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One of the most important tenets of design thinking is to have empathy for the people you’re designing solutions for. The same can be said for professional services firms.

Top firms are empathetic to clients’ needs and desires – and harness that empathy to produce results based on those needs.

“For any professional service firm to succeed, an understanding of the client’s business needs and challenges is critical,” said Co-Founder and Director of 8i Architects, Charmaine Kai (pictured image left).

“Without understanding the client’s needs, the firm cannot tailor solutions to meet the client’s requirements.”

Kai’s firm was named Best Architecture Firm (<$30m revenue) in the 2023 Client Choice Awards. These awards are uniquely judged by feedback from tens of thousands of clients of professional services firms across Australia and New Zealand. The feedback is collected by a third party (Beaton) to encourage those clients to report their views honestly. Beaton then benchmarks firms against competitors of a similar size and profession to determine which firms have the highest client ratings and therefore win their category.

Kai said coming on top of her firm’s category was an “unexpected surprise” for 8i Architects.

“It’s very humbling to receive this award knowing the high calibre of architectural firms around Australia and the great work they are producing,” she said.

“We were very grateful to our clients who took time to complete the survey for the Client Choice Awards. It reflects their support for our business. It’s very rewarding to know the architectural service we provide to our clients is recognised and highly valued.”

Reflecting on the win, Kai emphasised “listening and responding to clients’ needs” as crucial for firms provide the best service in her profession. This required her team to communicate with clients regularly and transparently.

“In a construction market where escalation and supply chains have been at unprecedented levels, transparency and upfront communication is more important than ever,” she said.

“We are frequently having conversations with clients to inform them of costs and timeframe escalation to set their expectations as early as possible.  They are then able to act on the advice in making their decisions … 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.”

Kai also revealed a few drivers of success that she felt were unique to 8i Architects. Those included providing personalised service, tailored to the particular needs of each client, and ensuring consultants are directly available via a centralised point of contact.

“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,” she said.

8i Architects was named Best Architecture Firm (<$30m revenue) at the 2023 Client Choice Awards. This award is presented in partnership with ICON and association partners ACE New Zealand and Association of Consulting Architects.

Enter the 2024 Client Choice Awards here.