The Fading Art of Customer Service

Through all of the hype, noise and debate over AI, an older and much more powerful force has all but been silenced. For those in the know, its true power, not only keep vigil over it—it is their secret competitive advantage. That force is called “Customer Service”, which is serving the customer/client, rather than merely tending the project alone.

The term “customer service” means many things to many people. For far too many, it represents a direct cost of overhead, which should be minimized at all costs.

For the few who understand it’s magic, it transforms the customer experience from the ordinary to extraordinary, by addressing ALL of needs of the client… not just those specified in the job proposal.

Arguably, most of your competitors can fulfill the basic requirements of the job to a certain degree. What sets you apart from the rest is how you go about the process of SERVING your client.

Beyond the years of design excellence… beyond the multitude of projects completed on time, on budget and to the delight of our clients… an aspect of the project engagement that we rarely discuss, yet one which permeates every project, is what far too many people call an intangible… which we describe as serving our clients… Customer Service.

There is art and science behind customer-based, rather than contract-based service as it involves humans, with our various shades of unique humanness. We think differently. We see things differently.  We have differing values and priorities. Being able to navigate all of these differing key stakeholders… valued voices and experience, developing consensus and marshaling all to the successful completion of the project and relationships is a skill we at Selbert Perkins Design have honed over decades of serving our clients.

Relationships Matter!

When you do not serve the needs of your client, some clients may tell you. Most, however, will simply not call you again to participate in future projects. The fact that most of our clients choose to work with us over and over, many of whom we’ve had the pleasure of serving over decades, clearly demonstrates their success in working with us.

“One of the reasons why I was very adamant about wanting to join SPD, was because of those long-term clients and those amazing projects that I can still read about today on our website. They’re so full of passion. They’re so full of life and the personality of SPD. It takes a long time to build up that personality, credibility, reputation and relationships. It is the result of combining fabulous talent with the fading art of customer service.” — Sharon Brooks, Principal – Business Development, Selbert Perkins Design

Our clients are the hero of our story. It is our job to guide them to successfully winning the day by understanding and appreciating who they are, what their real problems are to be solved, and guiding them with the solutions to those problems.

Our first order of business is to help our customers gather data from all of their key stakeholders; valued voices, experience, opinions and requirements, make sense of it and craft it into a unified and actionable wayfinding, placemaking and branding strategy. We are very hands on, especially in this phase of the project, because consensus building is key to a successful project, and is a highly specialized, core service we provide to our clients.

This begins with truly listening to the client and all stakeholders. Collaboration begins with the careful collection and curation and consensus from the many disparate voices. We find that without actively listening to the people involved, we do not fully understand all of the client’s needs and produce an actionable and successful project.

“Communication is Key! It’s more than just communicating. It’s beyond mere listening. It’s listening to both the content and context of what is being said and then figuring out almost in real time what it is that they’re really needing, what it is they’re really saying and using that to help them. It’s service leadership in my estimation.” — Chris Wong, Principal, Selbert Perkins Design

Once we have some insight into what our client really needs from us, we employ proactivity, actively engaging with our clients and their project, so that we can anticipate and resolve problems before they occur. This not only helps prevent the project from going off of the rails, it clearly demonstrates to our client that we are on top of things.

Communication is a critical component of all of our projects. Firstly, we automatically reduce the need for urgent emails and meetings by proactively engaging our clients throughout the process. And when we do receive requests, they are promptly and fully addressed. Managing large projects is stressful enough. It does not need to be exacerbated by slow response times and/or off-the-cuff replies.

Caring is another key component of great customer service. In addition to ensuring that the project is successful, we work hard to ensure that the people involved with the project succeed as well.

People Like Doing Business With People That They Know, Like and Trust.

Unlike others in our business, we rarely use outsourced team members. We, instead, hire in-house staff with the intention of them being team members long term. They come to us with various talents and we help them develop their channels of genius, providing a deep bench of talent and long term cohesive relationships with our clients and team.

“I believe it’s still very important for people to feel like they’re talking to a person, that they’re getting some kind of connection, with perhaps an even deeper sense of empathy. That’s an important quality that only humans can provide. That is something we highly value, and by doing so, we exceed our customer’s expectations.” — Paul Nagakura, Principle, Selbert Perkins Design

Since our beginnings, Selbert Perkins Design continues to place a high value in delighting our clients through the engagement of amazing talent, creating wonderful work, and treating our clients as the heroes of the story they truly are.

For more than 30 years, through our studios in Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, and Shanghai, Selbert Perkins Design has created some of the most successful and iconic projects around the globe.

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Skyline College Brand

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