No strategy is more important to an interior designer than a seamless client process. From initial inquiry to the final goodbye, I’m walking you through how to impress every step of the way.
Today's episode of The Interior Collective podcast is all about creating that exceptional client experience, which is the #1 way to justify raising your rates, improve your design process, and gain more word-of-mouth referrals. Client experience is a critical component of full-service interior design, and it's often why your clients hire you in the first place.
In this episode, I'll cover:
Tangible ways to surprise and delight clients from start to finish
The importance of establishing weekly email check-ins
Must-have branded client process documents
Everything to include in each of those documents
The easiest way to set up automation and templates
my recent teaching session at Design Camp LA
An excerpt from the episode:
Defining the Client Experience
I always like to introduce client experience with the concept of little luxuries. Little luxuries are ways you can surprise and delight your client from start to finish. This does not mean physical gifts all the time. Communication is a gift as well, especially when it saves time for a client. Little luxuries could be as big as lunch brought over during a site visit, or as simple as getting ahead of a problem and communicating with a client before they find out on their own. Interior design is a luxury service, and often, time saved is the most prized commodity your clients have.
The first step to great client experience is what we refer to as weekly check-in emails. They are key to a powerful, smooth, articulate client experience–even when you have no updates to report. Let's say you're in the middle of a project. Things have been ordered and it's a whole lot of sitting around. It feels so luxurious to a client to not have to ask for updates.
These weekly emails consist of a short, polite and positive introduction. I'm talking two, maybe three sentences at most. Below that is going to be bullet points of everything that you worked on this week, whoever you followed up with, whatever happened on site visits. Then, ‘here's what you can expect next week’ and there's going to be bullet points listed below that. Finally, conclude everything with a beautiful branded signature.
We use a service called Email Signature Rescue and love it. It's super fancy looking and really easy to use. We do this because every point of communication with clients should be branded and strategic, especially during the onboarding and off-boarding experience. You never know at what phase during your process an email or a PDF is going to be forwarded to a friend. So I really want you to focus on making sure that your logo and your contact information is on every single thing you hand over.
The Benefits of Email Automation
The key to ensuring a successful client experience is actually all about automation and templates. I feel that if you write an email more than once, it should be templated. IDCO Studio has worked with dozens of designers to create 30 pre-written emails in our shop. This includes every email a designer sends to a client, through the very first touchpoint of inquiry to the final goodbye and follow up asking for a review. Having these templated doesn't mean that you're never going have to tweak them. It just gives you a really good starting point. And I bet you already have all of these emails written. It's just a matter of you compiling them and maybe reworking to get them to where a great foundational email is written.
One thing I really like about canned emails is if you are a one-person show and you're thinking about expanding your team, whether that be a summer intern, a junior designer, a procurement manager, whatever those next hires could be, having these pre-written emails ensures that any communication that gets sent out from your office has your voice and your tone. And I think that's really, really important as you continue to grow.
Use code PODCAST20 to save 20% off our client email bundle exclusively offered to The Interior Collective listeners.
Branding Your Client Communication
Let's go ahead and walk through that client process, start to finish. First things first: your inquiry form—this is where people submit a contact form on your website and write this down, no matter where a lead comes from: Instagram, your website, Google referral, anywhere, direct them to the inquiry form on your website. When someone DMs you about working together, have a templated response saved in your Instagram account that says something like 'Thank you so much for thinking of us. We're excited to hear more about your project. If you could start by completing this inquiry form linked below, our team will be best prepared to chat further with you'.
The next steps are your client process documents. We've designed beautiful templates in dozens of different looks for your client process documents. You can totally DIY these documents. You do not need to purchase them. We've just made it a little easier for you. If you need a head start, the full client process documents bundle includes a comprehensive experience. It's going to include your investment guide, your proposal, welcome guide design presentation, and a goodbye packet. Having these documents keeps your client touch points polished, on-brand, and educational throughout the entire process.
Thanks for reading a brief excerpt of The Interior Collective Season 1, Episode 2: Perfecting Your Client Process. You can listen to our episode on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or access the full episode transcription.
