Achieving a Win-Win Relationship between the Client and Design Professional in Spite of the Odds
This article in my “Contradictions in Design” series addresses an issue that should be important to both the client and their design professionals who they work with. It’s all about getting the level of professional design services that you need and expect, while ensuring that you are paying professional fees that are in-line with the level of expertise that you expect.
What Does the Client Want?
In dealing with clients for the past 40 years, I have come to understand that the following qualities are important to most clients:
Translating the customer’s needs into creative, customized design solutions
- Deep listening and understanding of the customer’s needs
- Creative problem solving to build on the client’s vision
- Presenting design options for the client to choose from
- Being up to date on the latest products and design trends
- Accurate and well-coordinated drawings that result in tight contractor bids, faster permit turn-around time, and fewer change orders
- Knowledgeable about the design/bid/build processes so that the design professional can be the technical advocate for the client’s best interests
- Keeping the project implementation on schedule and on budget
- Being able to respond quickly to the client’s requests and team communication
- Responsive problem solving
What Does the Design Professional Want?
On the other hand, the design professional has needs too, that when met by the client, creates an enjoyable working relationship and a successful project outcome. These expectations can include:
To be trusted and respected by the client
- Where the client accepts the expert opinion and advice from the design professional
- Where the client has realistic expectations, especially when it comes to budget and schedule issues
A client who can articulate their vision and be decisive
- A client who knows what they want and can make quick decisions when presented viable options
A client who is fair and reasonable
- A client who strives for a win-win solution to any project issue or problem that inevitably come up
- A client who is as responsive in paying invoices as they are in expecting responsiveness from their design professional during the project design and documentation phases
To be paid a reasonable fee that is commensurate with the level of expertise and experience provided by the design team
- Having achieved a reasonable profit at the end of the project after considering time and attention spent as well as the internal costs of the design team members working on the project
- Having enough professional services fee on the project so that the design firm doesn’t have to nickel and dime the client for any minor scope changes or minor, above scope requests
When the customer’s needs and the design professional needs are met on a project, it almost always results in an enjoyable experience for both parties where all the team members are working in the same direction for the benefit of the client. Communication is open and transparent and politics are left at the door. These projects are almost always seen as success stories in the eyes of the client’s management where predetermined success metrics are achieved.
The Win-Win Client Test:
- When selecting a design firm, the project team’s qualifications, experience, reputation and fit are more important than selecting the lowest professional fee. (True or False)
- When issues arise during the course of implementing a project, I seek a win-win, fair solution. (True of False)
- I am articulate when addressing the vision for the project and being decisive in making decisions and approvals. (True or False)
- At the start of the project, even before I request a design proposal, I clearly state my expectations of the design professional and clearly define the scope of the project. (True or False)
If you selected “True” as your answer to the four questions above, then you are considered a “client from heaven” which should result in successful project outcomes and a great working relationship with your design team.