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Installments: An introduction to loose-lay LVT

October 29/November 5, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 10

By Graham Capobianco

 

If you’re anything like me, the concept of installing a resilient floor tile or plank without adhesive likely made you scoff the first time you heard it. However, when installed correctly, loose-lay LVT can be a problem solver for many projects, especially in commercial environments.

Loose-lay LVT has many of the same attributes of traditional glue-down or click-and-lock LVT. It has a durable wear layer that provides surface protection, a UV-cured finish that allows for ease of maintenance and a wide array of color and format options. What’s more, loose lay also has many other performance benefits that make it stand out when compared to traditional LVT.

Loose lay can be installed over existing floors. While there are some restrictions, this is easily the most useful attribute of loose-lay LVT. It’s especially useful for existing flooring materials that may be dangerous, difficult or costly to remove.

It can easily be removed and replaced. This makes loose-lay LVT ideal for temporary flooring installations, as removal and replacement will not damage the substrate or the flooring material.

Loose lay can be used over raised access floors. While there are also some restrictions here, loose-lay LVT can be installed directly over most raised access floors. Since loose lay can be removed and replaced whenever access is needed, it’s the ideal flooring for raised access floors.

It has a higher sound rating than traditional LVT. While traditional LVT typically doesn’t contribute to sound reduction, loose-lay LVT is a thicker product that offers improved sound testing results.

It can also butt up to thicker products. At approximately 5mm, most loose-lay LVT can butt up directly to a number of thicker products that would normally require a transition. Approximately 3⁄16-inch carpet, rubber and thin, hard surface products can usually be installed flush with the surface of loose-lay LVT with minimal preparation.

Though loose-lay LVT may be a problem solver, it is only as good as the substrate it’s installed over and the installation practices used to install it. With that being said, here are a few precautions that should be taken to ensure a successful installation.

Loose-lay LVT does require adhesive. Despite the name, loose-lay LVT typically does require adhesive in order to provide a tight installation. However, it requires significantly less adhesive than traditional LVT—typically, it only requires a band of adhesive around the perimeter of the installation. Loose-lay LVT installed with spray adhesive is also easier to remove and replace.

It requires a flat substrate. Just like glue-down or click-and-lock LVT products, loose lay  requires a flat substrate prior to installation. While thicker than traditional LVT, loose-lay LVT will still telegraph divots, low/high spots, wide substrate voids and other substrate imperfections—this could also cause edge-lifting or gapping.

It also requires a solid substrate. Because loose-lay LVT is generally not glued to the substrate, it’s important that the substrate be fully adhered, solid, sound and supportive. Softer substrates may cause edge-lifting or gapping over time.

When done correctly, loose-lay LVT installations combine unique flexibility with an ideal visual aesthetic that meets the needs of many commercial flooring projects.

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Lisbiz strategies: Expanding your client base can reap rewards

October 29/November 5, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 10

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

Everyone says they need new customers. The question is, where do you find them? Looking for individual customers is really the hard way. Instead of looking for one or two new customer, it’s easier and more efficient if you look for “industry partners” who use your products. After attending the Remodeling and Deck Expo in Baltimore (FCNews, Oct 15/22), I’m thoroughly convinced flooring owners should be networking with people in the building industry and attending this conference. Why just connect with one or two builders or remodelers in your area? Why not look for ways to connect on a larger scale?

Let’s talk about the real estate industry. Realtors are always interested in new customers. Who do you know that has more connections with consumers than those in the real estate business? I think this is a winning group for you, but you’ve got to “work it,” as they say.

Through the years, I have spoken at real estate offices about flooring products and trends. Usually these meetings are small (about 10-15 agents). Regardless, they are always excited to learn about new products.

This past year I was invited to be the keynote speaker at the Greater Capital Association of Realtors (GCAR). As one of the largest realtor associations in the U.S., the group represents more than 10,000 members from Washington, D.C., and Montgomery County, Md., as well as industry-related professionals who follow the real estate business. Frankly, I never thought this would be anything more than a one-time speaking opportunity. After the event, Debbie Isom, director of professional development, spoke with me about becoming certified to teach. I started thinking, would this industry be interested in flooring on a larger scale?

