November 21/28, 2016: Volume 31, Number 12
By David Romano
Recently I was talking to a fellow WFCA affiliate member who was a previous manager at Home Depot. She told me that during her training she was presented with a story about a customer who went into Home Depot to return a set of tires, although, obviously, they don’t sell tires. She went on to tell me that Home Depot took back the tires and provided store credit. Do you think this is true? If so, do you have some examples of what you have seen that has blown you away in your many visits to flooring companies?
Dear Enlightened Owner,
Although the HD story seems far-fetched, there must be some relative story that over time morphed into a set of tires being returned. Regardless of the accuracy, they are using this story to instill a sense amongst their trainees that superior customer service is the goal. Now, I don’t advocate that you allow the return of unused boxes of tile, a carton of unused hardwood or a half bag of grout. I do advocate that you create an experience that is both disarming and provides a lasting positive impression.
Here are some practices the consultants from my company, Benchmarkinc, teach our clients when it comes to creating an unforgettable customer experience:
- (Disclaimer: If this suggestion violates your morals or ethics, please ignore.) Offer your customers a glass of wine or beer. Customers are guests to your store, just as friends who come over for dinner are guests in your home. Offering dinner guests a drink is customary, so why shouldn’t you do the same for your shopping guests? You will be amazed at how relaxed your customers become because your sales associate is now viewed as someone who cares and not just someone trying to sell a good or service.
- Have fresh baked cookies available. Eating a delicious chocolate chip cookie is sure to bring back wonderful childhood memories that reduce the stress of making such a large purchase. In addition to the cookies, have some healthy alternatives like fruit or nuts.
- Throw away your Keurig machine and replace it with a real cappuccino machine or a Nespresso unit. Additionally, have some hot tea, soft drinks, juice and bottled water.
- Have a place for the men to chill as their wives spend a fortune on their new wood floors or their bathroom remodel. Provide comfy couches or chairs, a television showing continual highlights of the Dallas Cowboys or CNN and access to beverages and snacks.
- Create a sanctuary for the kids. The best example I have ever seen is a store in California that had an arcade with ‘old school’ games like Centipede, Galaga and a few pinball machines. There is also a flooring company in Montana that has a separate room for the kiddos equipped with Xbox, cable TV and a chalk wall.
- Provide lunch or dinner. If you schedule an in-store appointment with a customer at noon to close the deal feed your guest and watch how fast the ink flies out of the pen. If a mother is in the store at 6:30 p.m. with her 7-year-old daughter and you know it is going to take at least another hour to select product, have the receptionist order some pizza or sandwiches. It is amazing what $10 and a gesture of goodwill can do for your company.
These little things, coupled with great products and prices, are what separate the standard from the extraordinary. A small price of providing these amenities and attracting referral business is a lot less than what you spend on ads to draw customers.