Mentioned in the episode:
Client Email Templates (code PODCAST20 to save)
Client Process Bundles (code PODCAST20 to save)
What to include in your digital inquiry checklist:
First and Last Names
Which of your services they’re interested in
Scope - Spaces to Design
Where they shop for homewares + furnishings
How they found you
If you're enjoying season one of The Interior Collective podcast, we’d be so appreciative if you'd take a moment to share, subscribe, and leave us a review. Ratings help us reach a wider audience as we provide insight and inspiration to the design community. Your support truly means the world.
Hi, this is The Interior Collective, a podcast for the business of beautiful living presented by IDCO Studio and I'm Anastasia Casey.
Hi, and welcome to the second episode of The Interior Collective. Today's episode of The Interior Collective is all about client experience. It's the number one way to justify raising your rates, improve your interior design process and earn more referrals. A quality client experience is a critical component of interior design and often subconsciously it's actually what your clients are paying for.
So let's get started. I always like to introduce client experience with the concept of Little Luxuries. Little Luxuries are ways you can surprise and delight your client from start to finish. This does not mean physical gifts all the time. Communication is a gift as well, especially when it saves time for a client following up. Little Luxuries could be as big as lunch brought over during a site visit, or as simple as getting ahead of a problem and communicating with a client before they find it out on their own. Interior design is a luxury service, and often, time saved is the most prized commodity your clients have.
The first step to great client experience is what we refer to as weekly check-in emails. They are key to a powerful, smooth, articulate client experience. Even when you have no updates to report, let's say you're in the middle of a project. Things have been ordered and it's a whole lot of sitting around. It feels so luxurious to a client to not have to ask what updates there are.
IDCO sends these emails every Friday, but my co-host of design camp, Lindsay Borchard of Lindsay Brook design sends hers on Monday. It doesn't really matter when you send these emails as long as it is regular and consistent. We even preschedule out these emails, write them in on Wednesday, cuz we already know what happened that week and what's coming up the next week and we schedule them for 9:00am Friday morning.
These weekly emails consist of a short, polite and positive introduction. I'm talking two, maybe three sentences at most–‘here's what happened this week'. Below that is gonna be bullet points of everything that you worked on this week, whoever you followed up with, whatever happened on site visit. Then ‘here's what you can expect next week’ and there's going to be bullet points listed below that. Finally, conclude everything with a beautiful branded signature.
We use a service called Email Signature Rescue and love it. It's super fancy looking and really easy to use. We do this because every point of communication with clients should be branded and strategic, especially during the onboarding and off onboarding experience. You never know at what phase during your process, an email or a PDF is going to be forwarded to a friend. So I really want you to focus on making sure that your logo and your contact information is on every single thing you hand over.
One thing I recently learned, actually came from Bridgette Romaneck at design camp a few weeks ago, and she explained to us that she sends an updated spreadsheet every Friday with her client weekly check-in emails. This spreadsheet includes status on every step of the process and every item ordered. This master document serves as the project Bible for both her team and her clients. But most importantly, it makes clients feel like they have access to all information at all times and Bridgette can constantly remind her clients to check the spreadsheet as she fields questions. This master document is something that she uses throughout the entire process, it's sent off to the client with her Welcome Onboarding Kit and they can see where everything is throughout. She was really good at explaining that she sets client boundaries, that she makes her clients feel super important, but this document actually ensures that they cannot keep coming to her with questions and text messages at any hour, because she can always say, ‘have you checked the spreadsheet yet?’.
The key to ensuring a successful client experience is actually all about automation and templates. I feel that if you write an email more than once, it should be templated. IDCO Studio has worked with dozens of designers to create 30 pre-written emails in our shop, I’ll also link them in the show notes for you for easy access. But this includes every email a designer sends to a client through the very beginning first touchpoint of inquiry to the final goodbye and follow up asking for a review. Having these templated doesn't mean that you're never gonna have to tweak them. It just gives you a really good starting point. And I bet you already have all of these emails written and it's just a matter of you compiling them and maybe finageling them to get them to where a great foundational email is written. And moving forward, you can always have someone on your team, or yourself, just copy and paste them in to get sent off to the client so that every base is always covered.
