You get a call from a homeowner, “I want to remodel my kitchen. Is this what you do?”
“Definitely!” you reply. “I’ve been remodeling kitchens for over 20 years.”
“I love to entertain but my kitchen doesn’t work for me. Can you update it to impress everyone at my next dinner party in three months?”
“The timing is tight. I need more information so I can give you a realistic time frame.”
You ask some preliminary questions and agree to meet with the homeowners.
THE STORY CONTINUES…
After meeting with the homeowners for several hours, they hire you and you get to work immediately. You start with a plan that satisfies their unique requirements. You know from experience that their project requires enormous effort and time to get it right. Your customers balk at the estimate but you help them understand that their investment is necessary to get the desired results. Yes, they can remodel their kitchen for less, but it isn’t the same as a custom creation made with love.
You show the preliminary plans to your clients. They say it’s too bland and want more details. You bargain with them, and they agree to pay more, reminding you of their desired results. Then you get back to work and modify the plans. Time is running out.
Unfortunately, while you’ve been working on their plans, they’ve been talking with friends about their remodeling experiences. And they’ve searched online for alternative details. They want you to make significant changes to their plan. You’re frustrated, disappointed and angry because you’ve just sent their plans out for final estimates, accomplishing what you agreed to do. Do you:
Present a change order or a new agreement and negotiate a new price?
Provide the plans they want without more payment, hoping you’ll get referrals and good reviews?
Give up and refuse to work with them any further?
These are difficult questions with no easy answers. The response relates to our core values and the circumstances. Establishing and maintaining realistic expectations with our clients and dealing with scope creep immediately is crucial.
Exactly what is scope creep? Scope creep is adding new details to a project that you didn’t include in the original agreement. As a result, a project’s requirements grow uncontrollably. Scope creep begins when we agree to work with homeowners and don’t have a clear understanding of what they want. It can happen even when we do everything possible to prevent it, including actively monitoring the project. We’ve interviewed them and asked questions to get answers so we can give them the desired results. But, we need to ask ourselves if we’re asking the right questions to understand their personalities, beliefs and needs.
THE FOUR CLIENT TYPES
When gathering information for this article, I researched client personality types that can affect our working relationship. The names have changed since I first took a seminar at the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show, but the information is the same.
To establish realistic expectations and avoid scope creep, we must understand our clients’ motivations, intentions, behaviors and attitudes. It’s not enough to know our clients’ demographics. Understanding their psychographic information is essential for successful projects.
Psychographic information is vital, too, to help us establish our target audience. I wrote about this in the Planning & Design column in the April 2022 issue of KBDN. Here is a simple breakdown of the four client psychographic types:
- Analytical: Expect many questions about your products or services. These clients are trying to uncover hidden costs, looking for reasons to get a lower price. They need facts, statistics and sources. They love to-do lists, especially when it involves research.
- Driver: They’ll try to control the process from the beginning. It’s best if you show them how you will solve their problems. They don’t like small talk. Focus on the facts, not the emotions, with few details.
- Amiable: They’re looking for trustworthy people who will help them make step-by-step decisions. They can be indecisive. Be their guide. Ask questions to show your interest. Relate to positive human values and beliefs.
- Expressive: They are enthusiastic and will make small talk to bond with you. Show them real-life examples (case studies), not too much data. Tap into their emotions by being vulnerable.
I found many resources about the four client personality types on the web by simply using Google. The links include in-depth information, surveys and quick tests you can share with your clients.
One thing I learned is that we must become adept at asking open-ended questions that begin with:
- Tell me
- What do you think about (blank)
Then we must listen, interrupting only to interject similar questions.
I wrote about client expectations in the Planning & Design column in the January/February 2021 issue of KBDN (“Dealing With Client Expectations vs. Reality”). It’s a significant issue I’ve dealt with my entire career that’s still a nemesis.
Clients expect me to maintain the original contract price when they add features to the scope of their project. They don’t like changing the contract or receiving change orders whenever they ask for something new. It causes a rift in the relationship.
I thought if my agreement included details about expectations, it would help, but it didn’t solve the problem. So, as a result, I created a separate document entitled – you guessed it! – “Expectations.”
So far, my experiment is working. When my clients sign the agreement, I talk with them about their expectations and what I expect from them. Then, I tell them to look for an email with the expectations document. The next day, I send a copy of the expectations lists. Finally, I ask them to reply to the message, verifying that they’ve read, understood and agree with it. It seems like a lot of effort, but so is dealing with unrealistic expectations and scope creep.
Learning kitchen and bath design in college, I didn’t realize how much business-related work I’d be doing. There was only one business class in the four-year curriculum! Like most of my peers, I assumed I’d be creatively designing my clients’ bathrooms, kitchens and additions every day, all day, forever. Business would take care of itself without the burden of agreements, change orders, unrealistic expectations, scope creep, etc. Boy, was I wrong!
It has taken 38 years to learn the business of design. I’m still learning, still creating and designing. Thank goodness that the joy of designing outweighs the business management responsibilities. ▪
Diane Plesset, CMKBD, CAPS, NCIDQ is the principal of D.P. Design in Oregon City, OR and has over 35 years of experience as a kitchen and bath designer. She is the author of the award-winning book, THE Survival Guide: Home Remodeling, and is the recipient of numerous design awards. Named a 2019 KBDN Innovator, Plesset has taught Western design to students of the Machida Academy in Japan and has a podcast, “Today’s Home.”