Building good relationships with your clients is one of the key elements to success in business. Our suppliers often ask us for advice on best practice when working with our trade buyers. In order to make this clearer, we recently invited eporta trade buyer members Kasia Drymer (Living in Space) and Shonagh Gardiner (MoreySmith) to an open panel discussion with our suppliers revealing what buyers really care about when choosing who to work with.
The panel took place at a breakfast event we held for our supplier community. Here were the key takeaways for our suppliers…let us know if you agree!
Customer service is more important than anything else
“Great customer service around the order is crucial, otherwise there is a potential to be faceless online” With all the added benefit and efficiencies of the digital age, we were reminded how important it is to remember that our customers are real people, even when hidden behind a computer screen. The communication you have with them is the essence of your relationship and their impression of you as a supplier. The more human you are, the more memorable you are.
Not only are they real people, but interior designers and architects are often also really busy people. Responding to their queries as quickly as possible is vital to becoming a strong lifeline for your client.
“I had found the perfect chair and placed the order with the supplier, but due to their shutdown period they were not sure if they could deliver this within the lead time. I came back to work the next day, thinking it was going to be too late to order the chair, but the supplier had stayed late talking to their manufacturer to make the lead time work. We managed to get the order placed in the nick of time, which was really going above and beyond for me”
No matter how good your product is, your client will remember bad service. Great customer service however will always be remembered fondly.
So, how do you go about ensuring that you keep your customers on your side when things do go wrong?
Always be honest
“There have been times where the supplier has made a mistake and given us the wrong product or quantity, and again mistakes can happen, but what I would respect is a bit of honesty for someone to put their hand up and say, ok this is how we’re going to fix it” Everyone makes mistakes, but it goes a long way if you are able to be honest with your clients, and work with them towards fixing any issues as quickly and as painlessly for them as possible. “If they didn’t offer an apology, or an offer of compensation or resolvement, we won’t work with them again”.
Be proactive, offer advice and provide alternatives
“It’s not always about price. Be sensitive to fit-for-purpose, we are open to alternatives in general if the product specified is not appropriate” No-one knows your product better than you, and as hard as it is to turn down a potential sale, it will be worth more further down the line if you work with your client to ensure that they get the right product for their needs. Being open with your client with the suitability of the product in the chosen environment will form the building blocks in establishing trust with you and will probably save you a potential headache later.
That’s not to say however that you need to lose out completely. “We appreciate that bespoke alterations will incur a charge and increase lead-time, but honesty is key”
The more information the better
“Give as much information as possible – this means that I can really quickly establish whether a product is relevant to our needs, it really really helps to sell the product” If you don’t have all the information that your client needs, they may ask you, but often you’re working with very time poor people, and some most likely won’t. They will instead go to someone else who does have the answer to their questions readily available. Putting things like your lead-time, trade discount, fabric options or packaging information as clearly as possible will make a real impact to the saleability of your product. “When you immediately see the % discount on offer, the time saved gives an instant magnetism to your product”
Make sure you have good photography
Interior designers are visual people, and an image is the fastest way to sell your product to them. “It’s one thing having images from the front, or the side, but seeing the product in situ is easier for the client to understand. The minimum would be to see pictures of the front, the back, the fabrics available, as well as all the finishes available. Even if it’s not professional photography, keep any pictures on your phone and just keep as a reference for clients, it’s still better than nothing.” If your customer can get a sense of the colourway or texture of your product in a real life setting, this will go a long way to building your relationship with your customer and becoming a go-to supplier.
Don’t send a printed catalogue!
“I don’t remember the last time I specified something from a printed catalogue, in fact I don’t think I have ever done it” Whilst printed catalogues can look lovely, the reality is that many of your clients won’t even have the time to pick it up, and, if they do, they almost certainly won’t read it cover to cover. In today’s digital world, an easy to access digital catalogue with great photography, focused on image rich interesting content, will go much further for you than a printed copy of your catalogue, or a generic text-heavy email. “A visual email is a much better rather than a phone call. If you have got some pictures in your email, we are much more likely to open the email and follow through to your page”
Make sure you have added all your product information into eporta
“I am that person who goes through 24 pages, and I tries every search around it. The key beauty of eporta is the filters. Sometimes it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack, but those filters make it easier by making the haystack even a little bit smaller.” This really shows just how important it is for you to put as much information as possible into your product page, to make sure that you come up as quickly as possible in your client’s search.
“On eporta you have these absolute incredible filters, there is so much information that you can be specific on and as a result the amount of work involved has gone down, and we have more time to think about design. That’s why I love eporta.”
About the speakers:
Kasia Drymer, a graduate of KLC, is an interior designer with 10 years’ experience in the industry. Specialising predominantly in residential projects, Living in Space provide a full design and build service, including everything from concept and design development through to project management. Being free from the constraints of a house style, the portfolio is varied and eclectic, reflecting the individuality of each and every client.
Shonagh Gardiner graduated from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design (DJCAD) in 2014 and joined MoreySmith as an Interior Designer. She has worked on a wide range of workplace, hospitality and residential projects, and has gained experience at all project stages from concept to completion including extensive furniture specification, installation and styling. She works with clients to develop initial ideas, including refining product selection, finishes and upholstery, and conducting showroom tours. She enjoys building long-term relationships with trusted suppliers.