Top-Notch Customer Service or Bust!


Balancing High-Level Design and Hands-On Service in Utah Architecture’s Booming Economy

“It’s so busy!” We seem to hear it everywhere we go. A project meeting, site visit, or an industry event. Utah’s steady growth means firms are faced with the challenge of plentiful work and a skilled labor shortage.

The question for CMA leadership is how to continue to deliver a high level of design and hands-on service in this fast-paced, deadline-driven environment. “As I’ve spoken with owners, I hear a theme of maintaining quality in drawings,” says Gerrit Timmerman, a CMA principal architect.  “It’s a careful balance of committing to a deadline while maintaining a high level of quality within the drawings.  As a company we want to be known for making and keeping our deadline commitments; and for having a quality set of plans.”

Our team has been quick to recognize the critical need of good customer service during a busy time. “We know our clients value communication, responsiveness, and inquisitiveness to solve problems,” notes Gerrit. “Through client interaction we hear our clients like working with us because we’re detail-oriented. We ask a lot of questions. We’re thorough without being overbearing.”

Internal discussions led to the creation of a CMA Quality Committee. The committee meets regularly to discuss best practice principles and explore ways to meet and exceed project stakeholder expectations. Committee members discuss how CMA balances quality, craftsmanship and design intent. “It’s a constant awareness that design is a product someone is paying money to get; we need to do our best,” maintains Gerrit.

CMA project manager Jonathan Johnson exemplifies good customer service. We know that because clients regularly tell us. What is Jon’s secret to providing good customer care in a work environment that revolves around deadlines? Helping the client know he or she is a priority. “Our clients must know we are listening and that we understand their needs and timelines.” He finds value in clarifying expectations and schedules and not committing to something he can’t deliver. “That’s how a client can grow to have confidence in our commitments.”

Jon uses tools like Microsoft To Do (formerly Wunderlist) and software reminders to identify and prioritize deadlines and deliverables. He also places a priority on responsiveness. Whether it’s a phone call or email, Jon makes a point of trying to respond the same day. He also looks to colleague Kurt Mather for email in-box inspiration. “I’ve learned to treat my email inbox as a to-do list, and I have to complete the task in order to move the email out of the inbox.  This has really helped to make sure that little things are not overlooked.”

What it all comes down to: in order to consistently deliver a positive customer experience, a business needs a strong culture of care behind it. When you love what you do and where you work, the client can feel it.