Posted on

Al's column: Learning to better serve your customers

January 22/29, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 16

By Brian Gracon

 

There’s likely a huge gap between how you see your business and how your customers see it. Eighty percent of businesses think they provide great customer experiences, but only 8% of customers agree. Maybe we just don’t know what our customers really want, which can be a big problem.

When your customers are not happy—even if they are being unreasonable—they now have the power to share their views with millions of people in an instant. Many won’t tell you they are unhappy, but nearly half of all adults share their experiences on social media, and 77% have shared a bad one.

Over 82% of customers check online reviews, and 54% say they pay more attention to negative reviews than positive ones. Whether or not you think a complaining customer is crazy, you must step up your customer experience game.

As humans, we all have a “fight or flight” instinct, so our natural reaction to criticism will be either: No. 1, fight and get defensive. However, customers also have a fight response, so they’ll probably fight back; in the end no one will be happy. Or No. 2, flight, which involves burying your head in the sand and pretending it didn’t happen. In today’s social media era, ignoring problems just makes them bigger.

Remember, the point is not to try to prove who’s right. It is to calm things down and find a solution both sides can live with. It is also to find out what went wrong so you can prevent it from happening again. Even if you did nothing “wrong” per se, the communication with the customer wasn’t good enough and is something you can improve.

To minimize the risk of complaints and negative reviews, focus on the 3Ps of profit: promise, people and process.

Promise. Your promise is a short, actionable and inspirational statement of what you do, why and who you do it for. Your promise gets communicated through your marketing messages. It also creates expectations for the customer experience. If you market quality but your store is a mess, the customer will run away and tell everyone else. If you market expertise but don’t train your staff or hire properly, customers will be reluctant to buy from you.

People. All business boils down to human relationships, both in and outside your company. Grumpy employees won’t create happy customers. Make sure you hire people with the right attitude and train them so they understand what your customers want based on customer buying habits and the expectations you created through your marketing. Be sure you have good relationships with suppliers and distributors to ensure consistent service.

Process. Most customer complaints come from process problems. To improve processes start by asking current and past customers what they like but also what they find frustrating in dealing with you. Then line up their pain points with your processes and work to improve them. Wouldn’t it be great to understand what customers want and how to leverage that understanding across your promise, people and process strategies? Research indicates customers want to enhance their self-images, be entertained and pampered. These strategies can help you better serve your customers and increase profits.

Learn more about these ideas and how to use them by attending “How to Turn People into Your Secret Weapon” at TISE 2018, session MN25, Monday, Jan. 29, 3:30 p.m.

 

Brian Gracon is author of “Meconomics 101: 16 Ways to Improve Your Marketing, Selling and Business Management for Today’s Customers.” Tema Frank, author of “People Shock: The Path to Profits When Customers Rule,” contributed to this article.

Posted on

Royalty Carpet’s closing leaves trail of questions, angst

By Ken Ryan and Lindsay Baillie

 

andrea_mrdThe abrupt shutter of Royalty Carpet Mills, a California carpet manufacturer with a 50-year history, stunned many of its flooring dealers who said they were caught completely off guard by the sudden closure.

“There are a lot of angry folks and angry customers,” one industry executive told FCNews.

Typical of the reaction was that of Julie Goodman of Goodman’s Floor Covering, Florence, Ore. She was attempting to order Royalty samples over the phone when she heard the recording explaining the plant was closed for good. Goodman’s Floor Covering has sold Royalty Carpets since 1990 and now has to find another brand to take its place. “We need to fill the niche,” she said. “We’ve always really appreciated their products so there’s a void without them.”

Others were similarly stunned. Michele Hurst of A-1 Carpet & Tile, Portland, Ore., heard the news from another manufacturer’s representative. “We had tried to reach our Royalty rep [earlier this month] and were not able to. He never called us back. I put in a call to our Mohawk rep to ask about her products, and she asked if we had heard the news.”

