trade tales | Jul 5, 2019 |
Out of office: Keeping clients happy while you’re away

In a profession where so much depends on regular communication with clients, pulling off a vacation can be tricky. How can you unwind when your inbox keeps filling up? We spoke with six designers—Betsy Burnham, Nancy Charbonneau, Justin Q. Williams, Julie Massucco Kleiner, Melissa Warner Rothblum and Eneia White—about how they keep their clients happy (and at bay) while on vacation.

Schedule Pre- and Post-Vacation Check-ins

Julie Massucco Kleiner
Julie Massucco KleinerCourtesy of Massucco Warner Miller

“For us, client happiness begins with setting, managing, and then exceeding expectations and needs any time of the year. Clients who feel taken care of and prioritized all the time don’t necessarily see a vacation as anything other than a calendar shift reflecting a rescheduled site visit or meeting rebooked. As business owners in a service-oriented industry, sometimes we have to be available for a 10-minute call or text exchange if an issue crops us that is unavoidable and might need our quick decision. The potential for being interrupted on vacation is a small price to pay for getting to do something we love day in and day out. We always schedule a meeting with clients before leaving, so they feel things can make progress via our team while we are gone, and also put a meeting or two on the calendar for after we’re back so everyone feels taken care of in advance.” —Julie Massucco Kleiner and Melissa Warner Rothblum, Massucco Warner Miller, Los Angeles and Seattle

Nancy Charbonneau
Nancy CharbonneauCourtesy of Charbonneau Interiors

Set Expectations—and Boundaries Around Work Hours

“It’s important to manage expectations and let my clients know exactly when I will be away and at what times I will be able to hop on my computer and address work. While some people might love to completely unplug when they’re on vacation, it brings me a lot of peace of mind to set aside 30 minutes each day to either respond to emails and address any client-related items, or delegate a few tasks to the rest of my team. Knowing that things are being taken care of while I’m away is a big relief on my end.” —Nancy Charbonneau, Charbonneau Interiors, Conroe, TX

Always Over-communicate

Justin Q. Williams
Justin Q. WilliamsCourtesy of TradeMark Design Co

“I’ve found that by over-communicating, many issues are avoided. You can never have too much information about a project, right? It’s when clients are oblivious that things take a turn for the worse. Keeping clients informed in both good and bad situations creates trust like no other. Most clients know their designer is working hard for them, so are totally understanding if you need a break because returning to work refreshed allows renewed energy to finish strong. At the end of it all, as long as the communication lines are open, you can’t go wrong!” —Justin Q. Williams, TradeMark Design Co., Atlanta

Travel with Design in Mind

Betsy Burnham
Betsy BurnhamCourtesy of Burnham Design

“I’ll be the first to admit I don’t take many vacations—at least not long ones—but when I am away, I’m a stickler about making sure our projects are covered and clients’ needs are met. I’m always a call or email away, and (with priorities in mind) always get back as quickly as I can. Communication is the glue that keeps the work going, even in my absence. Vacations can also sync up nicely with design. I’ve shopped for art in Jackson Hole, Charleston and Savannah, looked for textiles all over India, and can distinctly remember a long phone call (with terrible reception) between myself and some clients when I was in Marrakech, selecting lighting for their project while shopping in the souk.” —Betsy Burnham, Burnham Design, Los Angeles

In Case of Emergency

Eneia White
Eneia WhiteCourtesy of Eneia White Interiors

“I’ve been pretty lucky with amazing clients who value my downtime, but I have had great success preparing my clients for my vacation mode weeks before the hiatus. A month or so before my break, I’ll reach out to each client with a project update. I traveled to France last year and knew I wouldn’t be accessible while I was away. I offered to meet each client before I left, reviewing action items and handling any issues that might arise while I was away. Finally, a friendly away message describing my dates of departure and return, along with an ‘in case of emergency’ contact, assisted in managing expectations and providing support in the event I was unable to be reached.” —Eneia White, Eneia White Interiors, New York

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