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Al’s column: How much is your business really worth?

June 24/July 1, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 1

By Roman Basi

 

You’ve invested your life, money, time and effort into your business. Countless hours have been spent operating, maintaining and adjusting the business to stay competitive and profitable.

All this begs the question: How much is my business actually worth? Plenty of owners could arbitrarily claim a value based on their income and assets, but how many have sat down and had an independent business valuation?

Knowing the value of your business is necessary for a number of reasons. Whether buying or selling your business (M&A), succession planning, estate planning or looking into employee stock options, business loans or divorce, a valuation is critical to proper planning, execution and structure of the transaction.

A business valuation is more than just a number arrived at through various methods used to calculate value. In many cases, the value number is of secondary importance to the actual methodology used in the calculation. Consider this scenario: Two shareholders enter into a buy/sell agreement and a shareholder looks to exit the business or passes away unexpectedly. What value of the business is the shareholder or the shareholder’s estate owed? Moreover, how do we calculate a number that is ever changing as business values increase or decrease on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis? The answer is the valuation methodology proposed and agreed upon by the shareholders in the executed buy/sell agreement, which will provide a valuation methodology that will be calculated at the time of the shareholder’s exit, thus avoiding a battle of various methodologies leading to different values more beneficial to one party over the other.

How do we know what methodology determines the true value? (The IRS describes this as “the fair market price at which the property would change hands between a willing buyer and a willing seller, when the former is not under any compulsion to buy and the latter is not under any compulsion to sell, with both parties having reasonable knowledge of the relevant facts.”)

To properly obtain a valuation, the business will need to employ an unbiased, qualified appraiser with experience and training in both the area of valuations and the industry in question. Moreover, the appraiser must understand and employ the various valuation methods, the discount and premium variables while weighing the result accordingly. Finally the appraiser must be able to communicate and ultimately defend the value calculation. Remember: The calculated value is only as strong as the appraiser’s ability to defend it.

From an M&A standpoint, the value put forth to potential purchasers will undoubtedly be reviewed, scrutinized and potentially challenged to reduce the buyer’s purchase price. The buyer’s due diligence team will comb through the business’s internal financials to substantiate the numbers in the seller’s most recent financial statements. The buyer’s due diligence team will then use their own valuation methodology calculation to arrive at their proscribed value. If the seller’s value cannot be substantiated, a purchase price reduction may be sought and the transaction may be jeopardized.

From a succession planning standpoint, the valuation methodology should be tailored to best meet the needs of the successor—whether the needs be tax minimization, payout terms or level of value. However, the valuation method and transfer of assets or stock must be valid under IRS rules pertaining to related party transfers.

If you have questions regarding valuations, call 618.997.3436 for a free consultation.

 

Roman Basi is an attorney and CPA with the firm Basi, Basi & Associates at The Center for Financial, Legal & Tax Planning. He writes frequently on issues facing business owners.

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Marketing mastery: Customer service is still king in retail

June 10/17, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 26

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

 

“Flooring World,” the employee answering the phone said in a bored tone when I called for an appointment with the store owner. (Note: Company names in this article have been changed to avoid libel suits.) This fellow had no enthusiasm in his voice, and his tone suggested I had interrupted his day.

Compare that to how the phone was answered by the employee of a long-time coaching client of mine: “Thank you for calling Ridgway Flooring and Interiors, home of the iron-clad triple guarantee,” she said in a bright, cheerful voice. “How may I help you?” Imagine if you were in the market for flooring and you called both of these stores. With which would you choose to do business?

Customer service is a buzzword that gets thrown around a lot. Ask a dealer why a prospect should buy from him or her instead of a competitor and you’ll likely hear, “Because we provide really good customer service.” Ask the competitor the same question and you’ll likely get the same answer. Saying you have great customer service isn’t enough. You have to put actionable, concrete customer service strategies in place and train your team to follow them.

Let’s analyze some statistics from studies done by American Express to see how they apply to your business.

1. Consumers will pay 17% more to buy from companies with great customer service reputations. I’ve worked with flooring dealers whose margins were in the 25%-30% range and helped them quickly leap to 40%-50% margins by implementing strategies to wow their customers. This is one of the fastest, most cost-effective ways to increase your profits.

