When an architecture firm takes on a new project, they do much more than just draw the blueprints and oversee the build. They must also deal with the clients who hired them. Managing these relationships takes work, but doing this well can help foster return business and client referrals.
Let’s take a closer look at how top architecture firms deal with clients.
Building trust before you meet
For many architecture firms, client relationships start before the first meeting even takes place. Clients are looking for an architect they can trust to do the job right. If your firm doesn’t look or sound the part, some clients won’t even bother getting in touch.
Architecture firms can help build client trust by creating a strong online presence. This includes elements such as your website and social media, portfolio, and client testimonials.
Your website and social media are important places to communicate with potential clients. They should be up-to-date and well-designed. Think about it this way: If you visit a website that looks like it was designed in 2009 and is full of outdated information, would you hire that company? Similarly, if your firm has not posted to your social media accounts in months, clients might wonder if you’re still in business.
A strong portfolio is also a must for any architecture firm. It’s important to highlight your best work with high-resolution images and video (wherever you can). However, your portfolio is a space where quality is more important than quantity. Don’t overwhelm clients with everything you’ve ever designed. Choose only the best examples of your work but showcase them well. Clients can always ask for more if they are interested.
Finally, testimonials from happy clients could bring more business to your architecture firm. Customer reviews are an important consideration for many clients. Highlight some of the best on your website, or ask clients to leave you a review through an online feedback platform of your choice (such as Google Reviews or Feefo).
Strong communication with clients
Dealing with clients often comes down to how you communicate with them. Architecture firms can practice a variety of communication skills to help keep their clients happy throughout a project.
It’s important for architects to remember that not everyone has the specialized knowledge that they do. Your clients might not know how to read a blueprint. They may not know the difference between a portico and a porte-cochere, or even what you mean when you talk about load-bearing walls. Avoid overusing architectural or other technical terms and be patient with their questions during meetings.
Keeping clients in the loop throughout the entire project can also help you manage the architect-client relationship. Some clients get nervous when they don’t hear about their project at regular intervals. In your first few meetings, ask the client how often they expect to hear from you, and work together to create a reasonable communication plan for sharing updates.
Finally, confirming changes in writing can help you avoid costly misunderstandings or mistakes. Things change during a project, and your clients may agree to these changes verbally. When this happens, send a follow up email outlining what was discussed and ask the client to sign off once more on the changes. This helps you and the client make sure you are both on the same page.
Managing client expectations
Setting realistic expectations can help you avoid many issues with clients. Architecture firms should be innovative, but they need to do this without promising their clients something that they cannot deliver. Be clear about what can and cannot be done from the start, particularly when it comes to a client’s budget.
Equally important is to not overpromise on what your firm can do. If a project is outside of your area or expertise, it is OK to refer potential clients to an architect or firm that is more suited to the project. Many clients will appreciate this honesty and may refer others to your firm for projects that better match your skillset or specialty.
Turning a project around
Projects often do not go perfectly to plan. When this happens, dealing with the client in a transparent and positive manner can go a long way towards avoiding conflict.
Before you begin a project for a client, make sure you’ve done your research. You should be fully versed on building codes, accessibility requirements, and other standards that must be met legally or to match the client’s needs. Getting these details right from the start can help you avoid the expense of starting over or redoing portions of the design or build.
However, if something still doesn’t go to plan, it’s time to get creative! Offer solutions to help the client achieve the project goals (or come as close as possible).
Professional Liability insurance for architects
Dealing with clients is an important task for any architecture firm. Still, there are times when a client may still be unhappy with your work, no matter how hard you try to turn the situation around. For these projects, you may consider having Professional Liability insurance for architects.
Professional Liability, otherwise known as E&O insurance, protects your business against claims of negligence, misrepresentation or mistake, as well as document or paperwork errors. A policy can provide important protections for architects, giving you more peace of mind as you take on client projects.
If you’re interested in Professional Liability insurance for architects, BizInsure can help. Visit our website to learn more about Professional Liability for architects.