Over the past two years, the interior design industry has experienced the ripple effect impacts of supply chain disruptions. Designers have been forced to navigate longer lead times than ever before, all while coaching clients through the process. Communicating with new clients about these timeline realities has become a necessity, requiring even more honesty and education from the get-go.
We invited Operations Manager, Katie Pleasant and Senior Designer, Louise Mueller of Lindsey Brooke Design to discuss how they've adapted day-to-day operations and kept clients informed every step of the way. We know you'll resonate with their experience and can put their communication tips into practice today.
The Current Status on Supply Chain Disruptions
From the Lindsey Brooke Design team: Our industry has seen disruption in everything from material shortages to production deficits to delayed transport since the beginning of 2020. Furniture lead times have gone from 8-12 weeks to sometimes up to 36 weeks. Lead times have started to come back down slightly, but demand is high, so things are far from normal. On top of long lead times, we're experiencing long delivery times, and a lot of furniture arrives with damages. We then need replacement pieces that sometimes add months or manage repairs with local furniture medics.
Communication from vendors is not what it used to be either. More time is spent following up on these ETAs that have not been communicated to us. We have to proactively contact vendors to find out that backorder estimates have been pushed further, sometimes by months. Anything coming from overseas has the longest delay time in both production and transport. Appliances and outdoor fabrics are examples of somethings with the most extended lead times, so we are having clients order these products early.
Because of all this, it has been a really great time to connect with local workrooms and produce more custom furniture as their lead times tend to be better. We are seeing the supply for materials coming back slowly. Prices of products and shipping have also gone up a lot in the past year across the board, and if you don't see an additional line item "surcharge" on your vendor invoice, it is usually a cause for celebration.
Client Communication Tips
Set your client relationships up for success with these three strategies.
Start the conversation early.
Transparency is so important when communicating with clients. We set an expectation early in the process and educate them on the current state of the supply chain. Planning with this mindset from the beginning helps clients understand their project will be beautiful, but it will just take a little longer to complete. We have yet to see anyone die from a sofa not being delivered on time!
"Overpromising and under-delivering is a sure way for disappointment. We want our clients to have a great experience, so managing expectations with honest, open communication is key."
Avoid overpromising + source with caution.
Using the words in-stock should be done with caution. These days, a product can be in-stock when you propose an item and be gone an hour later with a six-month backorder. Warn your clients that this can happen so they know that decision-making is on the clock.
Keep clients updated throughout the process.
Once we go through the ordering process, we have a list of expected shipping dates for each item. We let the client know if anything has a significant backorder or if we need to find an alternative item. Overpromising and under-delivering is a sure way for disappointment. We want our clients to have a great experience, so managing expectations with honest, open communication is key.
Thank you to Katie and Louise of Lindsey Brooke Design for sharing your insight with us! You can learn more about the LBD team on Instagram or visit their website. You can also learn from LBD first-hand about this topic and more by joining us at Design Camp.