As you may have figured out by now, I’m one of those people who asks a lot of questions and then asks questions about the questions. At some point, while I’m researching a topic, I will have clicked so many additional links and read so much material that I may even forget what my initial question was. I like to consider this my creative mind in full-blown “sponge mode”. (Laughing at the image that just popped into my mind!) Knowing who I am and how deep into the details I get, I often wonder what it’s like to encounter people like me in the selling process of your business. (I think the word nightmare comes to mind.) To expand on that question, if I were in your shoes and were meeting with multiple clients (and subsequent personalities) in a given week, how would I approach them in an effort to provide the best service and experience knowing that each person’s needs are very different?
We all know that there are great tools available for the kitchen design process, like the ones found here, but could you create a questionnaire that would display a client’s character and personality? The thinking on this is that if we knew all the potential pain points in advance we could align our process and service to avoid mishaps. Nice idea, right? Well, sure it is if you plan to put all of your potential clients in a psych analysis chamber before you even agree to work with them, let alone provide the best possible customer experience!
Now, knowing that a psych evaluation is not a viable solution, nor a good experience for your client, what can be done to help you get to the core of the biggest challenge we face: Meeting client expectations? Enter the idea of using Persona Development. This is a topic often used in Marketing, but as I looked into this further, I thought the same could apply to our business models. Here’s my take on what that could look like:
Persona – Definition and Translation
At a very high level, developing a persona in our business would translate into generalizing a majority of your clients into one that is typical. Note: This means that the lesser percentage of clients that blow your mind as to all reasonable explanation of what could go wrong are not who you’re considering as your primary audience. So let’s focus on your typical client. Now, imagine one of these clients from a memorable project; someone who you would say experienced a pain point or two along the way. Make note of the challenge(s) encountered. Assuming you have at least one topic listed, use this to start building a Persona questionnaire. In other words, create questions you think you could have asked based on the pain point experience. Below is a list of questions that I’ve translated from developing personas that I feel are relevant to the success of a project, but feel free to create a list of your own that is more specific to your client example(s).
Questions to create your client Persona
- How would they define success as it pertains to this project?
- (a) Have they done a project like this before? (b) What types of challenges do they foresee with this project?
- Do they prefer detailed or high-level information?
- Do they prefer receiving information via email, phone call, or an in-person meeting?
- How often do they like to hear from you – regularly or as changes and challenges arise?
With these questions and those that you have created, meet with your colleagues and ask them to do the same. Or just talk with them about unpleasant experiences they have had with clients and take note of their topics. I have a feeling you’re going to find repeating themes. The last step in this process is to develop a final set of questions, just like you have for establishing design priorities, that you can use in conversations with your client. They provide meaningful information and you get to know your client better.
I would add one last overarching “elephant in the room” question: Is there something that you wished you would have known about your client before their project began? If yes, then this is a good way to devise questions for your future clients. For example, if you would have known they were going to have a meltdown when they realized that their faucet was not centered on the window like the rendering depicted, then you could assume that this person is very detail oriented. (Question number 3 above.) This experience would tell you that there is no such thing as too much information for this type of client. Accurate elevations, plan views and a detailed note list would standard inclusions. By the way, my example is a true story of a client in my past who chose an offset sink shape, which placed the faucet off-center from the window mullions above the sink. I can attest to the fact that every element that resulted in a dissatisfied customer could have been avoided had I realized their attention to detail was extreme!
If your client is uncertain if they are more “big picture” vs. “detail oriented” maybe they would entertain a quick quiz. It may sound a bit far stretched, but if they understand that your goal is to provide the best possible service, they might just go for it. If nothing else, consider it something that they will remember as a fun experience with you! I’m sure there are many options available for this, but here’s a quick survey I found that asks some easy questions and then spits out a result explaining which way the user sways. I took the survey and laughed a little. I scored 46 out of 100; with zero being “extreme detailed” and 100 being “dude, let’s go surfing”. I know a few of you are going to take this quiz…oh won’t you please share your results?!