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Dear David: How to properly set customer expectations

February 13/20, 2017: Volume 31, Number 18

By David Romano


Dear David:
I read your article a few months ago about how secret shoppers rated their overall shopping experience with big boxes vs. independent flooring stores. One thing stood out to me: the effect of either setting or not setting proper expectations with customers. Conceptually I understand the importance of this concept, but what exactly do you mean by “setting proper expectations”?

Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 3.15.31 PMDear Inquisitive Owner,
The concept of setting expectations starts with the sales associate and trickles down through the system to the completion of installation. Setting expectations ensures both the customer and company are on the same page and helps dissolve buyers’ uncertainty, stress and potential remorse.

So what exactly does setting expectations mean? Here are the major stages of the selling cycle.

  1. Greeting: Ensure customers know the benefits of shopping for flooring at your store. Share information that will set you apart from your competition. For example, how many years the company has been serving the community, sales associate experience, certified installers, exclusivity of products, shopper ratings, etc.
  2. Measure: Who is completing the measure (sales associate or measure person) and when will it be done? What is the cost, and does the customer get a copy of the measure?
  3. Quote: Is the quote instantaneously presented in home or delivered two days later? Is it emailed or do you tell her the price over the phone? Is it line item or lump sum?
  4. Payment terms: Can she pay cash, check or credit card? Do you offer financing? Do you require full payment at the point of sale or 50% deposit and the remainder provided before, during or after installation?
  5. Ordering: When are orders placed? How are customers notified if there is a backorder? What happens if an item is discontinued? How long does it typically take to get products from the manufacturer or distributor?
  6. Scheduling: Do you set the installation date at the time of sale, or when materials arrive at the warehouse? Does the customer receive a confirmation call prior to installation? Do you do partial scheduling based on timing of deliveries and intricacies of project?
  7. Installation: Does the customer need to be present? Are there pre- and post-installation walk-throughs? How long will the install take? Does the installer clean up after he is done, and does someone from the company inspect all completed jobs?
  8. Follow-up: Does the customer receive a phone call after installation to check on satisfaction? Does she get future emails with specials and discounts? Will you be asking for referrals?
  9. After care: Who does she call if there is a future issue? What information will she receive on how to care for her flooring and when does she receive warranty information? What happens if she has a claim on her product?

The decision to purchase flooring for consumers can be both overwhelming and scary. Mitigating the fear by setting the proper expectations is not only the right thing to do for the consumer, but it is the best thing for the company because it can lead to an increase in both instant sales and future referrals.