Interior Designers, Wholesalers, and Showrooms Struggle to Meet Customer Demands


Photo by: David Marcu | unsplash.com

Great customer service is at the heart of any successful business, no matter how big or small. It’s motivated us for a while, but the bar keeps getting higher. Nordstrom first served up the mantra “the customer is always right” back in the 1980’s. They set a standard for excellence in customer service that earned Nordstrom top-ranking for decades. The words “Nordstrom-level service” and best practice were synonymous.

But in the last couple of years, Amazon and Apple leap-frogged over Nordstrom as the companies that killed it as top performers in best customer service ratings. Best practice standards jumped with them. Not only is the customer always right, but they’ve also been crowned. Call the customer king or queen, if you prefer, the point is, they rule. What they experience from your products and services is the only thing that matters.

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And the big guys are getting it right. This prompted me to pause. To take a step back, and look at what this means to the interior design business. Why? Because it means we’re all changing as customers. Our expectations are dramatically higher. We’re now keenly aware we’re the center of the business universe. In this customer-centric data-driven world, most of us have embraced the “you need to know everything about me when I call or show up, and I need this now” mindset. A little frightening, but true.

VIOSKI James Desk, solution ready

What happens when these same customers step out of the data-driven matrix and call on the world of interior design where everything is driven by art, design, aesthetics and a visual vocabulary? Isn’t it likely they’ll have the same high expectations when it comes to customer service? We certainly think so.

And we’re not the only ones. We ran across this excellent blog on customer experience from an interior designer’s point of view entitled “Reality Check: Why the best interior designers study customer experience.” Couldn’t agree more.

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We’ve always taken great pride in how we serve our clients when redefining modern furniture. Personalized service is core to who we are at VIOSKI. But like any progressive business, we’re constantly evaluating how we can continue to deliver the best possible experience for every client or customer. To see what we can learn from the big guys and from our own experience, to make sure we’re exceeding the growing expectations of today’s most discerning customers. We came up with 9 customer service guidelines for our business which may be of help to yours:

Kenneth Brown Designs, customizing the Mitosi into pods for the Hyundai Ad Agency

1  Keep the end goal in mind. Start with the desired outcome. Identify conditions for satisfaction that must be met when all is said and done. Act in a way that will create this outcome every step of the way. At VIOSKI, our end goal is to deliver amazing product that will last and look beautiful. Ultimately, to create a magical, visceral experience for every client.

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2  Think like the customer first. We ask a lot of questions up front. Get to know the customer, what they need. Learn about their project. Do a lot of listening. Step into their shoes. See things from their perspective to get insight into how we can best serve them. The big guys have big data. We have our inherently social nature.

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3  Guide with expertise and knowledge. We have a wealth of information to share, after 13 years of designing and handcrafting furniture. Recognizing some customers need more help than others, we guide each customer through every step of the design, ordering, and delivery process. Anticipating needs. Instilling confidence. Making sure the experience is comfortable, easy, and exciting.

Photo by Kevin Curtis courtesy of Unsplash.com

4  Over communicate. We communicate a lot. For us, the person to person conversation is still the most important. We back things up via emails to make sure we’re aligned with our customers’ vision, timeline and budget throughout the entire project. The big guys have automation down. Our communication is authentically human and personalized.

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5  Get a visual. Using CAD drawings based on simple floor plans, we show customers what the furnishings will look like in their home or commercial space before making any commitments. We add color. Provide options. Add an area rug. Show balance and proportion for a room. We tell the truth about what works and doesn’t. We’re committed to making sure the furniture pieces are exactly what the customer wants. They can also come to our showroom to experience it first-hand. The more they see, the better.

Kenneth Brown, Collaborative Space Nicholas I Sectional Customized

6  Keep listening. We never forget it’s the voice of our customers who will drive our business forward. Keeping them engaged and loving what we do is a must. If they’re not happy with something, make adjustments, provide more information, visuals, whatever we need to do to make them happy. No one can afford to have a disappointed customer in this connected online world. Even over a tiny detail.

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7  Make the complex simple and relatable. Furnishing a home or business with custom pieces is a big deal. Customizing beautiful things that go into someone’s home or work space involves a lot of decisions. Scale, proportion, fabric selection, color, configuration, dimensions all must be considered. We meticulously handcraft every product to customer specifications. It’s on us to make everything simple and relatable.

8  Let your passion roar. We love what we do and our passion is contagious. This is something we all can learn from Apple. When you walk into an Apple store, you’re showered by enthusiasts who are genuinely excited by Apple products and technologies. They can’t wait to show you how it all works. They pour on the passion, and it’s fun.

Photo: Lynni Hutton Design with Fratelli Chair/Lounge and Sotto Coffee Table

9  Make realistic promises, and keep them. We get clear about timelines and budgets way up front in a project. Our products are handcrafted in California, so we deliver much faster than overseas production. But we never sacrifice quality for time. We always uphold our standards for excellence, and set clear delivery expectations. We keep our promises. Our customers return to us.

In-arguably, the customer service bar has been raised by increasingly personalized service, online ratings and public reviews. Even the big guys have figured out how to simplify every aspect of customer service to maximize satisfaction. Surely, we in the interior design field can do it better on a smaller scale. With the wind of artistic expression at our back, we’re poised to create all the more magical and memorable experiences to keep customers coming back for more. After all, a satisfied customer is the biggest measure of success for all of us.

If you have ideas about customer service to share, we love to hear them in the comments.

VIOSKI is an experience of artistic expression brought to life in timeless furniture design. Unique in style, charismatic and sensual. Each piece is masterfully created to be simple yet complex. Proportional yet fluid. It’s handcrafted in California by master artisans who devote themselves to extraordinary quality. New-century modern service.