Use promo code PODCAST20 to save 20% off our client email bundle exclusively offered to Interior Collective listeners. These done for you, ready to copy and paste emails have proven to save our interior design clients as many as 12 hours a week. We use templated emails at IDCO Studio and it is seriously such a game changer. Again, this isn't something you have to purchase. You probably have written these emails before, but if you're looking for a guideline and a starting point to really hone your client process, are pre-written professionally copywritten emails are really good starting point.
Templated emails provide polite, direct and educational responses to your clients throughout the entire interior design process. If you're using something like Google, your email server has canned emails and will let you copy and paste emails over so that you always have access to these templates. Then once you paste it into your email, you just modify and tweak it to be appropriate for the client you're reaching out to.
Other options, like client management softwares–we love Dubsado, and I'm gonna do a whole episode about Dubsado and automation in the future–has them as well. So it really couldn't be easier for you or your team to have the same consistent tone and quality of communication for every project, start to finish.
One thing I really like about canned emails is if you are a one person show and you're thinking about expanding your team, whether that be a summer intern, a junior designer, a procurement manager, whatever those next hires could be, having these pre-written emails ensures that any communication that gets sent out from your office has your voice and your tone. And I think that's really, really important as you continue to grow.
Lastly, canned emails are so critical to your business in the possible event that something was to happen to you and you needed someone else to be able to step in for a while. Once you have those processes in place, it's so much easier for someone to be able to carry out your daily activities and your daily responsibilities, if they have a template to work from.
So, now that we understand the concept of templated emails, which are a critical step throughout the entire design process, let's go ahead and walk through that client process, start to finish. First things first is your inquiry form–this is where people submit a contact form on your website and, write this down, no matter where a lead comes from: Instagram, your website, Google referral, anything, anywhere, you should direct them to your inquiry form on your website. When someone DMs you about working together, have a templated response saved in your Instagram account that says something like ‘Thank you so much for thinking of us. We're excited to hear more about your project. If you could start by completing this inquiry form linked below our team will be best prepared to chat further with you’.
So even if someone comes at you with a text, because someone gave them your number, you should always be providing the same structured response that you can customize and tweak and personalize, but directing people to your inquiry form. When we talk about Dubsado later in the season, I will explain how you can automate this so soon as your inquiry form goes in that lead now lives in your client management software, and that project already has been created for you. It's gonna save you a lot of steps throughout the process. Now, even if you don't use a client management software, that is totally okay. You can have these forms built directly into your website and it's critical because the specific questions I'm going to instruct you to include will help to field your inquiries so that you're only spending time on the inquiries for clients that will convert.
I think that's a really important note because so many designers spend a lot of time vetting inquiries for things that were not a fit. Your inquiry form is your first line of defense against looky-loos or just improperly fitting inquiries. The importance of a quality inquiry form on your website should be in-depth and persuasive. This inquiry form is the first point of contact someone has with you, and we want you to appear educated, informed, inquisitive, excited, and also discerning.
Now what questions to ask on an inquiry form. This is your digital inquiry checklist. I'll out outline these in the show notes for you as well, but let's go through them together. You wanna make sure you're getting first and last names, you'll wanna get their email and their phone number. Next is gonna be the services they’re interested in. This might seem obvious, but a key element here is to only list services you offer, do not let this be a fill in the blank. This is either gonna be a radio button, where people can check multiple boxes or this is gonna be a dropdown menu if you only have a couple. For instance, please don't put on there ‘virtual design’ if you're not gonna offer virtual design services.
Next you're gonna have project location. And you might wanna specify that this is the actual project address, not necessarily their current home that they're living in. Next you'll move on to a list of spaces to design in general scope of work. Again, I really like this to be set up as a multiple checkbox opportunity. This is your first opportunity to upsell your work. So if you list out every possible space in a home, I'm talking foyer, hallway, basement, everything, even outdoor spaces, someone can look at this list and be like, ‘oh yeah, no, let's go ahead and add those rooms I wasn't even considering when I was just thinking about the first floor.’
