trade tales | Mar 8, 2024 |
How do you deal with project delays?

Whether it’s the ongoing Red Sea crisis or the once-rampant supply chain slowdowns of the pandemic, delays are often out of your control. What’s in your control? How you deal with them. This week, we asked eight designers—Miranda Cullen, Brittney Ferguson, Kristen Fiore, Eddie Maestri, Ruchi Agrawal Mohan, Carrie Moore, Tiffany Skilling and Connie Vernich—how they communicate with clients about these setbacks and how they manage them internally.

How do you deal with project delays?
Tiffany SkillingCourtesy of Tiffany Skilling

Navigating the Unknown
“The journey to a beautiful custom design is more of a captivating, winding adventure than a straightforward path. There may be bumps in the road, but our team prioritizes transparency and communication when there are unexpected challenges so we can reach the final destination—a stunning masterpiece. When clients understand that we are their partner regardless of where the journey takes us, delays are simply a manageable challenge for us to navigate together. Our operations team reviews orders daily and quickly flags potential issues. At that point, we connect with our client to decide whether to pivot by canceling the order and respecifying the product, or to wait because it is the perfect selection for the space. At times, waiting for the item makes it that much more special once finally received!” Tiffany Skilling, Tiffany Skilling Interiors, Indianapolis

How do you deal with project delays?
Eddie MaestriCourtesy of Eddie Maestri

Sooner the Better
“[We always communicate] as quickly as possible when we know there is going to be a delay, and honestly, that goes a long way. I find that a client would rather we tell them straight up that we are still in the process of perfecting their design. If it’s a delay from a vendor, we want to get ahead of it and give the client the opportunity to adjust their expectations and schedules as needed, and to reselect another item as soon as possible if they should choose to do so.” Eddie Maestri, Maestri Studio, Dallas

How do you deal with project delays?
Ruchi Agrawal MohanCourtesy of Ruchi Agrawal Mohan

Overcommunication Is Key
“I have a practice of overcommunicating with my clients, and it’s always helpful. During Covid, delays were more frequent, and it was easier to share that bad news because the reason was ‘the global pandemic.’ In current times, for most of my projects, delays have been fewer. But when they happen, I let my clients know promptly with an email. Internally, I add checks on my project management tracker. I also update the trades if it has an impact on the installation schedule. Sometimes, good things come from delays. I’ve been in situations where the delay is hard to absorb, in which case, I get our money back and I find an alternative piece, which works out better.” —Ruchi Agrawal Mohan, DesignbyRuchi, New York

How do you deal with project delays?
Brittney FergusonCourtesy of Brittney Ferguson

Slow and Steady
“[We navigate delays] openly and honestly. I am just as frustrated as they are, but when it comes to custom furniture, most of my clients understand great craftsmanship takes time. If they are behind, it’s because my fabricators are serious about their quality. No one wants a rushed piece.” —Brittney Ferguson, Brittney Ferguson Interiors, Beaumont, Texas

How do you deal with project delays?
Kristen FioreCourtesy of Kristen Fiore

Consistent Reminders
“Delays in the industry are uncontrollable. We try to prep our clients in the beginning with a short education about the industry, how things work and what to expect. And some of that is product delays. It can happen for a number of reasons—damages, mistakes, shipping, freight, labor, everything! We make sure that it is in our contract upfront; we repeat it in our first client-designer meeting; we include it in our welcome package; and when the time comes to deliver the unfortunate information, the client could be disappointed but is not devastated. On the back end, we check in with the vendor at least weekly and try to get hard dates about when to expect the shipments. We are in constant contact with our clients so they know we are on it and looking out for their best interests.” —Kristen Fiore, Kristen Elizabeth Interior Design, Sacramento

How do you deal with project delays?
Connie VernichCourtesy of Connie Vernich

Keep Clients Involved
“Delays? What delays? It is getting better, but delays are inevitable, especially in this day and age. We have a paragraph in our LOA that states that we are not responsible for delays and that they are out of our control. That paragraph is highlighted in red. We also let them know upfront before the job begins that things can go wrong in this industry and that we will do everything in our power to keep them up to date with changes or delays. Honesty is the best policy. I used to be so afraid to give clients bad news. Now it is something I do not lose as much sleep over, because we are communicating from the start. If they know from the start delays may happen, they will not get so frustrated when their items do not come in when they expected. Each Friday, our client receives a room-by-room report on where their furniture is. We let them know whether it has shipped or has been received. Keeping clients involved on where things are really shows them we are on top of things and care about their process.” —Connie Vernich, Vernich Interiors, Nashville

How do you deal with project delays?
Carrie MooreAbigail Jackson

Managed Expectations
“An informed client may not always be a happy client, but they are often more easily appeased when all doesn’t go as planned. The era of Covid quarantines is over, but we know that many supply chains remain fractured or irreparably unreliable, and many subcontractors are still so in demand that it’s hard to predict their availability. Keeping an open and honest line of communication with vendors and subs helps prepare for bumps in the road. Never overpromise on timelines such that you ultimately end up underdelivering. Every designer wants to make their clients happy; however, it’s important to be upfront and realistic with them—design takes time, and executing a design takes even more time. Try to forecast where and when delays may occur, and lay track with clients so they aren’t blindsided by a delay. It’s important to be realistic about how much agency you have in correcting timeline issues and accepting what you don’t actually have control over. You’re simply at the mercy of others. Be adaptable and open to changing course when the situation calls for a design change. Embrace the creative challenge of compromising one’s original vision when it will benefit the client. Sometimes that new solution is even better!” —Carrie Moore, Carrie Moore Interior Design, Durham, North Carolina

How do you deal with project delays?
Miranda CullenCourtesy of Miranda Cullen

Keep It In-House
“There’s no easy way [to tell clients about delays]—you just rip off the Band-Aid! We have our own in-house procurement team, and they pull monthly reports on our current projects and keep our designers and clients up to date on the status of furnishings. Once orders are placed for a project, we know estimated ship dates within three to four weeks. We then anticipate our furnishings installation [date], and if there is a contractor involved, we take that into consideration as well. Inevitably something becomes delayed, and we are very honest about it! We tend to overcommunicate, which gives clients peace of mind; they know it’s our goal to get items to them as quickly as we can. Most of the time they are understanding about any delays; sometimes not so much, in which case there might be sweet treats or flowers to accompany the message.” Miranda Cullen, Inside Stories, Denver

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