How to Manage Client Expectations When Sourcing Product

July 15, 2021

Table of Contents

The Definitive Guide to Product Sourcing with John Adcox

The following is an excerpt taken from an incredible 3-part video series, The Definitive Guide to Product Sourcing with John Adcox. If you’d like to catch the full series, you can head on over to our resources page to see it in its entirety!

Continuing on our series on Product Sourcing (read part one here!), today we wanted to talk about something just as important as how you source products – managing the expectations of your client.

Get Out in Front of Things Before They Become an Issue

So often, we assume that our clients know the things that they don’t know. But it’s important for us, as designers to remember that we’re in this every day. We know how it works, we know the process, and we know the challenges associated with doing this – but our clients often don’t! And that’s why it’s so important that we share all of that information with our clients, and don’t take for granted that they know how this works. This brings us to…

Get out in front of things before they become an issue.

People are generally very reasonable, assuming that they know what they’re getting into. And if they know the expectations upfront, then when something gets delayed in shipping or a multitude of other problems, they are a whole lot more likely to take it in stride when it happens.

So what does that look like? To start, here are a couple of key topics that you should discuss and do a really good job explaining at the front end. We like to call them…

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Three Ways to Avoid Awkward Conversations with Your Interior Design Clients

#1 – Lead Times

In the age of Amazon Prime and same-day, one-day, and two-day shipping, it’s easy for clients to think that the things you are going to source for them will get there just as fast. 

You and I both know thinking that product (and even custom product for that matter) will arrive in that amount of time is ludicrous, but a lot of your clients have been conditioned to think that it’s not. So let’s be upfront about it with the client and nip that in the bud. 

Cover some of the issues, and educate them on how the fulfillment process happens. Tell them that delays happen, and often, you’re beholden to the vendor or manufacturer. Give them the heads up early in the process that it takes a little longer to get things when you’re sourcing directly from manufacturers. You can frame it like “look, this is a slower process, it’s going to take a little more time, but it’s absolutely worth it. Because you’re going to have your dream space, everything is going to be tailored for it, it’s going to make sense. So better to wait a little longer and have it be right than to have it rushed and have it be wrong.”

Clients Don't Know What They Don't Know

So often, we assume that our clients know the things that they don’t know. However, it’s important for us, as designers to remember that we’re in this every day.

We know how it works, we know the process, and we know the challenges associated with doing this but our clients often don’t!

That’s why it’s so important that we share all of that information with our clients, and don’t take for granted that they know how this works.

#2 – Stock Issues

We imagine a lot of you have been dealing with this quite a bit lately. Often, there is a lag between when you present something to a client, and when they actually approve it (and you can order!) And between those two points, stock changes – that’s just the reality of things.

So make sure your client understands that stock can literally change minute-to-minute; what’s in stock this morning could be out of stock this afternoon. We all know that a lot of the times the systems used for stock aren’t always kept completely current, so make sure your clients knows that and prepare them for that eventuality.

You may also want to address how you’ll handle these issues when they happen, so your client knows you’ll go to bat for them and make their project happen. If a client approves something, and all of a sudden it’s out of stock, what will you do about it? If it’s a substitution and your client doesn’t like anything you’ve selected are you willing to give them a refund? These are policy decisions you should decide on in advance, and share with your client.

#3 – Shipping Costs

Again, we have companies like Amazon and Wayfair that’ll ship everything for free, influencing the perceptions and viewpoint of our clients. As designers, we know that shipping isn’t free, and it’s part and parcel with sourcing product, but our clients don’t. So you need to figure out your policies for how you’re going to charge for shipping, and then be upfront with your client on that cost, and why.

Dispel the myth that shipping is free, and break down the numbers to them. Shipping out big items like furniture is expensive! And while being super clear about this aspect of the process, and digging into the numbers with your client isn’t always comfortable, it’ll prevent them from comparing you to the free shipping websites of the world.

When you break it down, they’ll see that you’re actually less than the free shipping website, even though you’re charging a shipping amount, because the total is ultimately less than if they bought there.

Make sure that they also know that residential shipments cost a lot more than a commercial dock-to-dock shipment. A lot of times people want things to ship directly to their house because there’s this assumption that they’ll get it there faster. So you may want to interject there and say, “Yes, we can do that, I’m just not 100% sure you want to – and here’s why.” And then talk to them about the challenges of shipping things directly to a house.

Want Three More Ways to Avoid Awkward Conversations?

Then be sure to catch the full series on product sourcing on our resources page!

John has done an amazing job at demystifying, and breaking down how to be on your product sourcing A-game – saving you time, improving your margins on product, and ultimately keeping your clients happy!

Discover how you can use Mydoma Studio to save time & impress more clients