Top 5 Questions to Ask When Interviewing Service Providers
Don't let a great project be torpedoed by a bad experience with a third party provider. Here are some questions for selecting and maintaining a quality team.
In a previous post, Lasting Impressions – It Takes A Team, I shared the importance of putting together the best service providers , not only to help your design company put its best foot in the door, but to also leave your clients still basking in the glow of the finished project. You don't want a beautiful design experience to easily become tarnished by a surly delivery guy!
Of course, above and beyond blending personalities and creating chemistry, it's important to develop a checklist for the process of selecting and maintaining a quality team. Some of these items are good for a periodic review with your tried and true providers, too. Circumstances can always change in how they handle their business practices. It's good to be sure to be sure everyone is still on the same page.
Here are my five:
- How do they define their job? This can open up many discussions in terms of whether or not they will truly be considered independent contractors or employees. A case in point: You’ve got an installer who provides window treatment installation, delivers furniture, a plethora of other services, and has been treated as an independent contractor. Business really starts booming and he or she ultimately ends up working solely on your projects. The IRS might feel they’ve crossed the fine line from a 1099 status to that of an employee. You can go to the IRS small business Website to review more or contact your tax advisor.
- How will they be compensated and what methods of payment do they accept? Determine if the services they are to provide will be under the umbrella of your company or if they will be paid directly by your clients. This can be tied to some following questions about insurance and legal issues. If they are being compensated by your firm for work, you need to make some determinations with the appropriate advisors. Reviewing payment methods might seem to be a no-brainer, however, in ten states, it is illegal to add a surcharge for accepting credit cards, while it's legal to offer cash or check discounts. Clarifying details will eliminate billing issues.
- Are they covered by insurance? There are different types of business insurance which could be applicable to design projects. Questions #1 and #2 can help you to determine, with your advisor, how to be confident your providers carry the right coverage. Liability is a must if anyone will be in a client's home. It can cover everything from valuables, to damages, and can have specific riders added. Perhaps your installer is covered while providing in-home services. Part of that installation involves delivering a $20,000 antique Mahal rug. A stop for coffee occurs, the delivery truck has been broken into, and the Mahal goes missing. Does their policy protect goods while in transit? Yes, it would have been a "good-to-know item!" Perhaps a subcontractor may carry Workmen's Compensation. They bring in an occasional helper who is not covered. What happens when the helper falls off the ladder? Preplanning for "Mr. Murphy" can protect everyone from many headaches...and can even save a business!
- Does their company have a mission statement and operating procedures in place? It may be a high expectation for some of our providers to share this. Bringing up this question does allow you, the designer, to share some of your goals in providing service and your expectations, based upon your own list. I’ve found that some understand this concept can set them apart from other providers. Just think if they walked in the door and handed a homeowner or a project manager the steps they take to insure exemplary service? Vacuuming after an installation could be as much of a "wow" factor as the new rug!
- What are their hours of operation? How is the best way to contact them? How long should it take before I expect a response? Do they offer rush services? How do they handle job call-backs? I didn't want to lose your attention beyond five and some of these don't require further explanation. I do like to know if rush services are available. Sometimes there's an opportunity to address needs for which a client is ready and able to provide compensation, above and beyond traditional time frames. I also want to be assured, if anything presents a client concern, they will be there to follow-up on their work and provide the best in client services. That's a big key to leaving a great, lasting impression!
Wanda S. Horton is a residential interior designer based in the Charlotte, NC metro area and brings a distinct perspective on all things regarding design. She shares her design musings with consumers and interior designers, alike, via her blog, Interior Concepts by Wanda. She also writes monthly posts for Hooker Furniture’s, "Experience Your Home". She's an active participant during the nationally acclaimed High Point Furniture Market, including articles in the Designer Lookbook ,and was in the first group of Style Spotters focusing on market trends. She has been included as a guest panelist during several industry social media events. HGTV honored Wanda as one of Five Designers to Follow on Twitter. Her focus on multigenerational interior design has evolved from addressing the various ranges of her clients' lifestyles needs. Wanda has been recently volunteering her time and services in the transformation of her local community shelter, in order to create bright, new beginnings.