Congratulations 8i Architects – Client Choice Awards winner 2023!
Congratulations on your recent Client Choice Award win! What does this mean for you and your practice?
As a small practice, winning the Client Choice Award for the best Architecture Firm <$30M was an unexpected surprise. It’s very humbling to receive this award knowing the high calibre of architectural firms around Australia and the great work they are producing.
We always strive to respond to our clients, consultants and builders within the same day and have always been honest and upfront with our advice to set expectations for all parties. We have found timely and open communication to be the most important aspect of delivering our architectural service. We spend time with our clients to understand their operations and particular requirements to be able to provide them with bespoke options.
It’s very rewarding to know the architectural service we provide to our clients is recognised and highly valued. It validates the time, hard work (and stress) that our team put into obtaining the best outcome for our clients.
A big part of the Client Choice process is to collect feedback from clients. What was the process like for you?
The process of contacting our clients for their support and time in providing feedback was really rewarding. We were very grateful for our client’s enthusiasm in supporting our entry into the Client Choice Awards. Even though they were all very busy given the time of year, they were all very happy to spend the time to provide feedback and support our business. It was great to connect with our new clients and also those with whom we’ve had long-term relationships of over 14 years.
What were some of the things that your clients value the most?
Our clients told us they most valued:
- our knowledge of their operations and technical requirements
- design and problem-solving skills
- communication, explanation, support and guidance throughout the project
- approachability when they ask for advice, and
- flexibility to work with their business operations.
Did the process identify improvements that could be made? Has any of the client feedback changed the way you do things in practice?
Originally, we signed up for the Client Choice Awards to be able to collect feedback from clients so that we could improve our services. We wanted to know what they really thought. A third party survey with the option to remain anonymous was the perfect vehicle to allow our clients to provide honest feedback.
The main improvement our clients conveyed was that we needed to grow our business and expand so we could service more of their projects. We have been carefully considering this feedback as a business – it’s something we don’t want to rush into. We are determined to ensure that a sustainable balance between staff wellbeing, running a profitable practice and maintaining a high level of architectural service is achievable.
Client engagement is so critical. What are some key tips you can share with members about your client communication strategy?
Client engagement is critical to any professional service. One of the advantages of being a small practice is that our clients work directly with a director or senior staff member. For our clients, it means there is one main point of contact for the project. Our clients are able to just pick up the phone and call us if there are any concerns.
Our project team learns by observing how we communicate with our clients. We attend client meetings, presentations and site inspections with our team so they are able to form working relationships with the client. Our clients are then confident that if the project architect is not available they can contact and speak to someone who they know is familiar with their project.
Our tips for client communication:
- transparency and honesty
- timely advice and response
- keep the client informed
- set expectations early – anything that could possibly affect the project from budget, timeframes, regulations, market forces
- spend time to really understand your client’s objectives and what they are trying to achieve
- prioritise forming relationships with your clients
The Client Choice Awards are the only professional services awards in the world judged entirely by the feedback ratings of clients. Beaton prepares the feedback surveys for clients and undertakes thorough quality, authenticity and reliability checks on responses. The online survey asks clients to rate and comment on the performance of firms in delivering services on a range of criteria including quality, value for money, price and innovation. Those responses are submitted directly to Beaton and analysed for judging. The awards open in June and client surveying runs until mid-February, with the Awards announced in late March.
Charmaine Kai is a co-director of Brisbane-based 8i Architects and project leader specialising in IVF Facilities. Charmaine is also an APE examiner for the Board of Architects Queensland, Treasurer and Education Committee member for the ACA QLD/NT and a standing panel member for the AACA Accreditation.