“Getting Our Clients Involved In Structuring The Solution To Their Needs”

If we think back to school, parenting, or an employment situation when we (as the student, child, or employee) had a question or an issue that we wanted to bring to someone’s attention, recall how they didn’t really want to hear a gripe or a complaint or just an unfounded question without testing us to make sure we at least had thought it through a little? 

A common response is for the teacher, coach, mentor, scoutmaster to ask their student or charge, the parent to ask their child, or the supervisor or employer to ask the employee for their thoughts or their input before just giving advice or offering a solution.

It’s easy as the consultant, adult, or authority figure to present what we think is best based on our assessments – and we may well do that in some cases – but a more interactive way of suggesting one or more possible outcomes and getting the person raising the concern to have a little skin in the game also is by asking what they would do, how they would approach it, or what they had considered as possible solutions to the issue in question.

As we do our initial assessments and evaluations of a potential client’s living space, certain things are going to become apparent to us. These may or may not be what is concerning the person whose home we are evaluating. they may be noticing things from a function or use aspect, and we may be focused more on safety or design. We might see the same functional issues that the client notices, but our perspective will be different from theirs – both in terms of what might be desirable as a fix and what is happening as they use the space.

Rather than just come right out and offer a list of suggested improvements, we might want to get our clients (or prospective or potential clients) involved in determining the scope and priorities of what needs to be done. First, we learn about what is going on, and then we determine the budget. They may not have a budget number in mind when we begin the conversation because they don’t have any real idea what needs to be or should be done. Conversely, they may know that they need “some” work done and have a rough budget number in mind to cover any possible improvements that are selected.

When they mention a particular area of concern, we may want to ask them why they think this area of their home is presenting issues for them and then what they would like to see done to improve the situation. We may concur with their assessment, or we may have a very different approach to solving their concerns. Still, asking them what type of a solution (in general terms) they would suggest can give us direction and help us sell the final design.

Asking them for their thoughts and ideas about how they might approach something or what they think would solve the issues they are facing helps them to take ownership of the proposed improvements and makes it more of a team effort even though they are not going to have any hands-on involvement in the actual renovation. If it was merely a matter of doing something simple, they likely would already have done it.

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