The certification was quite a process. You are required to have a certain number of points that support your expertise and ability to teach. You get additional points for being in the real estate business. Our first class was filled. In fact, we had to turn people away at the door. Who would have thought so many people would be interested in flooring? They actually thought it was fascinating. Attendees received continuing education credits.

We are about to offer our second class— Nov. 7–9, in Malta, N.Y., and Mohawk Industries has agreed to sponsor our event. Why am I telling you this? This is a huge opportunity for you to build some great connections. I’m not suggesting you get certified to teach an event, although this is an option. The requirements for certification are different for each state. You can probably connect with instructors in your state and talk with them about a flooring class and all you have to do is help them write a course in flooring.

Furthermore, you can host this event in your business, invite builders, interior designers, kitchen designers, home inspectors or anyone in the real estate industry and consumers. Imagine the event you can hold; you will be able to fill your showroom with lots of new faces and potential customers. FYI, several of our participants in my last class were consumers who were considering purchasing new flooring.

Why not use this as an opportunity to start your own networking group? It’s a great chance for a flooring dealer to get connected in the building industry. Furthermore, why not include your local flooring association and the World Floor Covering Association? Think big!

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Lessons learned: Avoid mixed signals when training newbies

October 29/November 5, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 10

By Tom Jennings

 

Frequent readers of this column will recognize I am constantly harping the point that there are lessons to be learned regarding the care of both customers and staff everywhere you look. Please allow me to share one with you.

While having a lazy Saturday morning breakfast at a franchise restaurant recently, I observed an assistant manager training three new hires at a nearby table. While they were all young, it made me smile looking into their bright eyes on their first day. I suspect that for a couple of them it may have been their first job ever.

They looked great in their newly issued uniforms. (Can you say the same about your employees?) When I first observed them, they were getting a large dose of corporate jargon, such as harassment policy, company history, etc. Not exactly riveting to any of us at any age, but it must be done. (You do have all of your corporate policies written in an official employee handbook, don’t you?) I was thinking to myself: No matter what these young people do later in life, working regular hours and serving the general public would provide them with so many valuable lessons to draw upon as they progress. What I didn’t realize was one of these lessons was going to come immediately.

About that time a middle-aged lady came over to the table and introduced herself as the general manager. It was a nice way to begin. Her next comment confounded me. She stated, “I have been at the restaurant for 12 years and a trainer for eight years. I know you’ll find all of the correct procedures in the manuals, but Deb and I have learned a lot of shortcuts over the years. If you want to do things faster, watch us.”

Unbelievable. It had just taken her about 30 seconds to effectively dismiss years of experience that had gone into building the corporate brand and image. These kids had been on the job about two hours, and now they are already receiving mixed signals. If they do things according to company policy, will they be scorned by immediate supervision? Or, worse, if they do things the “fast way,” will they jeopardize their opportunity to advance within the company? Worse yet, will they take the path that so many do and just proceed to disengage and care a little less? The lessons to be learned looking into those six young eyes were very real.

Then the manager put the cherry on her toxic sundae. She said, “If I call you by the wrong name, don’t be offended. I’ve seen so many trainees come through here that it’s hard to keep them all straight.”

Perfect. Now the kids have been both confused and diminished, and they haven’t served a single customer yet. You don’t suppose his lack of clear direction and sense of insecurity will be transferred in some fashion to the customers that they will be serving, do you? Of course it will. Then, when the majority of them inevitably grow frustrated and move on, management will be in a state of denial, lamenting, “They just can’t find anyone good to hire.”

We all hire new staff. Make sure both your mouth and your manuals are saying the same message. No matter what your age or experience level, beginning a new career can be both exhilarating and intimidating. Don’t make it any harder for all involved than it needs to be. Exhilarating is a lot more productive and enjoyable for all concerned. This is your responsibility. Be the lead that they need.

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Al’s column: What’s in your firm’s DNA?

October 29/November 5, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 10

By Scott Perron

 

Soon to be 53, I find myself in the third season of my “business career.” In the first 15 years I was an independent retailer, followed by four years on the corporate side of the industry. In this latest round we have two business models: one focusing on supplying professional customers, while the other works on the shop-at-home/business space.