2. One-third of consumers say one instance of poor customer service would cause them to consider switching companies. Every time you pre- vent a customer loss to a competitor, it’s money in your pocket. Taking the time to root out poor or mediocre customer service habits in your employees will prevent those losses.

3. More than half of consumers say they have made an additional purchase after a company provided a positive experience. It’s common for a customer buy one or two rooms of flooring, only to return later and purchase floors for her entire house, business, rentals, etc. If you really impress your customers, you can increase the frequency of this happening.

4. Nine in 10 consumers factor in customer service when deciding whether to purchase from a company. Your customer’s first point of contact with a member of your team is when she calls or visits. These are your two most important opportunities to make a positive impression so she chooses to buy from you instead of the big box down the street.

5. Happy consumers tell 11 people about their experience with your company; angry consumers tell 15 people. Want more referrals? Start amazing your customers with phenomenal customer service. You’ll not only get more referrals, but you’ll also reduce the number of people complaining about your business to friends and relatives.

Customer service is everything. From the way your phones are answered and how customers are greeted in-store to how you arrive for the in-home measure, every touchpoint with each customer is an opportunity to wow them and dramatically increase your profits.

 

Jim is the founder and president of Flooring Success Systems, a company that provides floor dealers with digital and offline marketing services and coaching to equip dealers to make more money, work fewer hours and get their lives back. For information visit flooringsuccesssystems.com.

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Lisbiz strategies: When wooing customers, focus on the ‘experience’

June 10/17, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 26

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

Everyone talks about the customer experience, but few know what it actually is. It goes way beyond reciting a pleasant greeting when a consumer calls or offering assistance when she ultimately enters your store.

Customer service today is essentially about delivering a memorable experience for the consumer throughout the entire purchasing process. Why is this so important? According to a study published by the Temkin Group, companies that earn $1 billion annually can expect to earn, on average, an additional $700 million within three years of investing in improving the customer experience. Not only is this a significant return on your investment, but it goes a long way in improving your relationships with your customers. Which, in turn, brings more repeat business—and so on.

Following are some actions you can take to improve the customer experience in your store:

Be clear on what really matters. If being on time is an important value, make sure everyone understands and adheres to it. By being consistent is one way you can show your customers you care. Continually discuss what matters, monitor to see that every- one is following the rules. Furthermore, check to see if the rule is creating any problems.

Know your customers better. When it comes to improving your customer relationships, one size does not fit all. If you are finding problems with your policies, it’s likely you’re not clear on who your customers are and what they need. One way to find out if you’re on track are customer surveys. If you ask them what they need they’re likely to let you know.

Get your customers to love you more. Remember, the customer doesn’t love products— she loves the people who provide the products. Statistics provided by the Journal of Consumer Research showed more than 50% of an experience is based on an emotion. In other words, if I feel good about working with you, it’s likely you have produced a positive emotion. It may be as simple as sending the customer a hand-written thank-you note after the completion of the sale or something a little more impactful such as sending the customer flowers after the sale.

Stay on top of customer feedback. When I go to business websites, I often see unhappy customer comments that have been on the site for years. Ask customers for testimonials and continually post them on your website.

Use social media to create a great customer experience. Post new products on your Facebook page and ask visitors for their opinions. If this is new to you, or you’re not comfortable with these tools, get someone to help you. It’s likely your competitors are already doing this. Don’t give them an unchallenged advantage.

Make your business a community hub. Everyone is looking for something to do, so why can’t your place be that destination? You can show movies, arrange fun get-togethers or even have someone conduct Zumba/yoga classes in your store. If it were me, I would have the farmers market in my parking lot. Find out what will draw customers to your store and go for it.

Think creatively. There are no rules for what you can do to attract more people to your store. Continue to recreate your own customer experiences. You’ll quickly discover what works, although you may have to do them more than once to achieve the desired effect.

 

Lisbeth Calandrino has been promoting retail strategies for the last 20 years. To have her speak at your business, or to schedule a consultation, contact her at lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com.

