How to Communicate With Clients During the Coronavirus Crisis
An interior designer suggests encouraging remote meetings and keeping clients apprised of their project’s status
One of the most important steps you can take during this time is to show concern for your clients and their health. You might consider sending an email to them, as well as to the leads in your pipeline, letting them know you’re monitoring the local public health situation, and expressing concern for their health and that of their families.
Every community right now is facing differing messaging from local public health agencies, so stay up to date with and acknowledge what is happening in your own community. People may have their children at home. People may feel stressed. Keep your message calm and reassuring.
This would also be a good time to let your clients know of any changes you might be making to your normal business procedures, such as encouraging remote meetings. If things are mostly business as usual, tell them about any practices you’re implementing to keep people safe during project installations.
Government agencies have suggested limiting social contact – the trending term is “social distancing”. This means reducing the social interaction between people.
Regardless of whether your client wants to meet with you, you may not want to meet with them. Personally, I have been initiating conversations with clients via telephone and email to let them know that, because of the current public health crisis – and out of concern for the safety and wellbeing of everyone – we are encouraging electronic communication methods for as much business as possible.
Fortunately, being able to communicate electronically has already become the norm. Sharing Ideabooks on Houzz is the perfect way to kick off a project remotely and means your clients can review their projects 24/7.
Project drawings can be reviewed using Adobe PDF files and allow clients to add comments and make mark-ups. For reviewing plans, I like to have the client on the phone or use a screen-sharing platform, as many clients do not fully understand how to read a plan. I also suggest having your staff members listen in via conference call or screen sharing, so no detail is missed.
Check out how to use Houzz to help you work remotely.
What we have done successfully in the past – in our case, for remote clients – is to send the client a fabric selection packet labelled with our own personalised codes and arrange an online meeting to review it. Now is a good time to extend this practice even to local clients – again, for social distancing.
It’s a good idea to work apart from other people as much as we can. For design pros, it’s great news that the design management software platforms allow multiple users to access the data, so staff can work remotely and concurrently on projects.
Programs make it simple to work on drawings remotely and as a team. These platforms show a log of who has worked on each item and when, so you can be sure you’re accessing the latest information.
If you’re working with an architect, consider attaching their drawing to yours as an AutoCAD Xref, so any changes they make and either upload or send to you will update your drawing without affecting your own work.
Project meetings with a general contractor or other subs can be conducted remotely as well, in real time, with applications such as Skype or Zoom. It’s easy to ask them to pan up, so you can see a ceiling detail, or pull a tape on an area that needs attention. Send specifications via email and update as any changes are made. Make sure you send revised drawings that correlate with any spec updates.
Stay safe! And remember that we all need social contact during this anxiety-provoking time, so keep in touch with your loved ones through FaceTime, Skype, WhatsApp and all our other wonderful online communication tools.
Beth Whitlinger has been in the design business for nearly 40 years. When she’s not guiding interior designers through her coaching business, The Interior Design Coach, she’s the principal designer at Beth Whitlinger Interior Design.
How are you adjusting your business practices to shift to remote working? Let us know your thoughts in the Comments section.