Archive for the ‘Design Business’ Category

8 Ways to Offer White Glove Service

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courteous

What if each time a client walked in the door of your offices, she was offered mint-infused water in gorgeous glassware and a handmade chocolate truffle? What if you showed up for every appointment at her house, unruffled, fully prepared, and right on time? What if she never once had to pick up the phone to call you because you and your staff were in regular contact, anticipating her questions before she even knew she had them? What if you gave her an exquisite thank-you gift at the end of the project? What if you gave every client that iconic white-glove service? Wouldn’t YOU want to work with a company that did all of that? I know I would!

Designing a white-glove customer experience is like designing a room — you have to think carefully about every element. So here are 8 ideas that will help you create that incredible experience for your clients:

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1. Create a system for every point of contact. I want you to standardize all the points of contact with your clients by making checklists and setting up procedures so that you offer a consistently high level of customer service. If you have a system, you won’t drop the ball. And remember that your first point of contact is when a customer hits your website or calls your office, so be sure your brand is well represented in both of those areas, too.

2. Consistency is key. Do it the same way (fabulously) every single time for every single client. Besides the fact that it’s the right thing to do, also imagine how a client would feel if she compares notes with another of your clients and finds out she isn’t getting the same service. Yikes.

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3. Gifts are great. Who doesn’t like to receive a little present? Pampering clients with thoughtfully chosen gifts at key stages of the project is an easy way to elevate your level of customer service. They don’t have to cost a lot to mean a lot. And never forget the power of a handwritten note!

4. Don’t leave them hanging. After the exciting presentation and before the installation is one long quiet time, as far as your client can tell. So be sure you have a communication system in place to keep them up-to-date and to let them know that you’re working hard on their project.

5. Elevate your ideas. Look at every system and step you have in place, from your presentation to any gifts you give. How can you add a WOW factor to really take your customer service to the next level? It could be something like sending an on-site video to them to tell them how excited you are to see progress on their home, to giving them their own private page on your website.

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6. Do what you say you will. If you get down to basics, though, do you know what will make your client the absolute happiest? It’s if you can really deliver their project on time and on budget. So be sure you’re focusing on that as your top priority.

7. Own any mistakes. Hey, things happen – especially when there are so many moving parts to a project. But how you own up to your mistakes is what will really make your client feel like you care.

8. Say thank you. This seems so simple, but too many people forget it. Be sure to thank your clients for their business. They could have gone to anyone, but they chose you. Let them know you appreciate it – and don’t just stop with the end of their project. Check in with them throughout the year to let them know you’re still thinking of them.

Use these eight tips to take your customer service to that white-glove level! And let me know what you do to “wow” your clients in the comments section below.

xo,

Tobi-Signature

 

 

 

 

8 Tips for a Strong 4th Quarter Finish

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tough

Summer vacation is over, kids are back in school, and the holidays are 10 weeks away! It’s officially time to get your fourth-quarter game plan in place. You need a great strategy for finishing the year in a strong way, for getting through that holiday crunch, and to plan for an even better 2017.

To help you get your game face on, I have eight tips that will get you ready for the last three months of this year so you can greet the New Year in great shape!

1. Focus on what makes you money. This is the time to really put your efforts behind what makes you the most money – both in the short term and in the long term. Any tasks that don’t directly impact the bottom line should be outsourced or put aside.

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2. Make business your priority. It’s easy to get distracted during this time of year, especially as the kids head back to school and the holidays start to speed towards you. But those distractions can also have a not-so-great impact on your company if you let them. Be sure your business is a priority, too.

3. Close out any business that isn’t finished. Complete those punch lists, be sure your invoices have all been paid, and work hard to close the deal with any prospective clients.

4. Plan a holiday schedule. I’m not referring to the time you plan to take off during the holidays, although that’s important, too. But before everyone gets caught up in the celebrations, make a schedule of what you must accomplish for clients before the holidays start, and what has to be done before you or your employees take off. And start planning your client holiday cards and gifts right now, including recipient lists with addresses.

