys, I’ll see you soon.