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Lessons learned: The trick to hiring the right salesperson

June 10/17, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 26

By Tom Jennings

 

When visiting with flooring dealers across the country, I often hear the comment, “We may need to add a salesperson to our staff.” When I inquire further as to what the main objective would be to this employee search, the answer is virtually always something to the effect of needing “extra floor coverage.” The emphasis seems to be focused on the short-term goal of having someone available to relate the businesses offerings and attributes. Not exactly a customer-centric approach.

I find it curious that virtually no one states they are seeking staff members who will be better received by, and thus more effective with, their clients. To ultimately be considered successful, all involved—customer, employer and employee—must be generally satisfied with one another other after each transaction. Shouldn’t the goal be to employ the right people rather than settle for just having enough of them? I believe the most important questions you are ever going to consider when interviewing a potential salesperson are: Is this the right person for my clients? What values will he or she add to my clients’ decision-making process? How would I feel if they were selling against my firm working for a competitor? If you wouldn’t find them hard to compete with, why would you want them on your team?

Remember, you’re not interviewing for someone to join your golf foursome or bowling team. It doesn’t matter that you like the potential salesperson you are visiting with if your clients aren’t likely to relate well with them. It doesn’t matter how much you want to hire this person unless your clients will want to trust their purchase decision to them. Ultimately, your current and future clients are the ones who will decide whether you did a good job in hiring a salesperson.

It doesn’t matter that the potential salesperson has the right attributes, skills and the willingness if they aren’t the right fit for your clientele. To that end, don’t obsess over a potential candidate’s existing knowledge of our industry. Sometimes ineffective initial training or dated product knowledge can be more of a detriment than experience. It is much easier to teach someone who likes people what they need to know about flooring than it is to teach someone who already knows flooring the art of making a connection with the consumer.

Your competitors are bombarding both your current and potential clients with offers, relentlessly pursuing their business. Are your potential clients likely to choose to buy from one of these competitors, or are they more likely to choose to buy from the prospective salesperson sitting in front of you? Remember this: Customers are often looking for someone to buy from as much as, or even more than, they are searching for something to buy. Based on what you know about your clients, is this the right salesperson to win that contest?

If you believe the primary value created by the prospective salesperson sitting in front of you is that he or she will provide the headcount you need, then odds are you will have to repeat the process again in the near future when your customer base collectively votes that they are unimpressed by them. Floor coverage may be the reason you initiate the search process, but it should never be the main reason you conclude it.

Bottom line: don’t settle. The only reason you should ever hire anyone is you truly feel they will add value for your clients. No other answer will improve the eventual chances for success, or happiness, for everyone involved.

 

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: Sometimes disagreement is healthy

June 10/17, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 26

By Lou Morano

 

(Editor’s note: This is the second installment in a multi-part series.)

If you want to be truly successful, make minimal mistakes and make more “right” choices, then this point is of colossal importance: Surround yourself with people who are not afraid to challenge you.

I never understood why owners of companies surround them- selves with “yes” men or with people who think exactly like them. Don’t get me wrong: It is very important to align yourself with people who have the same vision, ethics and goals for your company. But you must do it with people who have strengths in areas you are not strong in and think differently.

Case in point: Steve Cosentino, the vice president of my company, and Rodney DiFranco, my general manager, have been working with me for more than 32 years; we all think differently but have the same goals. When it comes to making decisions, the three of us usually make them together. We look at situations from different viewpoints, but we have the same goal in mind.

For example, Steve is very detail oriented and meticulous. When we implement a new system or process, he thinks of every single step, creating fail-safes along the way. Meanwhile, Rodney knows the installation end of our business and the sales process extremely well. His greatest strength is in the mechanics of things and how to physically get things done and in what order. My strengths lie in leadership. I am also very good at creating, maintaining and nurturing relationships. I know how to get things done and how to keep people on task and motivated.

When we address serious projects, problems, situations, etc., we discuss it together. We don’t always agree on everything, and we all have good points.

When we encounter situations where we are all not in agreement, the majority rules—even when I am not in the majority. Do we make the right decision 100% of the time? Of course not. However, over the years we made the right decision by an overwhelmingly large majority of the time than if we had just gone with my decisions when I was not in the majority. You need to trust and respect the people around you. More importantly, you have to trust the process. In my case, three heads are better than one.