During these last 20-plus years, I have come in contact with countless business owners, executives and managers. Following some good advice I received at a very young age, I take the time to question those who are much more successful in the hopes they can shine some light on the proper methods of building our business.

It is for that reason, hard work and surrounding myself with people who are much better than me, that we have been successful in our own right. Even now I have three out-of-state business mentors that have helped guide me on my newest journey, and for that I am eternally grateful. I encourage all retailers to reach out to your potential advisors and take heed to the wisdom they may impart.

That being said, I want to draw attention to those who single-handedly take the credit for the success they have achieved in business. As a young man, I was guilty of that same negative attribute and throughout my career I have met many who love to beat their chest while having no real success to back up their self-promotional tendencies.

Ego and arrogance have no place in business if you really want to duplicate success. Those who make themselves the center of attention in business will find out later that they have nothing to sell, while those who look to build a legacy can overcome almost any obstacle and silence any competitor with actions vs. words.

The DNA of a business is a very simple ideology, which states that its true function is to serve its clients, employees and shareholders. Regardless of leadership, ownership or who screams the loudest, we should all be beholden to the business. This is true even when it requires firing a close relative, friend or employee to ensure its success long term.

While I continue to study the things I do not know on a daily basis, research suggests the leadership of any company usually has a limited skill set, which causes periodic and much-needed change in order for the business to thrive. For example, companies that achieve $5 million or $10 million in revenue often cannot grow to $25 million without a change in leadership. Furthermore, those at that level often require yet another change when reaching for a new plateau.

In a recent column I cited an article written by entrepreneur Daymond John outlining his five secrets to building a successful company by hiring correctly (promote drive, free voice, “intrapreneurs,” motivation and incentives). Although simple in its wording, those attributes are difficult to execute and are the responsibility of any company’s leadership in order to propel it forward.

Although some of you may disagree with my comments, we often let emotions, relationships and prior promises dictate our future actions. However, the reality is doing anything other than what is good for your business can lead to its destruction.

I get great enjoyment out of speaking with young people who are eager to learn and willing to work toward a successful career or ownership in business. I find myself becoming more like the people who have helped me along my journey, and I am happy to pay it forward.

 

Scott Perron is the president of 24-7 Floors and Floor4Pros based in Sarasota, Fla. He is also an industry trainer and motivational speaker. He can be reached via email at scott@24-7floors.com or 860.250.1733.

 

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Marketing mastery: How to generate high-quality leads online

October 29/November 5, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 10

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

 

(Second of three parts)

In my previous column I detailed the many problems dealers face when buying leads from certain lead generation companies as well as why you are better off generating your own leads. I also discussed how any time you generate leads you should begin with the ones you already have: your past customers. Assuming you’re already marketing to your customer list, let’s look at some online lead generation strategies.

Build a strong online reputation. Billy Berber owns Big Billy’s Berber Boutique in Billings, Mont., and has been in business for 20 years. He’s noticed that lately he’s been losing a lot of business to his competitors, Lance’s Luxury Laminates and Wendy’s Wood World. This is puzzling to him because Big Billy’s has a good reputation built on honesty, integrity, great service and quality products. What he doesn’t realize is that it’s possible to have a great offline reputation and simultaneously have a weak online reputation.

When Cathy Consumer Googles flooring in Billings, Mont., and looks at the reviews, Big Billy’s has only a handful, and an average rating of 2.7 stars. On the other hand, Lance and Wendy have dozens of reviews with 4.5 and 4.9 average star ratings, respectively. Billy is losing a steady stream of leads to Lance and Wendy because his online reputation stinks. It doesn’t matter how great of an online lead-generation strategy he puts in place, this problem will hurt results. By having dozens of positive online reviews you’ll not only directly generate leads to your store, but you’ll get better results from all your other lead-generation efforts.

Lead capture on your website. Have you ever visited a cooking website and got a nice-looking pop-up ad that says, “Sign up for free weekly mouth-watering recipes”? Of course, we’ve all seen these kinds of ads. You then enter your name and email to get the free recipes. This offer gets website visitors to raise their hand and say, “Yes, I’m interested in cooking.” The company is building a list of hot leads whom they can market to indefinitely with cooking-related products. This kind of lead generation is used everywhere and in virtually every industry. Why?  Because, regardless of what you and I think about these ads, they work.

