Al’s column: Good service is still king in retail

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Dec. 9/16, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 12

By Lou Morano

My mom calls every customer after every sale to ensure she had a great experience. If not, she listens to the customer and proceeds accordingly to solve any unresolved issues.

We have few complaints—the most common being the product not coming in on time or damaged, the installer arrived late, the job took too long, etc. The No. 1 complaint is the customer felt like she was not sufficiently informed throughout the process. In some cases, she had to call to find out why the installation had not been scheduled yet, or she contacted the salesperson to get information, only to be told he or she would call her back but didn’t.

In these situations, it was not so much the issue itself that frustrated the customer but rather the lack of follow up or follow through. In other words, the customer felt that if she had not called, then nothing would have been resolved. Basically, it boiled down to poor communication.

If we want customers to be so happy with their experience that they cannot wait to refer us, then we must exceed their expectations. But when we don’t even meet their expectations, they might not refer us at all. Imagine doing a great job at selling the customer the right product and following up with an amazing installation. But because the customer was so annoyed and frustrated at the actual process, she won’t refer you. Now, imagine the same order but the customer was properly informed on the status of the job, and she is so happy with her experience she talks about how awesome everything went and refers you to anyone who will listen.

It’s critical that we as retailers uphold the highest levels of excellence when it comes to serving the customer. When the consumer has an expectation that is not sufficiently met, she feels misled. When she has an expectation and we just meet it, it is nothing special to the customer because she views it as us doing what we’re “supposed to do.” But when we exceed clients’ expectations, they become loyal customers who tell all their friends.

When we sell a customer, it is important to “tee it up” properly by explaining the whole process, timelines, scope of work, paperwork, payment policy, etc., in great detail. Do your best to under-promise and over-deliver when you can so the chances of exceeding her expectations are greater.

Remember, a customer does not buy flooring on a regular basis so it is imperative to communicate effectively. Set clear, detailed expectations at the time of sale. If you’re removing hard surface let them know there is going to be a mess. When you’re committing to timelines, be sure to leave room for unforeseen obstacles. More importantly, be sure to manage the customers’ expectations. Every promise needs follow up and follow through.

In this industry, unfortunate situations arise. Sometimes we have product that comes in damaged; installers who do not always perform their best; we make mistakes on orders; or the customer just simply doesn’t like the way something looks. Many of these things are not controllable. But the one thing we are in complete control of is how and what we communicate to the customer.

Since we have put systems and communication protocols in place in our stores, when my mom follows up, she has very few complaints on these issues. The end result is we have many more super happy customers who just can’t wait to refer us.


Lou Morano started selling carpet for a major retailer at the age of 19 in 1981. In 1985 he and his father incorporated Capitol Carpet, Inc., and opened their first full-service retail store in 1986. Today Morano operates five retail stores, including a commercial division, under the name Capitol Carpet & Tile and Window Fashions.

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