Then you're gonna want to understand the goals for each space. So the goals for each space is going to be a fill in the blank paragraph format and they will go ahead and write those out. Next will be project timeline. I would suggest this being a dropdown option. So it would either be six months to a year, one year to 18 months, 18 months to two years, you could go ahead and space it out like that. This is a very subtle and elevated way to help set timeline expectations for a client, when you don't just let them fill in a date where they can just say ‘tomorrow’. This will give them a much better understanding of how long it's really gonna take to complete a project.
Next is style description, and I've seen designers do this a few different ways. So one would just be fill in the blank. They can go ahead and describe to you what their style looks like. Another option is where there are multiple check boxes and it's something along the lines of transitional, modern, contemporary, things along those lines. My only hesitation with that is someone else's definition of transitional might not be what it means to you. And so if you set this up as a paragraph for them to fill out, you can get in their own words what their style is and not make them feel like they have to check a box that may or may not be accurate.
Another question I think is super important is where they currently shop for homewares and furniture. This is kind of an assist to the previous question because they might have said modern farmhouse, but then they describe where they shop. And you're like, ‘Okay, yes, but no. That's not modern farmhouse’. So you, as the designer, have the opportunity to really shape what that looks like. And you'll start to get a more clear picture in your head.
Next, and probably the most important is of course budget. You need to have a footnote on this question that explains what is your total budget for this project, inclusive of design fees. This should be a dropdown with the smallest amount being the minimum budget you're willing to work with. So let's say your target audience are young families and you are happy to take on projects with a $25,000 budget. You would make sure that your drop down smallest option would be 25K to 50K. Then you would go 50K to 75K. And so you would go ahead and give them these ranges, but you wanna make sure that you're calling out that this is going to include construction, furnishings, design, time, installation, everything.
A lot of people look at this and say, ‘oh, well I've got $250,000 to put towards this project’ and they're thinking they're gonna get $250,000 worth of furniture. So we just wanna set expectations up front. Lastly, I really like to ask where they found you. This can also be a fill in the blank, or it can be a simple checkbox if you just wanna say Instagram, Google, referral, etcetera.
Now you've received your inquiry from your website. If you're using a client management software, it's automatically been uploaded to that software. If you received the inquiry just from your website alone, you've received the email with this information. Next step are your client process documents. We've designed beautiful templates in dozens of different looks for your client process documents and the promo code PODCAST20 will save you 20% off the complete bundle. I'll link the bundles in our show notes, but I'm walking you through exactly what to do in yours as well.
You can totally DIY these documents. You do not need to purchase them. We've just made it a little easier for you if you need a head start. The full client process documents bundle includes a comprehensive experience. It's gonna include your investment guide, your proposal, welcome guide, design presentation, and a goodbye packet. Having these documents keep your client touch points polished and on brand and educational throughout the entire process. These documents honestly are what really sets you apart from Sally Sue down the street and here at IDCO we are always making sure that our systems and processes are better than Sally Sue’s.
After someone has inquired on your website, you're now going to want to send your investment guide. A lot of people get confused between an investment guide and a welcome guide. And to be honest, there is a lot of overlap. We like to educate our clients about the process as many times as we possibly can.
And so while it may feel a little redundant, the investment guide is definitely more macro, large scale, big picture. And your welcome guide is gonna be much more small, detail oriented. So you've received your inquiry. Now you're gonna send that investment guide. These are the questions you usually answer over and over. This is the first opportunity to educate your potential clients about your firm. Your investment guide is going to include:
A welcome note with a thank you for inquiring.
You're gonna introduce the team.
You're going to set communication guidelines.
This is so important. If you have two little kids at home and you are really strict about not working nights and weekends, you just wanna outline in here that your studio is open from seven to seven, Monday through Friday, and communication will happen via email or prescheduled phone calls. You can list here that you don't accept text messages.