As an example, many years ago, when we became a Mohawk Floorscapes dealer, we went to all five of our showrooms and made some very hard decisions on completely renovating and remerchandising our showrooms. There were five of us making the decisions, and I valued everyone’s opinion as much as mine. And more than once I strongly disagreed with the majority. I remember the Mohawk representative telling me, “Lou, you’re the owner, so if you want it your way it is your decision.” My reply was, “No, I am not so arrogant that I think I know better than all of you put together, and I truly respect all your opinions. If I can’t convince the majority to agree with me, then I know by going with the majority we will make the right decision more times than not.”

After all the stores were completely renovated, we could see that statement was very true. We made almost no mistakes, and for sure my decision to stick with the “majority rules” vote was the right decision. I can count on one hand how many times over 33 years owning my company that I went against the majority. In those few instances I have been right and wrong. However, we have made more right decisions because I trust and value the opinions of those around me, and our company is more successful because of it.

 

Lou Morano started selling carpet for a major retailer at the age of 19 in 1981. In 1985 he and his father incorporated Capitol Carpet, Inc., and opened their first full-service retail store in 1986. Today Morano operates five retail stores, including a commercial division, under the name Capitol Carpet & Tile and Window Fashions

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Lisbiz strategies: TISE 2020 education—Behind the scenes

May 27/June 3, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 25

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

I recently returned from the TISE 2020 educational planning meeting in Irving, Texas. This is the third year I’ve been chosen to be on the committee. It’s interesting to find out what the attendees think of the prior education tracks and what seminars they would like to see moving forward. This information helps us determine the types of seminars to present in 2020.

As Katie Thompson, senior content and project manager and program moderator, stated: “The importance of the feedback from the participants from 2019 can’t be understated. It gives us an idea of what is important and what we should keep or eliminate. Having different industry professionals get together for a day and a half gives them an opportunity to share their expertise and great ideas.”

TISE is known for its grand exhibition, but the education program is considered an integral part of the show as well. The educational classes start the day before the show opens so it doesn’t detract from traffic on the show floor. In fact, the more savvy manufacturers use the classes to drive attendees back to their booths when the trade show opens. At Surfaces 2019, several manufacturers sponsored seminars and were involved in the design and presenting of these seminars. The participants’ comments indicate the attendees liked having the manufacturers present and be part of the education program.

The education committee is also an opportunity for industry professionals to get to know each other. Since many of the professionals come from different parts of the industry, this is probably the only time they get to share ideas and learn from each other.

So, what’s on tap for next year’s educational seminars? Installation, for sure. During our talks, we were challenged to come up with more ways to showcase the installation trade. Included in that discussion are the fabricators, who are often overlooked at the show. Both groups share a common concern of how to find new business. The subject of helping installers take better care of their physical health, namely their knees and backs, was a major concern for the group. Providing seminars for installers and fabricators on how they can differentiate themselves from the competition was also discussed at the meeting.

Developing more sessions for interior designers was also discussed and supported by the participants. Manufacturers as well as retailers are interested in finding ways to network with them, and Surfaces is a great place to make it happen. Providing CEUs for ASID could help drive traffic among this key target group. Another idea is to give the designers a platform and competition for them to showcase their skills.

One suggestion was to have industry experts make themselves available in the halls to answer questions. These industry experts can be retailers, manufacturers, installers and consultants. We have people who can tell you how to get around the show—why not have “hall monitors” to answer specific questions on marketing, retailing, installation or showroom design? It is useful and would add another fun element to the show.

Participants also agreed that more networking programs couldn’t hurt. In fact, it was suggested that attendees get “matched” before the show and then follow up to meet at the show. That could get interesting.

 

Lisbeth Calandrino has been promoting retail strategies for the last 20 years. To have her speak at your business or to schedule a consultation, contact her at lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com.

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Marketing mastery: Direct mail still viable in today’s Internet Age

May 27/June 3, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 25

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

 

I received a postcard the other day from a company offering their advertising services to help me grow my business. Nothing unusual about that, except that it came from Google.

