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Many successful flooring retailers spend a great deal of time mastering the art of making a great first impression when first greeting a customer in their showrooms. Clearly this is critical, but it’s important to remember that this is not the only opportunity to control first impressions. Let’s examine the opportunities to make positive impressions when the customer meets the installation staff. Remember, whether your installers are employees or contractors, the customer courtesies received should not be discernable, just the feelings of confidence conveyed.

Having spent the majority of my adult life engaged in retailing, I have observed that many store owners and managers have given a great deal of thought as to what results they want to see their respective businesses achieve. They can tell you what products they wish to sell. They know how much margin they wish to gain from the sale and even when they would like to sell them. They decide how they would like their store displays arranged, how the staff should dress and what music they would like to hear playing in the background.

Each time that I enter TISE on opening day, I find myself standing in the display hall for a moment to let some of the beauty soak in. As I reflect, it becomes clear to me that this is a feeling that far too few retailers in our business seem to understand.

As flooring retailers continue the seemingly never-ending task of replacing and upgrading their sales personnel, there will constantly be new hires to blend into our staffs. My experience tells me that many managers put considerable time and resources into the recruitment process. Understandable. What I don’t understand is why when new staff members come on board they are too often viewed as a necessary evil.

As I write this, I have spent the past month attending several industry conventions, trade shows and related meetings. The common question asked of me at all of these gatherings has been, “What are you doing to fix our installation problem? Are you training new blood for our industry?”

My response has typically been, “Let me ask you – what are you doing to fix your installation problem? Are you training new blood for your business’ future?” If I received a reply at all, it typically was something to the effect of “not much.” Sound familiar?

Free. Is there a more misused, misleading and sometimes blatantly dishonest word in the English language? I think not. Its misuse became so prevalent that not long ago the government had to put an end to claims of “free financing”, etc. Logical thinking people would easily recognize that anything of value would obviously have a cost associated, right? Apparently not, as free is to a large percentage of the buying public as cheese is to a mouse – irresistible. Is it any wonder, then, that major retailers are increasingly baiting their customers’ trap with “free cheese”?

It’s a reality that most local, independent businesses are constantly being pressured by large mass merchants. It matters not if you’re selling toothpaste or televisions, some large firm is bound to have a bigger, faster, cheaper version that they are promoting with yet another barely believable offer. The flooring business certainly falls into this category. However, we have a distinct advantage that those selling toothpaste don’t have in our opportunity to sell both product and our services.

Frequent readers know I believe before we can be good customer service providers, we must first learn to be good customers ourselves. By that, I mean we must pay attention to how we are treated when we are spending our hard earned pay checks. By doing so, you will learn a tremendous amount about both the service provider and their management. Please allow me to share two very different recent experiences I had on the same very day.

At the risk of coming across as an old curmudgeon, I have a nagging question: What in the world has happened to common courtesy? Am I the only one who has gotten my fill of rude and insensitive behavior when attempting to give my hard earned money to a retailer or service provider? I hardly think so.

In the 1990’s, my firm was among several dealers asked to monitor all installation related interactions that our firms had with customers. We not only tracked installations, but all correspondence that we had with our customers which may have lead to them being disappointed with the service experience that they received. There were both single and multiple store operations included. This group represented dealers with employee and contract installers. These surveys were gathered over a period of six months.