Design Professionals Discuss Role of Technology

Kitchen & Bath Design News recently posed this question to dealers and designers in the kitchen and bath industry: In what ways has technology taken on an increased role with your kitchen and bath firm? Following are some of their responses:

"The role of technology is continuing to grow. I am emailing PDF drawings to clients all of the time. It's just the way business is done now. For example, it is imperative to have access to the Internet because otherwise we're sitting working off our iPhones showing each other little pictures - it does not work as well. The bottom line is we all need to provide our customers with information instantly."

Patricia Dunlop, CKD, CBD, ASID
Fine Kitchens & Baths
Boise, ID

"The Internet obviously has changed how we communicate with people, even before they step foot in the showroom. Since designs and styles change so frequently, one of the things we've been striving to do is develop a virtual showroom that showcases our work to potential customers, such as with a slideshow on a computer.

One thing I've noticed is that technology can really enhance the products that are manufactured for us, particularly the materials that are created using technology, such as engineered veneers. It also aides us in green initiatives as it reduces paper in our day-to-day business, so the environment benefits, too.

Overall, technology really enhances the details of any project we are designing and the communication necessary to provide quick answers to our clients."

Phil Rudick, architect
Urban Kitchens + Baths
Austin, TX

"Technology has taken an ever-increasing role in the way we conduct our business. Not too long ago, the majority of client interaction could be done entirely in person or on the telephone. With so many new ways to connect with our customers, we would be foolish not to capitalize on the emerging trends in the marketplace such as Web 2.0, CAD, Adobe Design Software, and the innovative products of our vendors.

Having a dedicated space where all of your current customers and potential customers can converse is invaluable when it comes to building trust. Conveying our knowledge and fostering that trust for new clients can be difficult, however, when there are no third-party testimonials to validate their decision to use us. Web 2.0 allows us to let our previous successes influence our potential clients in a way never thought possible. Whether they see a contemporary kitchen remodel on our Facebook page, or they get a design idea from our weekly blog, or they read a rave review about BlueStar's ranges on GardenWeb (an appliance forum); all of these experiences serve to funnel their interest in our showroom.

Therefore, we're always on the lookout for new and ground-breaking products to add to our offerings - especially those that embrace technology in the way that we do, with the customer as the focal point, and the bells and whistles serving to enhance their experience throughout the selection process all the way through to the product's ultimate use."

Audrey Wilkinson Loder, showroom manager
Salon Blue Ridge
Flat Rock, NC

"Technology relates primarily to our relationships with other consultants. All of our plans are done electronically and we communicate electronically with architects and interior designers and all other design professionals involved on the project. I believe the projects are a little better coordinated because of it. Technology really makes things easier during the process, when we are all working on the same generation of drawings. That is the main way technology has affected us. In terms of marketing, we are directing every form of marketing - even our print ads - to our Web site. This has taken on a much bigger role in our business than even five years ago. We are just now exploring how we can incorporate technology into our presentations, such as looking at iPads and those sorts of things for a portfolio presentation in a customer's home. I think what it definitely does is increase the volume of things we can take with us to show a customer. Our customers come in and they are considerably more informed than they used to be and they may know a lot about things that I may not have heard about, so I have to use technology to stay on top of things.

I think that things will continue this way because technology is meant to simplify things and make things easier to understand. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that a lot of customers today are Baby Boomers and they are willing to accept technology to a degree but then draw the line. By contrast, the generation behind them has been raised on that to more of a degree and will be pushing technology and more comfortable with its use."

Lance Stratton, owner, Allied ASID
Studio Stratton
La Jolla, CA

"It certainly has had an impact on the computer drafting aspect of our business. The engineering of the cabinetry is more sophisticated with the computer-programmed machinery and equipment. Everything is moving so much faster because communication is instant. One challenge is that you have everybody doing research online, and consumers are coming to us with information that is not always accurate. When a consumer cannot touch a cabinet, the client will not be able to know the difference between what is in a picture and the actual product."

Kristie Eagle McPhie, CKD
McPhie Cabinetry
Bozeman, MT