Here is one of the largest digital advertising companies on the planet pitching their services via paper, ink and the U.S. Postal Service. Why would they do that? Because it works.

Here are some eye-opening statistics: Direct mail response rates for 2018 were 4.9% for prospect lists and 9% for house lists (a company’s own database of contacts). The house list response rate is nearly double from the year before.

Direct mail still has a higher response rate than any other digital, direct-marketing medium. Email, paid search and social media are all at 1% a piece, while online display ads have a response rate of 0.3%.

What’s more, 76% of consumers trust direct mail in helping them make purchase decisions. Compare that with popular digital medias: search engine ads (61%), sponsored posts on blogs (43%) and embedded ads on social media (43%).

Direct mail also has a deeper psychological impact than digital media, research shows. According to Canada Post, direct mail requires 21% less cognitive effort to process than digital media and enables higher recall of specific brands. Put simply, direct mail is easier to understand and remember.

None of this means you should abandon digital medias. Done properly they play an important role in promoting your business. However, the idea that direct mail is dead is a myth.

Let’s look at some best direct-mail practices:

Market to your house list. Response rates for house lists are nearly double that of prospect lists, which means you should be marketing to your past customers. One of the most effective methods I’ve found is to send them a monthly newsletter using the 90/10 formula: content should be 90% fun, informative, entertaining content; 10% should be flooring content.

Since the vast majority of dealers don’t market consistently to their house lists, you can give yourself a significant market advantage by doing so.

Determine your target market. If you expand beyond your house list, make sure you’re targeting prospects who fit the profile of your ideal customer. Some things to consider include gender, income, home ownership status and where they live.

Use the right message. Every prospective flooring customer has an unspoken question on their mind: Why should I choose you instead of your competitor? All of your marketing— including direct mail—should be designed to answer that question. Here are some elements to include in your direct mail to help make that happen:

1. An attention-grabbing headline

2. Benefits of buying from you

3. Testimonials from happy customers

4. Summary of what makes you different

5. A strong call to action, along with an offer and a deadline.

Done correctly, direct mail can have a massive impact on the growth of your business. If you have a direct mail marketing piece you’d like me to evaluate, email support@flooringsuccesssystems.com.

 

Jim Augustus Armstrong is the founder and president of Flooring Success Systems, a company that provides flooring dealers with digital and offline marketing services as well as coaching to equip them to make more money, work fewer hours and get their lives back. For information visit flooringsuccesssystems.com.

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Al’s column: Best practices for retailers to live by

May 27/June 3, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 25

By Lou Morano


(Editor’s note: This is the first installment in a multi-part series.)

I’ve learned things from smarter people than myself, even after being in this industry for 38 years.

When our company first opened, I learned from my father that paying our bills early was going to be very critical if we wanted to be important to our vendors. He managed the books in the beginning, and he paid every invoice in full every week. Back in the ’80s, invoices were very similar to today. They were either net 30 days or you would get a discount on some invoices of 5% 30 days. Yet my father paid every invoice in full every week. I asked him why. He explained that if you pay your bills as quickly as possible, the vendors will look to sell you as much as possible at more attractive prices because they know they will get their money quickly and with no hassle.

More importantly, paying your bills on time—all the time—makes you a very valuable partner with the vendors. Suppliers will bring programs to you first. They will want to help you be as successful as possible so you can continue to buy more of their goods.

As we have grown over the years, we don’t pay all our bills in full every week, but we have paid all our bills on time or early every time without exception since 1985, when we incorporated. We have never been late—not once. Over the last several decades we have been told time and time again by various vendors that we are a much more valuable client than some others because of how fast we pay our invoices. If you are late with payments and/or are a hassle to do business with because they must chase you for their money, then they are less apt to do any of these things for you.

The flooring business—much like many businesses—is all about relationships, which is why it’s critical to view every vendor as a partner. When we treat them like a vendor, they will treat us like a customer. However, when we view and treat our vendors like partners, they view us and treat us like partners. This is a whole different level of doing business with tremendous advantages for everyone when we think this way.