We include in ours, and it's also in our templates with prewritten copy, that ‘in order to ensure that our team can best execute your requests, we require that all communication be handled via email so there's a paper trail’. That way all hands on deck are familiar with what your requests are. You can position this where you're setting boundaries while also being very serving to the client and phrasing it in a way that makes them feel special and heard.
Next in your investment guide is going to be your process. We have a three phase process, and that's how we've built out these investment guide templates. But this process can be 12 phases. You can break it down, however you like, but it should be really clear and easy to follow from a client perspective.
Next you'll have your billing schedule and payments. How are you going to bill them? Do you bill in different phases? Are you just hourly? Are you a flat rate? Lindsey, my co-host of Design Camp. We have an episode coming out later this season where we really break down different ways to price and her super innovative three system process. It is outlined in this investment guide, so there are no surprises for the clients throughout the process. This is gonna be really clear what gets billed when and how you collect payments. If you take credit card, you should make sure to include that there's a 3% additional credit card processing fee. If you only take ACH bank transfers or checks, you need to have that outlined here as well.
Next, you'll go into what services you offer. If you go through full project management and you are there from start to finish, if you like to get involved when they hire their architect, you wanna go ahead and outline this here so they really know what they're getting.
Next, you'll find what to expect. We're gonna talk about these ‘what to expect sheets’ in a few different steps of the process. These are gonna be the more overall ones, and I like to include ones that outline anytime a client's gonna owe you extra money. For example, what to expect with receiving–a lot of clients have never used a receiving warehouse. What to expect with install day, with your photo shoot, with demo, with construction and also, what to expect when working with your company. How do you work? What is it that is so amazing about working with you and your team. Next will be FAQs. FAQs, for example, are, ‘am I allowed to order my own furniture?’ ‘Thanks, but no, you're not’. Another FAQ would say, ‘will you come pick up my kids from soccer on your way to a site visit’, ‘Thank you for asking. No, we will not.’.
Whatever boundaries you have, go ahead and include them in the FAQs and frame them in a way where you're positioning yourself to be full service, while also having hard no’s. Next, you'll have your ‘next steps’. This is where you can explain ‘if this investment guide looks good and you're excited about working together, this is how we will move forward’. Then there will be a thank you and finally, a get in touch. And that's really just your literal contact information. When you send out this investment guide, you'll also be including a booking link for a free 20 minute consultation call. If you're using something like Dubsado, they have a scheduler already built in, but you can also use something like Calendly or Book Me–there's lots of services. Your initial phone call should be limited to 20 minutes.
I like to include maybe a 5-10 minute buffer just in case someone's really vibing with you and it goes a little bit over, but anything more than that should be a paid consultation. So by sending this booking link, someone can look through your investment guide and they can instantly then book a 20 minute phone consultation. I'll talk in a whole episode about time blocking and time management. But for a quick little snippet, I book all of these calls one afternoon a week. If someone can't talk to you, this coming Tuesday at four o'clock, they can go ahead and book the following Tuesday when they can. This means you are not bombarded with calls throughout the week, interrupting your productivity. On this 20 minute phone consultation–that is free–you should be asking questions about the project to vet them as clients. You shouldn't be giving ideas or design advice during this call.
This is literally you listening for any red flags that may come up. After the phone consultation, send a thank you email. Honestly, this can be an automated email. At the very least, it could be a templated email where you add in one or two custom little tidbits based on your conversation.
After you've sent off the inquiry and you've had that phone consultation, now it's time for the paid consultation phase. Your client is ready to move forward with an in-person consultation. Your in-person consultation should be prepaid and it should be billed three times your hourly rate. Remember at this phase, no one is committed to you and they could easily have you come out for a consultation, get a lot of your ideas and then go with someone else. This should be three times your hourly rate and you wanna get paid before you drive out.
Don't accept a check when you get there, have them prepay. If you're sending an invoice, you can certainly do it via QuickBooks, but again, Dubsado, our favorite client management software, you can send that invoice directly through them. Also consider a travel fee. If you're traveling more than 20 miles from your office. This is time away from your desk, away from your family, and you should be paid for that time.
