Here’s how to create a welcoming office environment that will impress your clients and showcase what your business is all about.
An accountant or financial adviser’s office isn’t just a place for number crunching; it’s also where clients come to bare their souls and discuss their hopes, dreams and fears. That’s why it’s important to think carefully about the design and layout of your office so you can create the right impression and make your clients feel comfortable from the outset.
No design solution is universally right or wrong; an office design that works well for one business might not be appropriate for another. Your firm is unique, so don’t be afraid to create a space that best reflects your brand and culture.
Here are five questions to ask yourself when deciding on the best design for your office.
1. What type of business do you have?
Before you start picking out wallpaper, think about your firm and how you want others to see it. What’s your client value proposition? What are your values? How is your firm unique?
For instance, if your firm is a family business that emphasises personal relationships, then you’ll probably want your office to feel as comfortable and cosy as possible. On the other hand, if you have a premium service offering and strong corporate partnerships, you might go for a more formal design that fits this image.
Your office is a chance to showcase who you are and what people can expect of you, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it should reflect your personal taste. After all, how you design your rumpus room might be very different to how you design your office.
2. Who are your clients?
Next, think about who your typical client is, or the types of clients you want to attract. This will help you create a space that engenders trust and goodwill between you and your client base.
If your clients are largely mum and dad retirees, you might want to create a comfortable environment that feels more like a home than an office. But if your clients are Gen Y professionals, they might be more at ease in a slick, contemporary space with high-tech features.
If you’re not sure which way to go, or if your clients are a mixed bag, think about the other ways you express yourself to clients – for instance, through your website, newsletters or client tools. Is your tone fun and light-hearted or serious and authoritative? You can then evoke the same tone in the look and feel of your office.
3. Which areas do your clients see?
What happens when a client arrives for an appointment? If your reception area is where new clients take the first steps of their financial journey with you, make them feel welcome as soon as they enter.
Offering refreshments is a great way to start – and providing good coffee can begin your relationship on the right foot. If you’d like to have some reading material on hand for your clients while they wait, opt for glossy coffee-table books rather than magazines that can get tattered or marketing brochures that make your firm appear sales-focused.
Then, from the reception area, are your clients ushered directly into a meeting room or do they walk through your back office to get there?
Some firms prefer to keep the back office off-limits so clients feel a sense of privacy when they’re discussing their personal circumstances. Other firms make sure their clients get to see the team busy at work, which can give clients confidence that there’s a whole back-end machine supporting them. This can send a positive message in multidisciplinary firms where accountants and advisers are working together to serve their clients.
But if clients do get to see or meet the team, make sure your staff know they’re on show so they can present themselves and their workspace appropriately.
4. How do you run client meetings?
The room where clients spend most of their time needs careful consideration. Remember, this is where your clients share personal information about themselves and potentially make decisions that will change the course of their lives.
Client meetings are your chance to shine, and the success of these meetings is likely to affect the success of your client relationships over the long term. So think about the way you run your meetings, as this can guide how you design the meeting room itself.
For example, do you prefer to treat these meetings like an informal conversation among friends? In this case, you might choose to create an intimate setting, with armchairs set up around a coffee table. Or do you give presentations with lots of visuals to get your clients excited about the possibilities? If so, you’ll need a good-quality wall projector, with an easy-to-use software interface and plenty of space for you to move around comfortably.
Even if you prefer a meeting style where you and your clients sit on opposite sides of a desk, that’s fine too. What matters most is that you feel comfortable enough to do your best work so your clients will gain the most value from the meeting.
5. How will you bring it all together?
Once you’ve settled on the basic layout of your office, it’s time to think about all the features that will bring your design to life. This includes everything from your furniture, ornaments, artwork and plants to the colour and finish of your walls and flooring. Features such as lighting, temperature and even sound can also have a major impact on the client experience, so try to imagine the space through a client’s eyes.
There’s no set formula for getting it right; the main thing is to make every design decision a deliberate one. And if you don’t have an instinct for interior design, don’t worry – there are plenty of designers out there who specialise in working with professional services firms.
Just like your clients come to you for your financial expertise, an interior designer can give you the advice you need to achieve your design goals. And with a purpose-built design solution that complements your business, your clients will feel comfortable, confident and engaged as soon as they walk through the door.