One of the main benefits of paying your bills early or on time is the access to discounts. I strongly encourage retailers to take advantage of every discount possible, as this directly affects your bottom line. Let’s say, for example, you have a $3,000 invoice and the terms are 5% 10 days, net 30 days. If you pay after the 10 days, you have given up $150. Now, let’s say you have a line of credit that costs you to borrow money at 8% annually. You are much better off borrowing from your line of credit as it will only cost you 0.67% in 30 days, which on $3,000 is only $20. If you add up all the invoices in a year you can only imagine how much money that totals over time. Even if you must borrow the money on a credit card at 18% interest annually, that would be 1.5% in a month, which is still only $45.

Paying your bills on time not only makes good financial sense. It also ensures you have product exclusivity, the best pricing and optimal service from your vendor partners.

 

Lou Morano started selling carpet for a major retailer at the age of 19 in 1981. In 1985 he and his father incorporated Capitol Carpet, Inc., and opened their first full-service retail store in 1986. Today Morano operates five retail stores, including a commercial division, under the name Capitol Carpet & Tile and Window Fashions.

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Marketing mastery: How to dazzle walk-ins

May 13/20, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 25

By Jim Augustus Armstrong


(Second of two parts)

During a coaching call, I once asked a dealer from Connecticut, “If 10 people walk into your store, how many end up buying?”

“Around three,” he replied.

“That’s a 30% close rate, which means 70% of your walk- ins are not buying,” I said. “This means 70% the time, energy and money you spend getting people to walk in your door is wasted.”

Unfortunately, this dealer is not alone. In fact, studies show the average floor dealer only closes around 30-35% of walk-ins. Most dealers could transform their business if they simply converted more door swings into closed sales. So how can you do that? Actually, it’s not very hard if you’re willing to do what the majority of dealers don’t: “wow” your customers.

I’ve visited quite a few flooring showrooms and it’s common for them to be crammed with too many displays and/or so silent it’s depressing and/or smell like glue and dust. These conditions do not “wow” the customer. In fact, they do the opposite. In part one of this series I covered these problems and how to fix them. For example, curate your products so your showroom is more open and not cluttered with floor-to-ceiling display racks. Have background music playing so your store isn’t dead silent. Bake cookies/bread or get a popcorn machine so your store smells good.

Here are other “wow” strategies to consider:

Make your customers feel welcome. Have a beverage bar and offer them a drink of their choice. You can even use a laminated beverage menu for an even greater “wow” factor.

Greet your walk-ins right away and use scripts. I’ve walked into so many showrooms where no one greeted me for several minutes, even when I was the only person there. When I was finally greeted it was with the standard, “How may I help you?” or “Can I help you find something?” These are the opening lines used by everybody, so there is no “wow” factor. They also give the customer control of the sales process and introduce premature price and product discussions. Train your salespeople how to immediately take control of the sales process, create differentiation and position themselves as trusted advisors. Use scripts and role play them during your sales trainings.

Use testimonials everywhere. What others say about you will wow your prospects far more effectively than anything you say about yourself. Online reviews are the place to start, especially on Google. Next, have testimonials on your website, including video testimonials. Display testimonials in your showroom where everyone can see them. Also, hand out printed testimonials to customers as they walk in.

In-home measures are often a gigantic missed opportunity to wow customers.Wear shoe covers. Dress professionally. Carry a laptop case or briefcase. Get permission to measure and inspect all of her flooring. Give her tips on getting the longest life out of her floors, even the areas you’re not replacing. Give her a free bottle of spotter with free lifetime refills.

After the sale send her a hand-written thank-you card. Do a post-installation follow-up visit and deliver a nice gift bag or invite her to your showroom to pick it up.

If you do these things, you can easily increase your closed sales from three out of 10 to four out of five without spending another dime in advertising. Imagine the impact that would have on your bottom line.

 

Jim Armstrong specializes in providing turnkey marketing strategies for flooring retailers. For a free copy of his latest book, “How Floor Dealers Can Beat the Boxes Online,” visit BeatTheBoxesOnline.com.

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Lessons learned: Meanings of ‘wow’

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.