Preparation. Compassion. Execution.

For Designers, Showrooms, Retailers

You might think from some of my communications that I am a less legal version of Judge Judy.  My coaching is often direct and no nonsense.  But that’s just my approach when time and attention are limited and the message is more important than the delivery…and the listener can handle the drive straight down the fairway.

Yesterday I got a call from a client, Susan Victor of Nandina Home and Design in Atlanta and Aiken, SC.  We are similar in many ways and our communication with each other has very little editing, which works for both of us.  She called because she had a design client who was very difficult to please.  She had replaced one set of bedding at her own expense because the client had issues with the quality and was going back for a second conversation about the nail head trim and a couple of other unacceptable details on an ottoman.  Got the picture? Good.

Susan had the good sense to call me.  Not because she was unable to manage this interaction on her own, but because she knew that left to her own devices her ego and desire to be right was going to make more of a mess of things.  And she wanted to be prepared and have a game plan.  I asked some questions – What do you want to get out of this? What does the client want to get out of it?  What are you unwilling to accept?

From her answers, we settled on a game plan in which she would first generate empathy for the customer and start the discussion from a neutral place.  And to treat the issue as she would treat any ‘objection’  with a strategy to manage the conversation and to resolve the concern.  She was to ask the client what the specifics were that were unacceptable…and listen all the way to the end of what the client needed to say, and then and only then was she to ask if she could explain some of the industry standards and tolerances at this price point so that the client could understand the physical product and production limitations.  And then she was to ask what the client wanted her to do….and she could either accept, decline or renegotiate the request.  Still with me? Good.

She followed the game plan.  When she asked what the client wanted her to do, the client said that she wanted the ottoman removed and her money back.  Susan asked if she was happy with the bedding now, and she said she was…to which Susan said, good because she was not taking that back again.  Susan said that she would do as requested, but she also had a request – that when anyone asked about Susan and Nandina Home, that they client would say that they were ethical, fair, did good work and sold good products – to which the client agreed.  As they got up to leave, and mind you Susan was fighting back tears, the client hugged her…really hugged her, and thanked her for understanding.  Susan said, “I want you to know that by any standard, this product is acceptable and I am taking it back because it is unacceptable to you.  And that I value my company reputation and the service we provide – especially when things don’t go well.”

I am sure you have thoughts about this and I’d love to hear them.  But know this; it was a hard thing for her to do.  It’s always a hard thing when you know you’re in the right and it’s just not working on the other side.  It’s a hard thing to not let being right take over.  It’s a hard thing to not get caught up in the justification such that you don’t even ask for help.  That’s where gracious, elegant, responsible, mature decision making comes in.

Congratulations Susan.  You’re a champion by any standard.


11 thoughts on “Preparation. Compassion. Execution.

    • Common mistake, but thanks. Susan Victor was so generous – in her listening in getting coached, in taking action with the client, and with encouraging me to share the circumstances and the results. Such a great example of a class act!

  1. Wow! Wow! Although, this may not have been the ideal business situation for Susan, I think she showed up as the better person… righteousness sometimes has “icky” written all over it. In the long run, I think good karma will come from this!! Susan will get the perfect client that will want that same ottoman worked into her design plan!
    BTW, your approach is exquisite Judge Jody!!!

    • You’re funny Lynne…and you count as another person in my life with whom I can engage in candid, straight, ‘get ‘er done’ conversations….and I LOVE that about you!

  2. ….and yet another “Über-Blog” from Judge Jody! I’ve read,….and re-read this one……I agree that Susan Victor is not only One Class Act, but that she did what she did with INTEGRITY, poise, and professionalism,….for herself, and for her business. I’ll remember this story for the rest of my career, that’s for sure! ….Mark Sunderland, Atlanta.

  3. In this business…you have to be prepared to make allowances sometimes. I have had to do the same thing just to be able to walk away and be done. If they are happy…they might not talk…but if the are unhappy…..Lord…get out of the way!

  4. Hi Jody- Your post so eloquently captures the essense of the sacrifices of those who truly put their clients first. You are absolutely correct in pointing out the frustration of knowing you are right, yet surrending your ego. With all of that said, however, one must always be true to herself. The client-designer relationship is a two way street; there are indeed instances when a horrendously disrespectful client should not be rewarded for their egregious behavior.With that said, it is wise to choose your battles; afterall, it is easy for prospective clients to judge designers for their worst moments rather than their best. So how do we know when and when not to placate a client? Always put your client first, but not at the expense of respect for yourself.

    • I agree with you, and it’s the challenge that comes with the commitment to make it work for everyone. AND when clients/customers go astray, how to let the go graciously because something just didn’t work for them that we couldn’t solve with the current level of consciousness (I paraphrase Einstein here). Thanks for reading and for taking the time to share your lovely and considered thoughts. Hope our paths cross again and best to you.

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