Creative Connecting: Managing Client Expectations During the Custom Design Process
Big companies like Starbucks and Apple have made personalization a key selling point: have your coffee your way, your computer, your mobile phone, your apps and your social media feed.
Today’s consumer has literally been trained to desire personalization. Shoppers want to participate in the buying process by customizing the products they buy to suit their needs, preferences or lifestyles, and jewelry is no exception.
As the demand for personalized jewelry continues to increase, communication with the customer will be critical to success.
We spoke with several jewelers who regularly do bespoke design work to find out their top tips for communicating with the client throughout the process.
Design Consultation – Active Listening is Key
Designer Dan Sokyrka of Diamond Concepts Fine Jewelry in Sonora, CA has been designing custom jewelry for his clients for 40 years and has completed thousands of jewelry creations.
For Dan, the custom design process starts with listening.
“To be able to communicate effectively with people, especially to understand someone’s thoughts and ideas about what they want in a design, you have to listen not only to what the client is saying, but also to listen to how they act and his body language.” he said.
He observes their style of dress, the jewelry they wear when they enter the store and the car they drive; not critically, just to understand their sense of style.
“But the key is to ask questions and listen to their answers,” he said. “I find that when I stop trying to ‘sell’ something, and talk to them a bit about their likes and dislikes and their lives, they relax and don’t feel pressured. , and then, it is easier for them to explain what they are thinking.”
Sokyrka tells her clients to be 100% honest, assuring them that their dislike of something will not offend her.
For customers who have no idea what they want, Sokyrka gives them homework.
“I tell them to make it fun… Go home and go on your computer to the Google Images tab with a glass of wine and type in some keywords, like vintage style ring, three stone engraved ring, modern ruby ring , whatever you think could uplift your style.
“Don’t look for a particular ring, just look for what makes you feel good, maybe just a curve on this ring or it could be a twist on this ring. Print or save whatever appeals to you on any what a ring. Your choices will start to have common themes, and I’ll start to know exactly what you like.
Customer Engagement—Keep Them Informed
After the initial design consultation, it can be difficult to balance client involvement. To what extent do you involve the customer in the process?
John Magzalcioglu, Vice President of Diamond Club International, suggests keeping the customer informed every step of the way to ensure customer satisfaction.
“As we make the jewelry, we communicate with our customers step by step, letting them know when we’re finalizing the design (getting their approval), when we’re setting the diamonds, when we’re polishing, when we’re doing quality control, etc. And most importantly, we follow up once they receive the jewelry to see if they are happy with it or if they have any concerns.
During an educational panel at Stuller’s October “Bridge” conference, custom design specialist Joseph Meadows of David Douglas Diamonds & Jewelry shared the importance of not over-complicating the custom process by using too many industry terms that could confuse or overwhelm a customer.
Instead of saying “rendering,” use the term “drawing or sketch,” he suggested. And instead of saying “CAD”, describe it as “a computer drawing of your design”.
He noted that many jewelry and gemstone terms and acronyms are second nature to designers and jewelers, but can intimidate customers.
Session presenters also advised to clearly define the difference between jewelry repairs and alterations to existing designs, as well as complete custom designs, as prices and timing will vary depending on the scope of work involved by jeweler.
Hasmik (Jasmine) Kafafian of Michael M Jewelry reminded us of the importance of getting all the details upfront, including the size of the ring or the desired length and width of a pendant.
This kind of specificity helps to guarantee success and must be specified before any cutting and especially before the casting of precious metals. Kafafian works in wax molds and usually sends CAD designs for approval before making the wax mold.
Giving customers choices in the communication process can also create a more personalized approach to your service.
Chris Ploof, owner and designer at Chris Ploof Designs, said he chooses the client’s level of information based on their requests.
“Once we have an approved design, we don’t usually share the process unless the client asks, and even then I don’t always document the whole process unless we ask. have agreed with the customer in advance. Of course, with cellphones taking great photos/videos these days, it has become much easier and faster. I let the client lead and gauge their level of interest. »
Ploof said jewelers should always get a deposit and let the customer know ahead of time if any changes require additional investment.
“I won’t even start designing without a down payment. I’ve seen countless jewelers get burned by customers who walk away once a design has been shared and buy it at a lower price. I share a CAD design and video, and I’m happy to make minor adjustments, but if a client wants major changes or can’t decide, we charge for revisions. We inform the customer of this in advance.
Ploof also suggests clarifying design ownership.
“Early on, I let a client know that he owned the idea to modify or customize one of my designs, but he didn’t own the design itself, it is us. This avoids any misunderstanding.
“Also, we don’t give our customers our CAD files, we keep them. Most of the custom parts we have made include hours of complicated CAD. I’m not going to give this away so another manufacturer can offer a lower price, especially since all that design work is already done. Most of our parts are geared towards our unique materials and styles anyway, and sometimes these design files can be reused later as a basis for creating new designs or others.