KBB - November/December 2014 - 24

BUSINESS PRACTICE

High-Maintenance
Homeowners
Dealing with a challenging client can be arduous, but does it have to be?
Having spent some time selling kitchen and bath products in London,
I became very used to having to deal with the high-maintenance client.
Many of them expected the highest levels of customer service during the
installation of their project, but what happens when the requests start
becoming unreasonable?
As a designer or showroom dealer, you want to try your best to accommodate every item on the clients' wish list, but sometimes they want
something that just can't be done. In the past I have had clients request
a design that not only doesn't look good aesthetically, but compromises
the safety of the property.
So how do you manage this? If you say no to the client and they don't
get what they want, you may get bad feedback and no recommendation. And if you go along with the client, you could end up with an ugly or
unsafe design that will probably also lose work for you.

Set Parameters at the Project's Onset
A useful tool is a detailed qualification sheet where you record every
item the client requests and deal with any issues during the first meeting.
You should find out what they use the kitchen for - is it purely for cooking,
or is it a social room? How many people need to be seated in there at
any given time? Will children need a play area in the kitchen? The more
lifestyle questions you ask, the easier the design will become.
This exercise allowed me to take a lot of notes about what was required in the room and also nip any potential issues in the bud. To use
an example that happened to me in the U.K., a client requested a dishwasher, washing machine and dryer, but there was only room for two of
those appliances in the space. I then discussed the options of either going for a combined washer/dryer or putting the dryer in a utility room. By
doing this, I acknowledged the client's request, left him/her with no doubt
that what they want can't be achieved and offered alternatives. It makes
it hard for the client to attempt to change the design later because these
conversations took place in the early stages.

What NOT to Do
The worst thing you can do during a project is promise something that
can't be fulfilled. As soon as clients think something is possible, they will
expect it to be done. When you actually have to tell clients that what they
want can't be achieved, you suddenly have some very unhappy people
on your hands. I have heard this from salespeople who are so desperate
to close the sale, they will promise anything to make sure they do.
A former mentor once told me "Bad news is bad, late bad news is
unforgiveable." Most clients can deal with bad news if they are told at
the beginning of a project, but dashing their hopes when they have their

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heart set on something will only lead to bigger problems.

Tips for Dealing with a Difficult Customer
1.	 Record All Conversations. Once I filled in the client qualification
sheet, I got the customer to counter sign the document to confirm everything about which we had talked. This sheet can save you time, money
and conflict in the long run. The more comprehensive the note taking, the
less likely you are to have any misunderstandings. I find the designers and
dealers who have the most issues are those who prepare the least.
2.	Obtain a Signed Contract. The contract should contain every
project timescale and detail. This sends a message to the client that you
are a professional outfit, and there is no point trying to ask for something
extra, as everything has been itemized separately. If the client asks for
something pro bono, you need to explain that there is a cost attached
that will be added to the additional work section of the contract.
3.	Communication Is Key. During all installations, I called clients first
thing in the morning and last thing in the evening - even if I had already
visited the site that day. By doing so, I discovered any potential issues early
on and was able to deal with any impending pitfalls. Before we secure a
client's business, we need to be in communication with them all the time.
Once the business is secured, a lot of companies make the mistake of
leaving the client alone. This sends the message that you were only interested while trying to get their business.
4.	 Be Firm. Clients are no different than any other facet of the process
- they need to be managed. In the K&B industry, many clients have had
little experience spending money on a refurbishment. Be professional,
acknowledge every point the clients make, but be honest and realistic
with them. If something can't be done, tell them. If something has gone
wrong, apologize, explain the situation, and give them a solution.
5.	Remain Calm. No matter how unreasonable you feel a client is,
you must remain calm. There is nothing worse than seeing a stressed client trying to reason with a stressed designer or dealer. Often the client
is just annoyed with the situation. Don't take anything personally. If you
are feeling stressed about a particular client, remember that in a few
months he/she will be a distant memory.
Above all else, the best way to learn how to deal with a difficult client
is experience. Learn from every situation, and make note of what worked
and what didn't. Everybody makes mistakes, but if you try never to make
the same mistake twice, you will end up with the winning formula. n
- Paul Da Silva is the owner of Paul Da Silva Associates, a retail sales
consultancy. He has 20 years of experience in the K&B industry and can
be reached at pauldasilvaassociates@live.co.uk.