When you get to the consultation, we have a long list of things we like to include as well. This is called your consultation packet. It's a leave behind, usually in a branded folder with your beautiful logo and colors included. It's gonna have an introduction letter–this can be very similar to what was in that investment guide simply formatted in a different layout. This is gonna include your FAQ sheets, a business card–I like to leave two just in case they wanna give one to a friend–this is gonna include your ‘what to expect sheets’, your billing sheet, and pricing structure, and also a sample contract.
I know this feels like a complete duplicate of that investment guide, but clients don't read things and you wanna hand it to them in person. It's just a tangible takeaway that they can sit and compare you to Sally Sue down the street, who they're also interviewing. The key here, is the more education you can provide, the better the client experience is going to be. After you've completed that in-person consultation, which should be limited to one hour, by the way, follow up with an email. Set expectations on how long it's going to take for you to get your design estimate proposal turned around. If you feel like your proposal is gonna take more than a week, send a check in email after five business days, just to let them know that you're almost done with it and when they can expect it.
Now let's talk design proposal.
Your design proposal should include an estimate of design hours only. This may include some general design inspiration, but not intensive design details. You should not be quoting total project cost or construction bids, only your design fees. That is the only part of this process that you have control over. And that is what you are bidding at this time. You can break your project down into phases and estimate those hours. For instance, you could break it down room by room so that if budget is a concern, they can decide which rooms to remove from your project scope. Or, you can break it down based on phases of the design process. A lot of designers send out the proposal exclusively for design time or phase one of their project and will send proposals separately for project management after an architect or contractor is hired.
That's a key thing to note–a lot of these design hours you only have an accurate depiction of how long it's going to take you for the time to actually design. For all of the management beyond that, you really have no idea and that's going to be where you estimate a range of hours, but you aren't giving them an exact proposal. Get the design proposal signed electronically, then send the contract along with a welcome letter. Again, we do this all virtually through Dubsado, but you can just be sending this via PDFs if you prefer. I always want things to get signed. I am such a stickler about getting electronic signatures because at the end of the day, it can really save your butt when things come back. A digital signature is absolutely imperative. Now you will notice, we talked about getting a signature on the design proposal. That's still different than the contract.
So the next step is to move things over to a contract. Our attorney has reminded me many times that the contract must include the full scope of work. This is why you start with a signed proposal first. Again, a lot of people send out their contract, but it doesn't include the scope of work. And legally someone could argue in court that whatever work you did was not included because it was not outlined in the scope of work in the actual contract.
A good contract is a way to add to your client experience. It protects both you and it protects them. Have a lawyer draft your contract, then add to it as you learn. We love our attorney, Alyce, who wrote the IDCO contracts for interior designers that are in our shop because she has a conversational voice that sounds super on brand for us. It's easy to read. It's easy to follow and it feels good to both the client and designer.
We wrote those with her after talking to dozens and dozens of designers and figuring out pain points. But what I really like is that it protects you throughout the entire process, but as you're reading it, it has still warm, fuzzy feelings. It doesn't feel super contractual, doesn't feel super legal jargony. It feels natural and conversational. And I know to interior designers, it's hard to set that legal tone right off the beginning without disrupting the client experience. And the way that Alyce wrote ours really helps to continue that client experience and make it feel very natural. Contracts are linked in the shop–I'll include 'em in the show notes either way. You wanna make sure and have an attorney who specializes in your state look over it, because every state is different with what you're allowed to do and what you're not allowed to do.
So you always wanna get a second set of eyes on it, but they are a great starting point. You must have people initial your contract at every agreement, not just once at the bottom, people do not read contracts and I am totally guilty of this as well. I just scan through to the bottom and give it a signature without actually having notated so many different elements. And I think when we're dealing with hundreds of thousands of dollars like interior designers are, you wanna make sure that every clause is initialed. You also wanna make sure that you brand your contract. It doesn't need to be just a black and white word document that's converted to a PDF. You can add your logo, add your beautiful brand marks on throughout to also help tell that brand narrative and make things feel a little bit more comfortable and personable throughout the process.
