May 13/20, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 25
By Tom Jennings
My experience has taught me that the best way to build customer loyalty is to consistently do the expected things well. Many retail experts are constantly referring to the necessity of having a “wow” factor to differentiate your business from the field. Remember, though, that “wow” can have both a positive and negative meaning. When we say “wow” as we walk into a new and dramatic retail establishment, it will most likely have a positive tone. If this experience is lacking in perfection in any of the customer’s basic service and product expectations, however, then wow may have a totally different connotation upon exit.
As an example, many restaurants today are based around a variety of novel themes. Upon arrival, you may sit in the midst of many large-screen televisions displaying a seemingly endless variety of programming, which can make you feel almost dizzy from all of the motion. If you’re really lucky, you may even get to experience today’s digital music played at such a volume that conversation with your fellow diners becomes strained at best. Is this enjoyable? Depends upon the person being asked. Keep in mind that all entering the establishment had one thing in common: they were hungry or thirsty.
While all of these trendy diversions can be entertaining in their own way, many of these themed establishments seem to have difficulty executing the most basic of food service promises: hot food hot, cold food cold, served in the proper order and in a timely fashion. They seem to think we will be so distracted by the ambiance we won’t notice. Repeat visits are difficult to obtain in any business if you can’t execute the basics. In short, they forget to “keep the main thing the main thing.”
Think of the dining establishments that have built your loyalty and trust. I would wager they have very little that could be considered trendy in either their physical property or menu. I doubt the waiter has a phony opening line or sits down in the booth with you to take your order. I would bet the core staff of service providers is well skilled in knowing both the menu and their regular customers. I am sure the kitchen staff is capable of preparing your favorite dish in a very consistent manner from one visit to the next and your beverage stays refilled. It matters not whether your favorite spot is a diner or a fine steak house. When the basic core services are well executed, you will return and refer others. This consistency becomes their wow factor.
You may ask, what does this have to do with a flooring store? Everything. Customers’ perceptions of good service are not formed in flooring stores. They are formed in the service establishments they visit frequently: the grocery store, dry cleaners, restaurants, auto repair dealerships, etc. The service attitudes and aptitudes they experience in their routine purchases affect the level of expectations they have when making larger ticket investments. Their expectations don’t change just because the bottom line does.
Ask yourself this: After completing a purchase at your business, what might your customers mean when they say wow? Our industry has many basic “hot food hot/cold food cold” expectations we often fail to execute. Dealers who have stayed customer centered and mastered these fundamental tasks will be the ones that have the best odds of gaining the hardest of orders to receive: the second one. This is when success really begins. When you execute the second order well, trust will have been established and subsequent business will become almost automatic as your firm will now have another loyal client.
Tom Jennings is vice president of professional development for the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA). Jennings, a retail sales training guru, has served in various capacities within the WFCA.