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Do your clients love working with you? Probably not

Do your clients love working with you? Probably not

At BuiltWorlds, we're not just about technology. We're about being better, advancing our industry via best practices and lessons learned. A big part of that is improving 'UX/UI', aka user experience/user interface. With that in mind, we also offer forward-looking management blogs like the one below:



Most of our business choices, as organizations and individual consumers, are based on the quality of our customer experiences with the people who sell us things.

This idea was described 15 years ago by Joe Pine and James Gilmore in The Experience Economy. If we have positive and memorable experiences with products or services, we’ll become loyal customers. If we have poor or undistinguished experiences, we’ll go elsewhere. Companies that sell great experiences and outcomes are valued and rewarded accordingly. Others are relegated to “commodity” status.

Great service experiences can distinguish companies that sell fairly ordinary items: Starbucks and Zappos are frequent examples. Others are more personal, like the empowerment of individual staff members at any Ritz-Carlton or the young people who get us to our rental cars at Enterprise. We all know and remember great experiences when we encounter them.

The design and construction industry doesn’t seem to get it. Our services are intensely personal, but architects and engineers are often more focused on design and technical ideas than communicating well with their clients. Builders would sometimes prefer to be left alone, just to get the job done.

In one major survey, clients liked the people they worked with, and liked the end products, but hated the process. It was often difficult, complicated, and frustrating. That’s one reason some clients hire intermediaries to manage the people who are really doing the hard work.

Our opportunity is to win clients with expertise – what we know, and what we know how to do – and then keep them with great experiences.

But how? I like Shep Hyken’s ideas in The Cult of the Customer. He talks about “touch points” and “impact points” through which we create customer experiences, good or bad. A run-in with the accounting department can offset a good relationship with a project designer. An attentive project manager can’t overcome the liability of a team member who doesn’t listen or seem to care.

We can find ways to transform the experiences we create for design and construction clients. We can design our practices and train our people to amaze our clients, as Hyken would put it, rather than frustrate them. If we do, we’ll have those clients for life.

Architects and engineers sometimes complain about being treated like commodities. A great service experience can put us at the top of the value chain: distinguishing ourselves, rewarding us well, and giving us the opportunity to keep clients who truly love what we do.


Based in St. Louis, the author is a principal consultant with Cameron Macallister Group. Prior to 2014, he had served 12 years as Vice Chairman of HOK and was managing principal of its St. Louis headquarters. He is a Fellow in the American Institute of Architects and a Senior Fellow with the Design Futures Council.

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