My company has implemented this strategy for many floor dealers we work with, and you should implement it for your business. You could have an offer on your website that says, “Free guide reveals the five important things to consider when buying new floors.” Cathy Consumer enters her name and email and gets the guide. We test different ads to see which generate the most opt-ins and you should do the same.

Lead follow up. It’s important to follow up with the leads who opt in for your offer. Research has shown the path-to-purchase for big ticket items averages 79 days. So, after Cathy Consumer opts in, subscribe her to an email follow up campaign so you can stay in front of her throughout that time frame. Every few days send her an email with information that educates her on how to choose a flooring store. Don’t spam her every day with 10%-off coupons, because she’ll opt out of your emails. Send information that helps her in her quest for new floors. This will position you as a trusted advisor.

In the next installment I’ll cover a strategy to get other businesses to send you an ongoing stream of leads for free.

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Marketing mastery: How to generate high-quality leads

October 15/22, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 9

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

 

(First of three parts)

We all know the pitfalls of “buying” leads from popular online referral services: You have no control over the type (or quality) of leads; you have to influence over how the leads are generated; leads sold to you are often sold to your competitors; and, generally speaking, buying leads does not usually foster long-term relationships with prospects.

Retailers need to generate solid leads to grow their business. That’s a given. So, over the next several installments I’m going to reveal proven lead-generation strategies you can put to work in your own business.

What if I told you I could get you a list of leads that’s superior in every way to purchased leads? These leads are: 1) proven buyers of flooring; 2) folks that trust you more than purchased leads; 3) people who have a shorter path-to-purchase; 4) prospects that are much less likely to haggle over price; 5) consumers who are more likely to send you referrals; and 6) people who are much more pleasant to work with.

Oh, and you can get them for free.

I’m talking about your list of past customers. These are, without a doubt, the highest quality leads on the planet. You can’t buy leads anywhere that even come close to matching the quality of your past customer list. Past customers are like having your own personal gold mine. The problem is, only a tiny minority of dealers ever mine their gold.

It always seems ironic to me when I talk to a dealer who is spending thousands of dollars per year buying leads (e.g., the names and phone numbers of total strangers) while totally ignoring their past customers. That’s insanity. And yet the vast majority of dealers don’t market to their past customers.

However, if this describes you, it’s not entirely your fault. Dealers are subjected to an endless deluge of hype and misinformation put out by marketing companies about the best ways to get new customers. I’ve helped hundreds of dealers to tap their respective gold mines by marketing to their past customers, and the results are sometimes jaw-dropping. I’ve seen dealers come back from the brink of bankruptcy to open a second store, increase their margins and double or triple their revenue over several years.

That’s the power of marketing to your past customers. So, before buying leads, market to the ones you already have. It can change your business and your life. I’ve seen it happen many times.

Power of referrals
When Cathy Consumer begins shopping for floors, it’s almost like she’s expecting a baby. She’s excited about it, she talks to her friends and co-workers about it. It’s a big, happy disruption to her life. In all of her discussions with her circle in the weeks leading up to the purchase and installation, it’s a really good bet that at least one person has said, “Hey, we need new floors, too. Who are you getting yours from? Let us know how they do.”

This is why you should train all of your salespeople to ask for—and generate—referrals from every completed installation. Think about it: you’ve done a great job, provided outstanding service, and Cathy Consumer now has beautiful new floors. She loves you. This is the perfect time to ask for and get referrals.

In the next installment, I’ll cover online strategies for generating high-quality leads from the Internet.

 

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Lisbiz strategies: Finding new customers in unlikely places

October 15/22, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 9

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

I have a therapist friend whose favorite expression is, “You can’t get chocolate milk in a turnip field.” It may sound silly, but if you’re looking for something specific, you had better know where to find it.

Looking for new business should be on the top of everyone’s list, but I realize it takes some time and effort. Like many retail owners, I’m time-starved so I get it. But this year I’ve been reintroduced to opportunities in the building and remodeling industry. This is an industry that directly connects to the flooring business. For many of you, it’s your bread and butter business.

I recently spoke at the Leading Suppliers Conference (LSC) in Portland, Ore. The LSC was established by the National Association of Home Builders in 1964. The conference serves as a multifaceted supplier resource for the building industry that represents the business interests of its members through advocacy, education and networking. I understood how important this connection was when I realized how many of their members operate in the flooring space.

