By Penn Javdan
When we think of customer service in the real estate industry, we typically think of sales reps meeting defined professional standards when it comes to communicating with clients and delivering overall value to them, given their objectives.
Sometimes clients are aware of their objectives, sometimes not. Customer service is about offering clients what they want, but also ensuring that what they are getting is aligned with their interests. Aligned in a way that makes the whole experience valuable and desirable.
So perhaps a better, more holistic concept that encapsulates this idea is customer experience – the provision of professional services before, during and after a purchase or transaction that enhances the user experience itself.
One thing that is rarely considered in this context is how designers fit directly into the picture. More specifically, how is the work of the architectural or interior designer a form of customer service?
Ryan Saghian, a Los Angeles-based designer with international reach, is a firm believer in the concept of design as a form of customer service. I sat down with him to get a clearer idea of this approach:
What does customer service mean to you specifically as a designer?
What I consider customer service as an interior designer is proper execution. My vision and design is the first part, but then it’s my timely execution that makes for impeccable customer service.
Beyond just giving clients what they want, can customer service be embodied in designs themselves? How so?
I can sit for hours and sketch all types of ideas, but none of them will connect to my client or transform their dreams into a space. In that regard, being able to take my clients’ desires, wants and needs and embody them into a space is what I would consider customer service in reference to actual design.
How would you define design?
The transformation of your soulful vision to a space.
What advice would you give Realtors on how to collaborate effectively with designers either to sell or market a property?
The demographics of the neighbourhood. Who buys there? Families? Bachelors? It helps create a space and home for a specific type of client.
If there’s one thing you wish Realtors knew about designers, what would it be?
Realtors think business and fast money. One thing they should know is designers attach emotion and soul to their work. Each project is like a piece of art. Sometimes, it can be hard for a designer to differentiate between business and art.
The idea that real estate professionals alone are responsible for delivering customer service in a real estate transaction is misleading. Designers shouldn’t simply fade into the background when their designs are complete. They play an equally important role and should co-ordinate with sales reps when marketing or selling a property – either in terms of understanding the property better or liaising with sales reps in an efficient manner that showcases what the client will want before the property is built, or after.
The design-centered approach is especially helpful for newer condos or singe family homes, where the thumbprint of design and the pulse of the property is fresh and relevant in the designer’s mind.
Communicating objectives and coming to a common understanding throughout the life cycle of a transaction will enhance the reputation of both designers and sales reps and give them a competitive edge.
In the end, it is not enough to simply deliver value to the client. A happy, memorable experience will go a long way in the long run for all stakeholders concerned.