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5. Reach out to clients. Create a reason other than a sales call to get in front of clients. Invite key clients to lunch without an agenda, drop mums off at a client’s home, host a fall drop-in at your own home for clients and friends. Let your clients know how much you appreciate them, without any sales pressure! This type of networking is key to long-term relationships.

6. Plan for now – and later. Create a short-term business development plan (like #6 above) and set a date for a strategic planning session for 2017. This is the time to think about changing tactics, adding services, or fine-tuning your customer service.

7. Plant some seeds for early 2017. Any marketing and business outreach now will yield clients and press months from now, so start planting those seeds. You could start a marketing push for a “new year, new look” to prospective clients, or you could begin promoting yourself to local press. Start now to see these efforts pay off in 2017!

8. Enjoy your holidays! With all of this pre-planning, you should be able to really enjoy your holidays! It’s important to have that time with your family, and to recharge your batteries. So use these strategies to help you have a stress-free holiday season.

Do you have your game face on?! I know I do! Let me know what you think of these fourth-quarter ideas in the comments section below!

xo,

Tobi-Signature

 

 

 

 

10 Tips for the Most Effective Emails

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There is one thing that I think is critical to the best customer service, and that’s communication! Clients want to feel like they’re being heard, that you’re working hard on their project, and that you are being an effective steward of their money. The best way to let them know that is to tell them exactly how things are going.

My team and I send weekly emails to all of our clients to keep them up to date on every detail of their project. We want them to know that we really care about them and that we want to deliver the best result possible for them, every single time. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years it’s that there are great emails, and then there are emails that can cause communication to break down. So here are my top do’s and don’ts for getting the very most out of your emails:

1. DON’T write too much. People do not have time to read a novel via email, so tell them everything they need to know, but keep it concise and to the point.

2. DO get to the point quickly. Put the most important info at the top – it’s human nature to stop reading after a paragraph or two. People notoriously now have shorter attention spans than a goldfish (it’s true!), so be sure that you let them know the most critical things quickly.

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3. DO use proper grammar. It matters – it really does. So be sure everything is spelled correctly, that you’re using appropriate language, and that your email has a greeting, full sentences, and a conclusion.

4. DON’T get cute. Do not – and I mean don’t ever – use emoticons, funny fonts, garish colors, or any other “cutesy” items in your emails. You are a professional businessperson and there is just no place for all that in a business email. Also be careful with abbreviations.

5. DO reread before you hit send. Be sure you slow down and read the email several times before you hit send. Is it clear? Is it spelled correctly? Does it make the points you need it to?

6. DON’T cut corners. Email is notorious for creating misunderstandings, so be very careful about being abrupt or too terse. That can be perceived as being angry or irritated.

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7. DON’T deliver bad news. If something has gone haywire or off the rails, don’t use email as a crutch. That type of news should be delivered via phone, no matter how hard that can be. It’s unprofessional to use email for difficult conversations. And please don’t fire off an email when you’re mad – stop and let it simmer for a while before you hit send.

8. DO keep a record. If you are having important conversations on the phone or via text with a client, it’s equally important to have a record of that conversation. Use email to recap any points or decisions made on the phone. People can remember things differently, so it’s good to be sure everyone is on the same page.

9. DON’T send email after email after email. If you haven’t heard from a client after sending an email that needs a reply, you can send one more reminder email. But don’t annoy them by sending a flurry of emails one after the other. That’s the time to pick up the phone.

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10. DO reply. There’s nothing more irritating to a client than to send an email and hear crickets from you. They will fill that silence with all sorts of ideas, and I can promise you they won’t reflect well on you. Reply as soon as you can, and certainly within 24 hours. If you’re out of the office, have someone else on hand to take care of replying to your clients.

Hopefully these tips will help you be a fantastic email communicator! Let me know what you think in the comments section below!

xo,

Tobi-Signature

 

 

 

 

Introvert, Extrovert, Ambivert – Why It Matters

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I have a confession to make – I am not what I seem. Oh I’m definitely an open book for my business and life, but I just discovered something that should have been clear to me all along. I’m not actually an extrovert, I’m really an ambivert! There’s been so much in the news lately about who is an introvert and who is not, that experts are finally recognizing that there are people – like me – who may have some tendencies on both ends of the spectrum.

