From the Architect's Desk
As Architects, we spend a lot of time talking and writing about design, ideas, strategies, materials, proportions and values. Indeed, I have covered many of these topics, as have many of my colleagues on the web.
However, this post is not about the finer points of design; it’s about business. Mine is a professional service business, but a business nonetheless. And in any “service” industry, even a professional one such as mine, the bottom line is our customer, the client.
As in any business, some of our customers are nicer or more reasonable or even more fun than others. There are those clients that even send an oh-so-special thank you note. There can be situations where the client is not a good fit with our firm and the relationship needs to end. That’s business. It is also true of business that we have good days and those less so, that we occasionally make mistakes and, dare I say, we have days that we are downright cranky. Speaking personally of course. Yet as service providers, we must deal with the customer on a regular basis. Without clients, there is no business.
So why is it that it is still such a hard lesson for businesses to learn, that customer service must be a priority? As Tara Hunt put it in her post at TaraHunt.com, “Even the most angry complaints can be handled. People are just upset and need to be heard. One of the best pieces of advice I ever heard was to respond to an angry complaint like this: Identify. Apologize. Assist.”
Wow, so true. We may not like customer or client complaints, but we ignore them at our peril.
I would love to think we are perfect here at my firm. That we never foul up an invoice or get a tad defensive when our best ideas are challenged. Or when the contractor, client and decorator’s last minute “on the fly” change during construction results in a huge mess. But no one is perfect. Instead, I would like to think that we can Follow up Beyond Belief and remember Tara’s advice above. Sometimes, helping to correct a situation means an uncomfortable conversation and a deep breath, but our clients are our customers. They deserve the benefit of the doubt and the occasional “Professional Courtesy” discount on their invoices or honest apology when we need to make it clear that we GET it.