For today’s consumers, shopping doesn’t begin and end in the store. Thanks to technology, it starts long before on the Internet and with flooring it isn’t finished until after installation. Even then, the experience isn’t truly over as there are many ways for retailers to remain in contact to keep customers coming back. This is, of course, granted that the entire encounter was a positive one.
But how do flooring retailers create unforgettable experiences for customers?
Here are eight tips to help any sized business stand out in the marketplace.
Hire the Right People
Products (and prices) alone won’t sufficiently set one retailer apart from another. What will are passionate and dedicated sales associates who are also product experts — and the online customer reviews that tell this story.
Consumers actively use the Internet to explore flooring options before they enter a store so they can be more efficient in their purchasing decisions. Once they’ve zeroed in on what they want, they’ll often comb through a local retailer’s website, social profiles and consumer reviews to make sure they’re buying from the right business. This means that when a customer walks through a store’s doors, they’ve already pre-selected the location and it’s not based solely on its product offerings.
Flooring isn’t completely sold until it’s properly installed. This is when customers can enjoy the beauty and usefulness of their product purchase. And yet, installation services aren’t showcased on the selling floor. In the sales process, it is often treated as an after-thought when in fact it is a critical service experience that when bundled with product is a major differentiator. Installation represents an opportunity to develop a consultative relationship that paves the way for additional product and service sales.
Don’t get Complacent
There is always room for improvement in customer service. Think about how systems can be enhanced and better training provided to stay ahead and prevent future failures. This is particularly critical in the flooring industry as products evolve, resulting in new technologies, standards and best practices for installation.
Focus on Quality
Great companies prioritize quality as it is what matters most to consumers. They never assume employees are aware of changes in industry standards, for example, nor expect them to self-train. Rather, they develop systems for ongoing education to ensure consistent, high-quality service across all staff members. They also reward improved performance, pass on compliments, express gratitude for a done well-done and encourage a positive attitude.
Optimize the Sales-to-Customer Handoff
Think of the flooring sales experience as a relay where the baton must be passed from one employee to the next without losing momentum. The race begins with the sales associate, then moves to measurement and finally installation. Everyone plays a role in ensuring the exchange takes place smoothly. If even one handoff is not done well, the whole customer experience breaks down.
Providing personalized installation services may cost a business more but it will also return more. Customers are not only willing to pay to have something fit their individual preferences but will look for that specific ability when shopping. If they get exactly what they want, they’re likely to come back again and again.
Look and Act Professional
First impressions matter, even for installers. Dress appropriately for the job, not like a slob, and always be on time and positive. Everything that a person says or does on the job site is a reflection of the retailer. Conduct a walk-through with the customer, address any issues that may arise, have a plan in place that can be explained in full detail, and provide a realistic completion time.
Whether good or bad, customer reviews provide a learning opportunity and should be acknowledged. When it comes to complaints, they may be about a product that’s not living up to expectations or stem from concerns that weren’t initially well-handled. Thank customers for calling to provide feedback and actively listen. When replying, stay calm and acknowledge the issue. Never trivialize a complaint. Take ownership by apologizing, extend appreciation to them for bringing the matter forward and then offer a solution.
Christine B. Whittemore is founder and chief simplifier of Simple Marketing Now, which helps businesses get found online with social media and content marketing. Christine can be reached at 973-283-2424 or [email protected].