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A flair for design, a knack for listening to customers

As a design consultant for Pierce Flooring and Design, Deanna Leffers guides her customers through a complex maze of decisions that must be made in the process of decorating a home. Leffers has worked for Pierce for the past three years, but her love for design dates to when she was a teen-ager.

"I loved to construct and design my own clothes," she said. "One of my favorite things was to read patterns, just because I wanted to understand how garments would fit together. And then I would take pieces and parts from patterns and fit them together and design my own clothes. From that, I ended up working in the fabric industry for over 14 years, so it was just a natural progression. I used to design draperies. I used to design displays, and I used to design floral arrangements.

Leffers sat down recently with Billings Business to discuss the creative process and her approach to helping her customers.

Q: What exactly do you do as a designer and what's your approach to working with customers?

My office is a resource library which we created to ease the stress associated with building or remodeling a home. As a designer I generally will meet with customers to determine their needs. Every customer is different, and my job is to guide them with their choices to reflect their own personal style. I do not want to impose my style on them. A customer can bring a sample of their cabinet and we can pick out flooring, countertops, paint colors and lighting, all within a few visits. It can be overwhelming for some, but it is a process of elimination and with everything available in one location, it can alleviate stress.

I've been in customer service for over 20 years. I love working with people, so that's why I enjoy doing what I do. Also, working in the flooring industry, I find it very interesting, especially when you work with tile. Tile is a great medium because there are endless possibilities.

What part of your job do you find most rewarding?

I enjoy it when the job comes to fruition and I know that the customer is thrilled. The customer and I have spent hours together planning and envisioning how it will be finished. It's rewarding when that time comes and it looks fabulous. That is also a time when things can go wrong and changes have to be made, so it can be an anxious time as well. We want the customer to be satisfied and to call if they have any concerns or if they want to consult with me.

We've heard that designers sometimes end up playing the role of counselor for couples who don't always agree on how their home should look. How do you resolve these kinds of conflicts?

Sometimes that can happen, but I do not find it to be a problem. Conflict can also be positive in that it brings out what one person definitely does not like, and that opens up new ideas to explore. Then there has to be compromise. I want the experience to be fun, and when they are having fun, creative solutions occur. My goal is to build a relationship with our customers and in that relationship trust is everything.

You've mentioned that you try to determine a client's personal style within a few minutes after you sit down with them. How do you do that?

I do it by asking a few key questions and being a good listener. When our customer is confident that we are listening, it then becomes easier for them to communicate their style. When working with a customer who requests assistance with all the aspects of building their home, it is very personal to them. At Pierce Flooring and Design, building that rapport along with our customer service leads to great choices.

Interviewed by Tom Howard

Photographed by James Woodcock