August 14/21, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 5
By Reginald Tucker
Salt Lake City—Competition for the consumer’s disposable dollars has never been more fierce, especially when it comes to renovation/remodeling projects. To gain an advantage, experts say, it’s critical that retailers take complete ownership of the entire sales process—from the research phase all the way through installation—if they are to close more deals and generate repeat business.
That was the underlying message Carpet One management conveyed to its members in attendance here at the group’s summer convention. During his opening welcome speech, Eric Demaree, president, Carpet One Floor & Home, challenged retailers to “own the customer service experience,” beginning with online, where the consumer typically begins her research; to the store when she’s ready to pay the retailer a visit; all the way to her home, where the installation and post-sale care take place.
In driving home the importance of providing complete and professional customer service throughout the process, Demaree cited published research and reports on the issue. “The Harvard Business Review describes it as the customer’s “end-to-end” journey. A major international consulting firm describes it as the product of the interaction between an organization and a customer over the duration of their relationship. That all sounds so academic for me; I see it this way: ‘A great customer experience is any value add that any person or company delivers to me that makes me feel good and want to tell other people about the company.’”
Regardless of the difference sources, there’s a common theme that emerges. “There’s a wealth of evidence out there that shows those who own the customer service experience generally outperform the competition in every single area,” Demaree stated. “These retailers tend to make more money, they have less employee turnover and they get more positive reviews. More importantly, 50% of consumers—including all of us in attendance here—will spend more money with companies that provide us with a superior customer experience, according to American Express.”
To that end, Demaree told attendees this year’s convention is all about discovering and sharing ways members can make their customers feel good, with the hope they will tell others about their positive experiences. To drive the point home to members, Carpet One showed a documentary-style video/testimonial that showed one woman’s journey through the entire purchasing cycle—from the research phase all the way through to final installation. The video—which was broadcast in segments or “episodes” over the course of the convention—followed the journey of “Karen,” a 45-year-old working, married woman with two kids—and pets.
“For the next two days,” Demaree told attendees, “we are going to go on a journey through the eyes of Karen as she shares her story about finding the perfect floor, from the time she goes online to start her search to the in-store shopping visit, to what she experiences when the measurer and installer go through her home as well as the services she receives after the job is complete.”
The exercise was designed to inspire ideas that retailers could not only share with other members but also bring back to their businesses after the show. Gayle Selden, president of Ed Selden Carpet One Floor & Home, Lakewood, Wash., believes retailers can improve the way they interact with customers by remembering their own customer service experiences. “A lot of it is just returning to the things we know but have forgotten to do over time,” she explained.
Others agree, adding that focusing on the little things—such as how employees greet customers—can go a long way in making customers feel appreciated. “Everyone who answers the phone is part of the process—even if they are not in sales,” said Juan Cisneros, sales associate with Upland Carpet One Floor & Home, Ontario, Calif.
Other fundamental ideas include improving the look and feel of your showroom, beginning with the entrance. Jim Aaron, vice president of merchandising, CCA Global Partners, believes the in-store experience starts in the parking lot and the window. “You’re trying to create a feeling of, ‘Wow, I feel really comfortable here.”
Theresa Fisher, senior vice president of visual merchandising and brand development, concurs. Comfort is key, she said, given the fact most flooring purchases are not something people are accustomed to making. It helps to make sure traffic lanes within the store are wide open and that the space is decluttered. “People in general don’t feel comfortable when they’re confined, and women in particular don’t want to feel crowded.”
But let’s not forget about drawing customers into your store in the first place. For Stevie Leasure, owner of Carpetbagger Carpet One, Charleston, S.C., the key was transferring advertising and marketing funds from traditional means (print and billboards) to online initiatives. “We have really embraced the digital space; 75% of our advertising is through electronic marketing today.”
All in all, management likes what it is seeing at the membership level. “We have the best dealer base, and we are exceeding the industry growth rate,” Howard Brodsky, co-founder, chairman and co-CEO, CCA Global Partners, told FCNews. “It’s an exciting time for the industry.”