For example, I do get really energized by being around people, which is a classic sign of an extrovert. But after being at one of my events for a week, or at a market, or at social events for several days running, I need to be alone to recharge my batteries! Preferably in my jammies with a stack of books by my side. And that’s an introvert through-and-through. So when I read the definition of an ambivert, I felt like shouting out: “That’s me!”

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There’s a serious side to all of this talk of introverts and extroverts, though. Knowing where and how you get your energy, what you need to help you recharge, and how to communicate effectively with others is critical to your life – and your business. Early in my career, I let the extrovert side of me dominate in business. I would often get so excited about presenting my ideas to clients, for example, that I might not actually have listened to them as closely as I should have. Especially if I was dealing with an introverted client. I’ve learned to tamp down that extrovert enthusiasm and be a great listener for my clients.

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And an introverted designer – which is not the same as a shy person, by the way – needs to remember that silence is not always a good thing, either. They could be perceived by someone else as agreeing to something that they actually don’t even want just because they hold their thoughts to themselves. Sometimes introverts also forget to ask for feedback, which can also be a problem when working with clients.

Learning how to be a better communicator is so important for each of us, and it is critical in business where one wrong word can cause a potential deal to crumble. And we need to recognize what type of communication our clients need so we make them feel heard, too.

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For example, if a client is quiet during or after a presentation, it may not mean that she hates it or that she thinks it’s all fab. It could be that she just needs time to process it on her own or to get feedback from others. And that’s ok! On the flip side, an extroverted client may throw ideas out there, but doesn’t necessarily want you to take action on all of them. She may just be working through her thoughts verbally, which I should know extroverts love to do!

Misunderstandings can lead us into all sorts of issues – so knowing what your style is, and knowing how to adjust, can help you be a master at talking (and listening) to others. Do you know if you’re an introvert, an extrovert, or an ambivert like me? Let me know in the comments section below!

xo,

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How Are You Unique?

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Clients and customers have a lot of choice today, whether they’re looking for an appliance, a new car, or a service provider. There is so much choice out there that many people become overwhelmed. That means any brand that can stand out in a crowd is going to really have an advantage. So if a client is shopping around for designers in your area, how do YOU stand out? Do you know?

All of us are unique, but most of us don’t know how to put it into words or how to turn that uniqueness into a selling tool. For example, I have an MBA. Am I the only designer in the world who has an MBA? Of course not – but there aren’t many of us out there. And it’s a selling point for me because I will be a great steward of my client’s investment in her home. I’ll watch those numbers like a hawk and make sure she’s getting the most for her money. See what I mean? Something that sets me apart can be the thing that makes a client choose me over another designer.

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So I’ll ask it again – what sets you apart? It could be a special degree or a talent that no one in your area has – maybe you’re an amazing artist or you know a lot about construction. Or it could be that you have developed specific systems that help you complete a project faster than any other designer. Time is money for most people, so you can see how that could be a major selling point.

Or maybe you had a previous career in another field that gives you a unique perspective or different skill sets that you use now. You could even have a very specific design style that’s hard to imitate. Whatever it is, make a list right now of any talents, experience, or skills that you have. Again – I don’t expect you to the only person in the world who has that talent. But the sum total of your background and abilities is definitely going to set you apart.

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Once you’ve written that list, start thinking about how each thing on the list could apply to your business. Write that down next to each item on the list. And then start to write out how you would explain that to a potential customer.

The more you can identify what makes you unique, and the more you can describe that to clients, the more you’re going to be able to sell your services with confidence! You’ll be able to shine among that field of competitors. So be sure you use your uniqueness to define your “About” page on your website, and your descriptions of your services. We are all individual – we just need to be able to stand out in a crowd!

Let me know what you think about your unique abilities in the comments section below. I love to hear your thoughts, too!

xo,

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