Again, this is something that they likely are going to show to someone else. So we wanna make sure that we're putting our best foot forward, have our beautiful branding and our contact information on it. Business of Design and ASID have contract templates available for free–there are literally hundreds of them up there. You'll wanna look through a few to kind of piece things together. You just wanna make sure that anywhere you've had a pain point, that gets tweaked and added to your contract. When you send your contract, you're going to collect your design retainer at the time of contract signing. Dubsado makes it really easy to prompt paying an invoice automatically once the contract is signed–I love that as soon as the signature comes in, it pops up and is like ‘great, time to pay your invoice’.
We'll talk pricing later this season with Lindsey, from Lindsey Brooke Design, my co-host of Design Camp, but as a general rule of thumb, the design retainer is likely going to be about $10,000. And you're gonna hold onto this retainer until the very end of the project to cover any final unpaid invoices. Now write these down. I'll list them in the show notes, but this is critical: 10 things I want to make sure you're including in your contract.
First, have your process listed and list your scope–this is super important, and it is the key to make your contract legally binding. You wanna make sure that you have ownership of all your drawings and designs. You wanna make sure that you have explicitly outlined the purchasing agreement that you will be doing all of the purchasing on your project. You're gonna explain your discounts or your lack thereof. If that's in there, you want to explain freight and receiving warehouse policy and the average cost or percentage range. You want to explain your damage to merchandise policy. You're gonna wanna include your final sale items policy, termination and dispute resolution, force majeure clause, and finally late payment policy.
When the contract is sent, you should be collecting your design retainer at this time. So those are the things I wanna make sure that you have in your contract. They're all written into the IDCO contracts that are linked, but if you're using a contract and you love your contract, just make sure these clauses are added in.
Once the contract is signed, you will send a welcome packet. You can do this automatically through Dubsado or, once you see that contract and payment come through, you can send this off manually. Your welcome packet is going to include an official welcome note and a thank you. You're gonna introduce the team. This is going to be specific to the team that is working on their project. And this is where this differs a little bit from that investment guide.
The investment guide included everybody who worked on your team, but in this welcome kit, I want it to be more specific to who's actually working on their project. This is going to be an estimated project timeline. It's gonna explain working together and what their homework is gonna look like. This will include their billing schedule and payment system and what to expect as far as the discovery meeting, site visits, receiving, install day, and photo shoot. Lastly, this welcome packet is going to include next steps.
Along with the welcome packet, you're gonna send off their project homework digitally. This is an in-depth questionnaire, asking all about their likes, dislikes, needs, and wants. Naturally, we do have a comprehensive design questionnaire with over 80 questions available for you in the shop, but these questions are totally up to you.
Whatever you need to create the best design for your clients, you'll want to include. Some of the questions talk about allergies to materials, preferences between down and down alternative, if they prefer bench seating or individual dining chairs. These are things that can save you a lot of time in person. And what I like about sending this ahead of time is that they can sit with their partner or whoever else might be living in this space to really hash out some of these conversations ahead of doing it in front of you so that you don't have to play marriage counselor. When you send off this digital homework, you'll also be booking your design discovery day. This is where you'll go and get all of your measurements, you'll take your before photos, all of that.
When you get to design discovery day, you'll want to bring a welcome gift. And this one's gonna be small. I'm talking like $50 or less and that's if it's a large scale project, maybe it's flowers. Maybe it's a candle. Maybe it's a gift card for dinner. Something small. But again, those Little Luxuries that you can spread throughout your project are gonna make a big difference in the end. When their homework is complete, it is imperative that someone on your team carefully reads through that questionnaire immediately to ensure there are no follow up questions or blanks. I cannot tell you how many times this happened to me personally, where we didn't ever look at the homework and we're working on the project two days before it's due and there were gaps or incomplete questions, and we had follow up questions and then we're circling back around to the client a couple of days before it's due when we've had this homework for, in some cases, months. We find all the time that people don't fill out their questionnaires in entirety, and you don't wanna be caught waiting until the night before the presentation to realize if they owe you more info.