In addition, I presented a talk on coaching at the Remodeling and Deck Expo in Baltimore earlier this month. The show is managed by Informa Exhibitions, the same folks behind TISE. If you’ve attended this event, you know Informa Exhibitions understands how to put on a great show. While preparing my seminars, I thought, “I don’t come from the remodeling or decking industry. What could I teach them about their business?”

I decided to tell them that no matter what the industry, all businesses have three things in common: How do we make money? How do we hire good people to help us make money? How do we keep them?

Following the seminar, several business owners came up to talk to me about their companies. I felt accepted and that my information was useful to them. The lesson learned here is, if you can establish commonalities with people you’re on the road to building connections.

As a retailer, if you’re seriously looking for new business, consider partnering up with some of your customers. Look for those businesses that are in a position to help you get more business and you can reciprocate. In my mind, the remodeling sector represents a great fit. Findings reported by Metrostudy—a firm that provides market insights to help builders, developers, financial institutions, manufacturers and retailers make informed strategic business decisions, deploy investment capital and improve risk management—predicts this coming year will be great for anyone in the remodeling and building trades.

As a recent market summary showed: “The strong economy and increased demand because of 2017’s natural disasters led Metrostudy, a sister company to Remodeling, to boost its 2018 prediction from the 4.7% rise in activity it forecast three months ago. Metrostudy now predicts there will be 12.57 million projects launched in 2018 that are worth at least $1,000. That’s up from 11.96 million last year.” (As I sat down to write this article, Hurricane Michael had just made landfall in Florida. There may be more business than some retailers can handle.)

Bottom line: Remodelers and builders are your customers; they need your help. Why not start calling builders to attend one of their meetings and find out what they need? Think of how excited your customers will be when they see you’re networking with their builders and understanding the trends in ‘their ‘worlds.

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Guest column: A comprehensive guide to managing your leads

October 15/22, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 9

By Jason Goldberg

 

What is more important to your business—lead generation or lead management? The answer: They are both equally important and, when used correctly, they build upon each other.

A lead is typically coming to you one of three ways (what I call the lead source): digitally—most commonly through your website forms; walking right into your store; and calling your store.

What caused this lead to come to you for questions or services is lead generation. I break lead generation down into four key elements:

Creative. This is the messaging and the visuals.

Delivery. This is how the prospect heard about you for questions or services based partially on how you chose to deliver the message.

Promotions type. This is the extra push giving the prospect typically a financial reason to select you for questions or services.

Spend. This is how much you choose to invest in generating leads.

It’s the combination of all four that help shape the circumstances that drive a consumer to select your company for questions or services—lead generation. Much of this information can be tracked automatically for digital leads. However, this is not automatic data for your phone call leads and your walk-in leads.

So how do you tie all this information together while doing what is most important—making sales? You use a lead management/customer relationship management (CRM) software.

Lead management, at its core, is the process by which you manage the leads trying to convert them to a sale. CRM software, which allows you to manage the relationship with the customer, includes things such as continuous remarketing, analytics review and, of course, lead management.

Going back to lead generation, let’s assume the following:

  • You spend $10,000 per month on lead generation
  • You deliver the creative via Facebook, paid search, TV and radio
  • You have a promotion within the creative for some sort of sale

How do you know how many leads were generated based on the above? How are you tracking it? Just because you spent money on digital content does not necessarily mean the lead came to you through a website form. Perhaps the prospect picked up the phone and called you or stopped by your location.

By that same token, just because you spent money on traditional content does not necessarily mean the lead came to you through a walk-in or phone call. Perhaps she just went to your website and filled out a form. (Bear in mind the prospect most likely heard about you through multiple sources.) Maybe she saw your TV commercial and was served an ad on Facebook. Maybe the prospect asked her good friend who she used when she purchased new flooring to rate her experience.

If she did an internet search for flooring dealers in her area—and you along with five others popped up on page one of the results—why would she click on your site? Do you have any name recognition from perhaps the traditional and digital content you have run over the years? Are you showing strong ratings from consumers who left reviews? Everything being equal, when I look at the results on page one I typically click the company I recognize with the strongest review rating.