November/December 2014 / www.kbbonline.com / The Official Sponsor of KBIS www.kbis.com

11/11/14 11:00 AM


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KBB - November/December 2014

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of KBB - November/December 2014

KBB - November/December 2014
Contents
Online Contents
Editor’s Note
Show Director’s Note
People & Places
All Abroad
Universal Design
Business Practice
PRODUCT INNOVATOR AWARDS
KBIS Countdown to Design & Construction Week
Trends
Products What’s hot
Change is Good
Cover Story
Self-Storage
KBB - November/December 2014 - Intro
KBB - November/December 2014 - KBB - November/December 2014
KBB - November/December 2014 - Cover2
KBB - November/December 2014 - 1
KBB - November/December 2014 - 2
KBB - November/December 2014 - 3
KBB - November/December 2014 - Contents
KBB - November/December 2014 - 5
KBB - November/December 2014 - Online Contents
KBB - November/December 2014 - 7
KBB - November/December 2014 - Editor’s Note
KBB - November/December 2014 - 9
KBB - November/December 2014 - Show Director’s Note
KBB - November/December 2014 - 11
KBB - November/December 2014 - People & Places
KBB - November/December 2014 - 13
KBB - November/December 2014 - 14
KBB - November/December 2014 - 15
KBB - November/December 2014 - All Abroad
KBB - November/December 2014 - 17
KBB - November/December 2014 - 18
KBB - November/December 2014 - 19
KBB - November/December 2014 - Universal Design
KBB - November/December 2014 - 21
KBB - November/December 2014 - 22
KBB - November/December 2014 - 23
KBB - November/December 2014 - Business Practice
KBB - November/December 2014 - 25
KBB - November/December 2014 - 26
KBB - November/December 2014 - PRODUCT INNOVATOR AWARDS
KBB - November/December 2014 - 28
KBB - November/December 2014 - 29
KBB - November/December 2014 - 30
KBB - November/December 2014 - 31
KBB - November/December 2014 - 32
KBB - November/December 2014 - 33
KBB - November/December 2014 - 34
KBB - November/December 2014 - KBIS Countdown to Design & Construction Week
KBB - November/December 2014 - 36
KBB - November/December 2014 - 37
KBB - November/December 2014 - 38
KBB - November/December 2014 - 39
KBB - November/December 2014 - 40
KBB - November/December 2014 - 41
KBB - November/December 2014 - 42
KBB - November/December 2014 - 43
KBB - November/December 2014 - Trends
KBB - November/December 2014 - 45
KBB - November/December 2014 - 46
KBB - November/December 2014 - 47
KBB - November/December 2014 - Products What’s hot
KBB - November/December 2014 - 49
KBB - November/December 2014 - 50
KBB - November/December 2014 - 51
KBB - November/December 2014 - 52
KBB - November/December 2014 - 53
KBB - November/December 2014 - 54
KBB - November/December 2014 - 55
KBB - November/December 2014 - 56
KBB - November/December 2014 - 57
KBB - November/December 2014 - 58
KBB - November/December 2014 - 59
KBB - November/December 2014 - 60
KBB - November/December 2014 - 61
KBB - November/December 2014 - Cover Story
KBB - November/December 2014 - 63
KBB - November/December 2014 - 64
KBB - November/December 2014 - 65
KBB - November/December 2014 - 66
KBB - November/December 2014 - 67
KBB - November/December 2014 - Self-Storage
KBB - November/December 2014 - 69
KBB - November/December 2014 - 70
KBB - November/December 2014 - 71
KBB - November/December 2014 - 72
KBB - November/December 2014 - Cover3
KBB - November/December 2014 - Cover4
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