Thursday, March 25, 2010

What if the customer ISN'T always right?

Designers, organizers and consultants provide services, and sometimes products, to clients (or customers) based on their recommendation of what will be best for the project and customer.

The very nature of the collaboration is founded on the customer relying on the expertise and experience of the service professional.

So what about the age old adage, "the customer is always right" as it pertains to these industries? If that were true, then these professionals wouldn't exist, right? Or if they did exist it would be merely to execute orders rather than create or develop anything.

My experience has been that if you choose to work with great clients, you will most likely develop such a trusting and respectful relationship that issues will never even come up. You provide your opinion, expertise, examples from past experience, you can flat tell them they "absolutely have to do it this way" ... but ultimately, the client has the power of choice.

Ironically, that power is often the very reason the client has contacted you in the first place - because they can't make a decision. When it comes to paint colors, fabric choices, etc., people get nervous about committing to a choice and will say things like, "I don't know, you choose!"

In the beginning the "I don't know, you choose" line can be frustrating because you don't know the client well enough yet to know whether or not they will be happy with your choice. By the end however, it can be very liberating for both the professional and the client because they get relief from making tough decisions, you get creative freedom ... and ultimately everyone is satisfied in the end.

I'd like to hear from people in the service industry - specifically ones that are required to take the "trust me, I know what's best" approach with their customers. What are your secrets to making the relationship work smoothly? What do you do to ensure satisfaction? What horror stories do you have and what did you learn from them?

I think this topic is really relevant and doesn't get discussed the same way that consumer complaints and customer reviews do so I'm interested what people have to say.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Who says TV rots your brain?

Lately, I've been feeling a little down and out. Yes, I'm getting over a cold and that's one thing, but this was different, an all over "blah" feeling inside and out. It didn't make sense. So far this year has been like a greatest hits album with my life and business making monumental strides. So why was I feeling so tired and like I wanted to crawl into bed and hide away from the world?

Well, I think I got the answer to get my "mojo" back, courtesy of one of my fav shows, Chuck on NBC. In case you're not familiar, the basics are that Chuck unwillingly became a super spy when a computer program called the Intersect was uploaded to his brain for safe keeping. He's just an average dude but when the moment strikes he "flashes" on information and can possess skills he normally wouldn't have. So anyway, the Intersect hasn't been working and Chuck hasn't been "flashing" and his spy days are basically over. At the climax of the episode, when Chuck and his best friend are trapped and about to be exterminated by the bad guys, they have a heart to heart and Chuck reconnects with his true feelings and his true self. He realizes that by trying so hard to be a "real spy" he lost the gift of just being Chuck. Well of course, you can imagine what happened next, Chuck did finally "flash" and he took down the bad guys and saved the day.

So I realized this morning that I've been a little too much like Chuck; shutting out areas of my life that I deemed as superfluous and trivial, and just trying so damn hard to overachieve at everything. Maybe allowing myself to engage in hobbies is NOT superfluous and taking the time to meet people and make friends is NOT trivial. Ironically, I know from experience that the best things have come to me this year when I haven't been hunting them, when I've been balanced, and when I've been overall enjoying my life rather than toiling in it.

What do you enjoy, but don't make time for? Could indulging in these activities actually impact success in other areas of your life?

March Ezine: Paint your walls - Change your mood!

To paint or not to paint? That should never be a question!

I spoke recently with a soon-to-be-mother about how to decorate when they don’t know if its a boy or a girl. I discussed many gender-neutral options for the color of the room. We finally decided on green. Or so I thought.

A few days ago we spoke again and much to my dismay she said, “We decided not to paint. We don’t want to spend too much money since we’re just renting and won’t be here more than a year.” What?!? My head nearly exploded.

Painting is actually one of the most COST EFFECTIVE ways to change the look and mood of a room. And quite frankly, a year is a long time to be living with drab walls, especially in a nursery! Okay, okay, so if it sounds like I’m taking it too personally, you’re right I am. She’s not even a client of mine! I just know first-hand that color has the potential to make the single biggest impact on your space and therefore, your mood.

Take a look below at the "before" & "after" paint of one of my first apartments - HUGE difference! The place was cheap and old and it would have continued to look that way if I hadn't painted :)
Room before paint
Room after paint

You’ve probably heard before that red is the color of passion, green is healing, and blue is calming. These are some of the commonly held beliefs derived from the study of Color Psychology. However, there are no hard and fast rules about color – that’s the beauty of it – whatever makes you happy is the right choice.

So how do you choose? There are so many darn options out there and it can be difficult to get started. One way to start is with an online program that surveys what color schemes you probably will like based on your preferences. Pittsburgh Paints has come up with this ingenious Color Sense Game that will profile your color personality through a series of multiple-choice questions.
(Click here to go to their site to play the game.)
Paint Color Sense Game

Entire libraries of books have been written on color and color psychology so I won't get into all of that. But here are some color knowledge basics I always keep in mind when examining color options:

1) Warm vs. Cool

Red, orange, and yellow are warm colors and are generally thought to create intimate, cozy spaces. Blue, green and purple are cool colors and can create a serene, spacious look.
Color Wheel

2) Complimentary vs. Analogous

Complimentary colors are of “opposite hue” on a color wheel and create dramatic and intense pairings. Blue and orange are popular complimentary hues. Combining a primary and secondary color creates tertiary colors, which are analogous colors. They are “adjacent hues” on the color wheel and when paired create a softer, mellower effect. Yellow and green are popular analogous hues.
Color Wheel 2

3) Saturation Levels

Most paint swatches will have seven variations of the same hue ranging from darkest to lightest. As a general rule, the lightest version works great on the ceiling, while the darkest version is appropriate for accents and accessories. The wall color will come from one of the versions in the middle and typically lighter is better, because the color almost always ends up looking darker once painted on the wall.
Paint Swatches

4) Brightness

Many paint decks will have two sections: Neutrals and Brights and within each sections you will find purples, pinks, blues, greens, etc. but you’ll notice that the neutral version of purple is a lot less bright than well, the “bright” version of purple :) The neutral versions of colors appear more dull - not in the boring way, but in the way of having more gray mixed into the true hue and thus producing a mellow, subdued look. Brights are bold, vivacious and attention getting. Neutrals are quieter, subtle, and less obvious. You will need to decide what feeling you want to evoke in your space.
bright purple room
dark purple room

And just for fun, you can check out more about Color Psychology and what your favorite colors say about you here:

About.Com (Psychology of color)
Color-Wheel-Pro.Com (the meanings of color)
AssociatedContent.Com (what color says about you)

If you need a little more help and inspiration, you know where to find me and I'd love to help you bring a little color into your life!