About this class

Introduction to the selling specifics of framing, indicating the client and their demands. Sharing personal experiences about the first considerations in sales and customer service.

Video transcript

Working with customers is an essential function of every business. Customers need to be satisfied, and businesses need to earn profit.  In custom framing, these purposes of both the customer and the framer should be fulfilled in the framing design conversation, which is the topic for this session. I’ll talk about expectations, design principles, and the some important aspects of the design conversation.

Importance of the design conversation for expectations

For the framing design process, customers may or may not have preconceived ideas about what they want, and about how the design conversation should proceed. So, the first step is to find out what the customer expects, and agree on how to proceed with the design. This often happens automatically when the framer gives a friendly greeting and asks, “How may I help you today?” Most customers will establish the starting point by answering with enough information to get the conversation going, even if they don’t have a framing design already in mind.

Many customers don’t know where to begin with the framing design. When that’s the case, you can set the ground rules by offering to work together with the customer to design beautiful, durable framing that suits the purpose and the budget.  Then, ask the customer some key questions to help identify the main features to discuss. We’ll get to those questions in a few minutes. 

Customers who have previous experience with custom framing may come in with clear ideas about what they want. In that case, it’s still important to understand the details and make sure the whole assembly will go together as expected before you write up the order.  Of course, it may be necessary to clarify some details of the design. For example, if the customer wants to frame a 40 x 60 cm print in a 50 x 70 cm frame with a mat 12 cm wide, the dimensions don’t add up. 

It’s a good idea to run through a checklist of the design features and perhaps offer some upgrades, such as anti-reflection glass, and you may find opportunities to describe other features and benefits, to help inform the customer and create the best framing design to suit the customer’s purposes. 

Usually, customers have some idea about the price they expect to pay for the framing, and they often come in with the perception that framing is expensive. So, it’s important to deal with the customer’s price expectations early in the framing design conversation. 

Value and design principles

Perceived value is a matter of personal opinion, and we want our custom framing customers to know that they have come to the right place for personal service, broad selection, design expertise, quality workmanship, and excellent value for the long term. These are principles of custom framing design. 

Personal service tops the list, because above all, we are in a person-to-person business. Custom framing design involves lots of personal decisions that affect our customers’ enjoyment of our framing long into the future. Framers need to realize that customers often make emotional decisions about framing design. It really is personal.

Broad selection refers to the many choices of mouldings, mats, glass, and decorative features that framers offer. Perhaps more than any other aspect of our business, customers are confident that, in a custom framing shop, they’ll be able to find everything they want.

Design expertise is what sets custom framing apart from do-it-yourself framing.  Some customers could – or think they could – acquire all the framing parts elsewhere, but almost none of them would do it, because they wouldn’t know where to begin with the choices, nor would they be able to fit it all together into a beautiful, durable framing package.

Quality workmanship is a design principle we probably should talk more about with our customers, because we must be able to construct what we design. Poor choices in framing design would make quality workmanship more difficult at best, and maybe impossible.  That is to say the quality of our framing begins with design and carries through each step of production.

The excellent value of professional custom framing often goes unrecognized. Customers who are unaware of the value of custom framing may be most interested in saving money on their framing, and they’ll cut corners to do that (no pun intended).  They don’t foresee that they’ll be looking at our framing for decades, and the design visually affects their living space. It’s supposed to be decorative, so let’s concentrate on designing the framing to serve that purpose as much as possible. Value isn’t about the money; it’s about what we get for what we pay.

It’s not uncommon for customers to complain that framing a €25 poster costs €100 or more, because they don’t understand the value of what they’re buying. The idea that custom framing should cost less than the art might be valid for more expensive artwork, such as an original painting, but that logic can’t work for an inexpensive print, where the value is visual, rather than monetary. 

It’s important for framing designers to know when customers have unrealistic expectations or perceptions about value, and correct them…gently.  It would be wrong to say, “Here’s the price, take it leave it” because that would do nothing to correct the misperception, not to mention that it could offend a potential customer. 

A better approach is to help the customer understand the reality of custom work, and we can do that with a quick analogy. For example, in my shop we have plain wooden bar stools at the design table. When a customer complains that custom framing is expensive, I point to one of them and say “This bar stool costs about €20 in a furniture store, because of high production in a factory. But if you want to have one just like it custom built, it might easily cost ten times that price. What we do here is custom framing. Yes, it is labor-intensive work, but we offer personal service, broad selection, design expertise, quality workmanship, and excellent value for the long term. I hope you’ll agree that the price of our framing is fair and reasonable.” 

Important aspects of the design conversation

Earlier I mentioned asking the customer some key questions to help identify the main features of the design.  Here are some of them:

Where will this framing be displayed? Is it for the home, or office, or is it intended to be a gift for someone else? Knowing this answer reveals important information. If the frame will hang is a certain room, then color and style choices should take the surroundings into account.  But if the customer is not sure where it will hang, then color and style choices can be chosen only to suit the item in the frame, with less regard for its surroundings. If the framing is intended to be a gift, then keep in mind that the customer will be making design choices in the hope of matching someone else’s opinions.

Do you want this to be a focal point in the room, or should it blend in with the surroundings? This answer could indicate what decorative features may be appropriate, if any. For example, a mat – especially a wide one of the right color – would bring more attention to the display and could make it a primary focal point in a particular room. 

What’s your decorating style? Most customers can’t answer this question confidently, but the answer might reveal a customer’s knowledge about interior design and decorating.  Or, if decorating style is not an issue of concern, then perhaps the framing design should closely follow the style of the item being framed.

What colors or features of the item are important? Often a customer will want to emphasize or de-emphasize a particular color in the art. Or, if the art depicts a farm scene showing a tractor just like the one at Grandpa’s farm, maybe the customer wants to highlight that feature of the image.

Should this framing have any restrictions or limitations? This question could refer to restrictions in dimensions or weight, for example, but some customers could bring up price as a limitation. If low price is a primary concern of the customer, then the framing design needs to take that into account. Some of our other videos address pricing issues and objections, but in any case, it’s essential to understand the importance of price in the framing design.

Perhaps the most important aspect of the framing design conversation is to assure that the customer is satisfied. So, take care to keep the customer directly involved in the selection of every component and decorative feature. Be sure to explain the benefits of every option you feel it is appropriate to recommend for the design. 

Customers are essential in every business. They need to be satisfied with their purchases now and in the future, and businesses need to earn profit on their sales. So, working with customers in the framing design conversation is a very important part of our business.

In other videos we talk about more topics related to working with customers, such as preparing the design showroom, sales techniques, business planning, and marketing.

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James Miller

James Miller is not only framer but educator on a global scale. Miller specialise in preservation framing, which means that both technique and materials are in huge importance. 
Also being an author of two successful books on professional framing, Miller is one of the most acknowledged framing specialist around the world. Now he has teamed up with GroGlass to provide an online course to invite framers aim for excellence. 

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