Two of the main functions of lead management/CRM systems are determining how many leads were generated and how to track those leads. This includes all leads, not just the digital ones but the walk-ins and phone calls as well. This gives you the best data and best results to work with.

How many of those leads did you close? Were you able to monitor those leads through the sales pipeline so nothing slipped through the cracks? Were you notified when tasks were to be done and if they went past due? Again, this should be done with all your leads and not just your website leads. Managing all your leads through the sales process and being able to monitor that process is, in my opinion, the single most important aspect of lead management. Aside from maximizing closing opportunities this data provides training opportunities for you and your staff.

Of all the leads that your company’s salespeople are handling, how many of them actually are tracked in a lead management software? Why isn’t it all of them? The old excuse, “I cannot get my people to change or use modern technology,” is nonsense. The world is changing. People are naturally resistant to change, and it takes a driver and a teacher to help them overcome that fear.

For the leads that do get entered into your lead management/CRM system, whether automatically or manually, how many of them have the lead source, the “how heard” and the promotion information in them? How many have the products interested in and products sold data if applicable? Do you and your sales team understand the value of this data and how it can help you generate more leads?

Learning from experience
At one time, I was at the point where many retailers are today. I spent lots of money to generate leads for my retail business without having any method to manage them. Like most of you, I had no idea what my salespeople were handling, the source of those leads, how those leads heard about us, how many of those leads we were closing and so on. If I wanted to know what a salesperson was handling it involved digging through their desk or calling them in for a meeting. When a lead did come through the website it was simply forwarded to a salesperson and then virtually forgotten about. That is no way to run a business.

Things changed when I decided I grew tired of not knowing. I searched for the perfect lead management/CRM software for the flooring industry. When my search found no software that I felt was suitable for my company, I hired a technology firm and built one to my specifications. It worked so well for my flooring company that I spun it off into its own business, and Retail Lead Management was born. The flooring industry finally had a legitimate solution for lead management/CRM that is simple to learn and use as well as being cost effective.

We are moving toward the end of three years on the system and are up another 32% in retail sales this year with the same number of locations and a reduction in yearly marketing spend. (By the way, we were up over 30% in our retail division the previous two years as well.) What has been the difference over these last three years? It’s been the lead management/CRM system, Retail Lead Management, we implemented and made everyone use. Making them all understand the value of making more sales, monitoring the sales process, using the data to improve our marketing mix and countless other training and decision-making opportunities it has provided.

Here’s some valuable advice: Before you embark on lead generation, invest a little time and money into lead management first. If you are not currently using a lead management software, it will be the best money you have spent on your retail business in a long time. But be prepared to learn how to use it and then get your staff to use it as well. From there watch your sales grow and understand lead by lead why it is happening. Then use this data to improve your sales team and sales process while strengthening your lead generation process and results.

 

Jason Goldberg is the CEO of America's Floor Source and Retail Lead Management. a CRM software system designed specifically for the flooring industry. The company has sold more than 2,000 user licenses to flooring retailers in North America.

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Lessons learned: It’s hard to retrieve missed opportunities

October 15/22, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 9

By Tom Jennings

 

Recently while having lunch at a nice restaurant, I observed an example that everyone in management should have witnessed. At an adjoining table, a service technician for a local automobile dealership was seated with the firm’s general manager. The manager proudly told the server that his companion had won a contest for having received the highest ratings during the previous quarter for customer satisfaction. His instructions to the server were: “He is a winner—give him whatever he wants.”

The entire time I was sitting there soaking this all in, I was thinking that I was observing a boss who “gets it.” Boy, was I wrong. For the next 30 minutes, what I mostly observed was a service technician having lunch by himself.

The manager must have taken half a dozen phone calls, each with the excuse that, “I need to get this; it’s important.” In addition, he must have sent a barrage of text messages during the meal. Seemingly, the minute the employee swallowed the last bite of his meal, the manager said, “If you are done we may as well head back.” Can you believe that? This entire scenario had so many behavior flaws, I could hardly eat my lunch. I really wanted to walk over to that table and give the employee a hug.