Next you move on to the actual design phase. We're not gonna break that down for you, but we're gonna go ahead and skip ahead to the offboarding client experience. At installation, you're gonna schedule professional photos immediately after your install day. You're gonna total any remaining accessories balances for the client and you'll pay for those using that $10,000 retainer you collected upfront when they signed the contract. You're gonna put personal belongings right back after the photo shoot. And you're also gonna bring a personal client gift. This is typically valued around $250 or so for a full service project. We love leaving specific coffee table books based on their hobbies or travels, little personal details that you picked up throughout the two or three years that you've been working with this client. Having those incorporated into this design is such a nice, thoughtful touch.
I also really love Lindsey's idea–she uses a gift of all natural, organic home cleansers in a beautiful container that's easy to carry around the house. She'll include microfiber cloths, organic cotton dish towels, she'll include natural fiber brushes, et cetera. But the most important thing here is to leave a personally handwritten thank you note.
After installation, you're gonna provide a project punch list. This is where you list out any items that need to be fulfilled and we know right now with the delays that everyone is experiencing, there's gonna be a few. You're gonna list out anything that needs to be fixed. And then finally, any items that need to be added. Sometimes in a project, when everything gets in there, a client notices a corner where they wish they had gone ahead and splurge on that extra consult table or the hallway across from the kitchen is looking a little empty.
This is where you can upsell your services and upsell your markup. Provide any outstanding balances, digitally. Provide copies of all paid invoices digitally. And you're gonna provide a home manual physically–this is an actual binder or folder. You're gonna include in that paint color names and finishes, care guide information for materials and furnishings. Work with your vendor reps on this. They are happy to share care info with you, and you can likely just copy and paste it into a document with your own branding on it. You'll include any warranty information that you received. And we like to include handyman or trade contact info. If there's someone that they worked with in addition to you and their general contractor, just in case there's smaller things that they need. Lastly, have a cleaning crew come after install and photos as the team leaves.
Now you're officially out of the house and this is where your follow up comes in. Four weeks after completion, reach out with a, ‘I hope you love your home’ email. Ask if they need any help in other areas of the home after living within their new spaces. This is a great upsell opportunity. Even if they don't need a whole other room designed, you may be able to upsell a few pieces of furniture they feel they're missing in adjoining areas. Ask for a testimonial by sending a link directly to leave a review on Google. Google reviews are the most important review you can get. You can always pull their words from Google to use as testimonials on your website or social, but you can never post a testimonial onto Google itself. So you always wanna make sure you're collecting those reviews directly in Google.
Okay! That is the full client experience. Start to finish. I'm gonna go over those must have branded client experience documents one more time. Again, we've created all of this documentation for you already. I've linked them in the show notes, along with outlines of each. You certainly do not need to purchase these. You can create them on your own, cuz you probably have a lot of this already done. If you do want help with what to say, our templates are professionally copy written with prompts and fully done copy, and you just have to tweak to suit your personal process. Use code PODCAST20 to save 20% off the full bundle.
These documents include your investment guide, your design proposal, your welcome kit, your design presentation, and your goodbye packet. We have another episode this season expanding on client experience coming up soon with Clara Jung. She explains how she maintains an exceptional client experience as her team is growing.
We're newbies to podcasting, but veterans in the industry. If you loved this podcast, please leave us a review. The first few episodes of a show are the most important when comes to rankings and your participation matters. Thanks again for listening.
If you weren't able to write down everything you heard today, you can find all the links, projects, and images we referenced and other details from this episode of The Interior Collective on our website at idco.studio/podcast. Be sure to follow along on Instagram and subscribe to our newsletters to stay up to date on what we're talking about next week. If you love our podcast, please leave us a review. If you have questions or topics you'd like to hear next, go ahead and email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Again, that’s email@example.com.