5 ways to be a good client

Posted December 6, 2018 in Landscape Design

As a reputable outdoor living design/build firm, MasterPLAN takes every measure and detail into consideration to ensure happy clients, extraordinary services and beautiful and functional outdoor living spaces.  We try to be as aware and attentive as we can so each and every project runs smoothly and successfully.

However, for every landscape designer that is making their best effort to be superhuman in business, that is only half of the whole equation.  In a profession where designers and clients should be working closely for an extended amount of time, it is also important for homeowners to recognize how to be good clients.  A relationship based on commitment, honesty and respect (to name a few) will create a symbiotic environment that will result in an enjoyable experience with exceptional results.

I know, you think we are going to say that a good client is one who pays and on time.  Well, while that is helpful and expected, we are hoping to get a little deeper than that.  Let us explain some of our best advice to create a strong working relationship between designer and client.  This info may be helpful for those who have never taken on a construction project that stems from design services or those who hope to renovate their own outdoor spaces in the future.

Ask questions

Keep in mind that when we say, no question is a bad question, we absolutely mean it.  First meetings, for both the designer and the client, is the initial phase of discovery.  This is where the designer will get the know the family, take a look at the property, ask questions and get a real understanding of the family’s needs and how they want to feel in the new space.  Clients, too, should be prepared to ask plenty of questions of the professional.  At the end of this first meeting, the homeowners should have a good understanding of the designer’s processes, fee structures, timelines, aesthetics, abilities…etc.  Each company you interview will have a different way of doing things, so having prepared questions and taking notes is a good way to find the right company for your project.  Be sure to listen intently and ask pointed questions, rather than just trying to feel out each designer for the cheapest ideas or fastest turnaround.  You should be wary of any professional that says they can provide a quality project, fast and cheap.

Share

Sharing is so important when it comes to creating an outdoor space that your family will love for years to come.  We have had plenty of clients call into the office to explain a feeling they would like in the backyard or explain how they want to use the space, but they just don’t have the design vision to know exactly what that means…and that is ok!  This is where taking some time to find visual examples of what you and your family like and enjoy will show its benefit.  Whether you create a Houzz Ideabook, Pinterest board or have a stack of ripped magazine pages, these visual examples will clue your designer into your style, material preferences, favorite colors, textures..etc.

Investing the time in showing your designer what you love (and even what you don’t love) will not only show them that you are taking your project seriously, but this step can save you time and money down the road.  Not sharing enough with your designer may have them chasing their own ideas for the space, which may miss the mark completely; lack of clarity will lead to changes and delays which could start to sour the relationship.

Trust

Oh boy, this is a big one!  We like to think that trust is the keystone in any relationship, even a professional one.  Just as a keystone is the wedge-shaped stone in the middle of an arch that locks surrounding stones in position, trust is what both client and designer need to lean on to be fully supported as a united unit…and without trust…you just have a wedge.

This specific quality of a good client goes back to the first point we made about asking questions.  If a client did their homework and took their initial meetings seriously when interviewing designers, trust should not be an issue.  We are not saying you shouldn’t ask questions or raise concerns to your designer, because you absolutely should!  However, please hire the designer that you trust…then trust that designer!  Trusting that the professional you selected will only entertain choices and decisions in your best interest, both creatively and financially, will eliminate uneasy feelings and create a seamless construction process.  A good designer will address all concerns and questions when brought to their attention and will bring any unforeseen issues to your attention right away so a solution can be created and implemented.

Handle situations appropriately

On that same note, in construction, there is always a chance that an issue will arise that was not planned for.  While important measures are taken before any dirt is disturbed, like 811 calls, certain circumstances are not always known until encountered.  For example, finding soft soil against a home’s foundation will lead to a failed patio over time, so necessary solutions need to be implemented to make sure the patio will be long-lasting and beautiful for the homeowner for the life of the hardscape.  Another example, when removing an existing deck on a home to install its beautiful new replacement, finding a rotted ledger board or hidden water damage will need to be repaired before the new deck is installed.  These kinds of unfortunate surprises end up being an added cost for repair, it is best to understand the situation and move forward with the corrections right away, or bigger problems and costs will show up later on.

Any reputable design/build firm should bring these matters to a homeowner’s attention to make sure that the project is built safely and correctly.  We understand no one likes to be caught off-guard, trust us, we don’t either, but how the situations are handled is what separates good designers and clients from the bad.  Reasonable and mature conversations between designer and client based on respect and a mutual goal of solving issues at hand are integral tools for success and transparent, open and honest communication is the toolbox.  Respect is a two-way street on the road of a smooth working relationship.

Share your experience

After weeks, or even months, of working with a landscape designer to transform your outdoor living space, there will come a time when the equipment leaves the property and the only thing left is for the grass to start growing.  This is where both designer and clients can stand back, survey the project together, smile and hug!

Construction is always a whirlwind event, but the results are surely worth it.  Believe it or not, first-hand experience in an outdoor design/build project is highly-sought after by those who are hoping to have the same experience; this is where your words will make quite an impression!  The internet has changed the way people conduct their research and make decisions on purchases.  From reading reviews on the lightest running shoes to the best 4wd vehicles, personal encounters with products and companies make the biggest impact on those looking for the same products and services.  So, if at the end of your project your landscape designer asks for a written testimonial online, please take 10 minutes out of your day to do so.  Posted testimonials are a wonderful tip of the hat your designer for their personal involvement in helping to bring enjoyment to your family via a beautiful outdoor living space.  These reviews don’t just add credibility to a designer or company, but help others in your community who are conducting their own research for the right pros to help them enjoy their own outdoor spaces!

While the list could run on and on about creating an effective relationship with your design/build professionals, we feel that this is a good starting point.  Kindness, being proactive, trusting, open and honest are all great ways to create an enjoyable experience in a time where your property is undergoing a disruptive transformation.  With a common goal of a custom outdoor living space on the horizon, it is beneficial to go through the journey with your professional together, because at the end of the road, you will have a strong and lasting relationship.

For those who are thinking about starting their own outdoor living journey, reach out to MasterPLAN Outdoor Living!  Serving the Poconos, Lehigh Valley through the Main Line of Philadelphia and western New Jersey, we would love to partner with you to uncover the true potential of your property and create an outdoor living space that you and your family have always dreamed of.

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