Throughout this experience, one thing was painfully obvious to me: Clearly the boss did not want to be at this restaurant at this time with this person. He was merely fulfilling an obligation that someone else had entered on his calendar. His body language clearly said he had no real interest in learning anything about this employee on a personal level. He made no attempt to discover any common interests they may have shared. Nor did he make any mention of the exemplary behavior that earned the employee the opportunity to be acknowledged. What he basically expressed to this guy repeatedly—without actually stating it outright—was that his phone calls were more important to him than the occasion that had brought them to lunch.

To this observer, what a few minutes before had appeared to be a genuine gesture of reward had instead been exposed as merely a promotional stunt.

What this manager clearly failed to realize is that over time it is impossible for an employee to consistently treat his customers better than he is being treated by management. He may genuinely attempt to do so at first, but eventually it is certain his spirits will wane. The result will either be him giving more indifferent service or, more likely, seeking another place of employment where the attitude is more to his liking.

When this occurs, I can just hear this supervisor saying that “good help is hard to find today.” From the employees’ perspective, I think many people would be justified in making a similar statement regarding management.

Remember that the honored employee did not just desire a free steak dinner; he also felt he had won a period of undivided attention from his boss. That is really what he bragged about to his friends and family. From where I sat, I hope his lunch went down well, because the treatment I observed him receiving was really hard for me to swallow.

 

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.

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Al’s column: Are you due for a brand makeover?

October 15/22, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 9

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

Remember when it was good enough to call yourself a carpet store?

Over the past 10 years, the smart “carpet stores” finally changed their names to include other flooring types. Many went kicking and screaming, afraid they would lose their old customers only to find out their “loyal customers” were cheating on them. At no time did they consider how much business they were losing because their customers were looking elsewhere for hard surface flooring.

The real conundrum is how do you know when it’s time for a brand update or refresh? All businesses face the same issue—can I thrive forever on what I’ve built? The answer, unfortunately, is not anymore. Technology has forever changed how we do business and how everyone gets information. As a case in point, consider how Amazon has changed the way many consumers shop. This may have been unthinkable 15 or 20 years ago.

For many retailers, brand evolution is more than just a name or logo change. For instance, recently Weight Watchers rebranded to WW. It’s likely they are developing a new concept that eliminates the concept of dieting and replaces it with “healthy eating and living a healthy lifestyle.”

Along the same lines, Dunkin’ Donuts has decided to simply become “Dunkin”—dropping the “Donuts” from the name but not from the menu. There seems to be a general uproar on the consumer’s part about how awful it is to drop “Donuts.” With more than 10,000 Dunkin’ Donuts in the U.S., a name change is a big deal, but it has been long in the making. Dunkin’ Donuts has already been experimenting in some locations with new signage.

In another instance, Coca-Cola—a household name for decades—recently acquired Costa, Britain’s biggest coffee company. The retailer comprises 2,400 coffee shops in the U.K. and another 1,400 in more than 30 international markets. My hunch is they’re after the Starbucks brand.

So when is the best time to consider a brand refresh? Here are five signs:

Is your business what you want it to be?Has the culture changed in your area? Are you seeing less and less of your old customers? Furthermore, do you need to change but maybe you’re not sure if you want to? Are you not sure how to change?

Are you embarrassed to give out your business card?Is your card out of date, do the graphics look old? What do you want your card to say about your business?

Have you noticed your competitors are getting bigger and everyone looks alike?Have you forgotten who your core customer is and how to reach them? The wider you cast your net, the more confusion you may create. Your business needs to be unique. When you lose your uniqueness, you lose your competitive edge and profit margin.

Are you looking to compete on a higher level?The media continues to report the middle class (the “bread and butter” customers for some retailers) has all but vanished. The only way to make real money is to trade up to the higher end. Trading up may mean a change in how your store and employees look, how you market your services and what products you offer.

Are you struggling to raise prices and connect with new customers?When you are selling at a certain price point, it’s difficult to raise your price. Is it possible your salespeople are also stuck in the low sales mode and have the same struggle?

Remember: Your salespeople take their cues from you. If you believe in selling lower-priced merchandise, they will follow your lead.

 

Lisbeth Calandrino will deliver a presentation titled “Seven techniques to talk crazy customers (or anyone else) off the ledge” at TISE 2019, which kicks off Jan. 22 in Las Vegas.