Like other Royalty dealers, A-1 Carpet & Tile is suddenly looking for a replacement. “We’re not quite sure what we’ll do,” Hurst said. “We already have Dixie Mills products. We also may look into more wool lines.”

Another Royalty dealer, M & D Carpets, noted no signs of a potential shutdown. “I had no idea,” said Danielle Berger. “We were going to call and place an order that day. We were kind of shocked.”

Berger explained the company found out from a Royalty rep on June 14, the day the business closed. “I actually had a past representative who worked for Royalty call and ask if I heard the news. I said, ‘What news?’ and he explained that Royalty had closed down.”

M & D Carpets plans to continue selling its Tuftex and Karastan products and is interested in bringing in Dixie Home products to take Royalty’s place.

Then there are dealers like Lesley Castruita, House of Carpet, South Lake Tahoe, Calif., who had an order in house that is no longer available to her. “We’re not very happy about this. We’ve been Royalty customers for 34 years, and we had no idea this family-owned, Southern California mill could have such a devastating effect on us.”

Among those mills looking to fill the void is Tuftex, a California-based manufacturer and the high-end carpet division of Shaw Floors. “Customers will be looking for options for a West Coast supplier, West Coast service, West Coast styling and West Coast colors,” said Doug Jackson, vice president of sales and marketing. “Our Tuftex sales force will be out to earn this business. Where dealers may already have orders not being serviced by Royalty, Tuftex can offer quick alternatives and service to help keep these consumers satisfied and to get their floors finished. The dealers that have enjoyed the service of a West Coast supplier have Tuftex as strong supplier.”

A long tradition
Founded in 1966, Royalty Carpet Mills had grown into a large carpet manufacturer with the addition of PacifiCrest Mills, Camelot Carpet Mills and Moda LLC—all acquired and added to its brand portfolio.

Under Derderian, Royalty created a legacy for producing high-quality carpet products noted for their style and design. When Derderian passed away in 2013 at age 87, his daughter, Andrea Greenleaf, took the reins. Greenleaf had been running PacifiCrest, its commercial division, for the previous 20 years. With Greenleaf at the helm, Royalty became the only female-owned and led carpet mill in the U.S.

However, on June 14, nearly 400 employees were called into a conference room in Irvine, Calif., and were notified that the plant was closing for good that day. It was reported that they were given just a few hours to leave.

Greenleaf did not return calls or e-mails from FCNews seeking comments regarding the abrupt closure or to confirm rampant industry speculation that a proposed deal to acquire Royalty broke down in the days leading up to the shutdown.

Dennis Johnson, vice president of manufacturing, Royalty, told The Portverille Record that employees would be paid for 60 days and receive benefits as required by the federal labor rules regarding plant closures. In an email to the local newspaper, Johnson blamed the closure on the high cost of doing business in California. “This puts us at a huge disadvantage when trying to compete in an extremely competitive national market and it gets worse every year.”

Royalty owned three large facilities in Orange County. Real estate sources told the Orange County Business Journal that a deal is in place to sell those properties.

John Lollis, Porterville city manager, said the closing was “very unexpected” and runs counter to recent conversations he had with Royalty officials. He explained that Royalty owns a piece of vacant land just north of the existing plant; when inquiries were recently made as to whether the land was available to be purchased, plant officials told him it may be needed for future expansion instead.

Posted on

Lisbiz Strategies: Stop breaking promises, disappointing customers

April 24/May 1, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 23

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

Lisbeth CalandrinoEmployees make promises to customers they can’t keep. When they do this it kills their relationship with the customer.

I recently read a story about a man who refused to break a promise to his wife to buy a bigger house within 10 years. When the time was up, he just didn’t have the money. To avoid disappointing her, he put his business in a precarious position to obtain the needed financing. After all, a promise is a promise.

Life happens, we can’t always do what we intend. We promise our children that when they’re ready to go to college we’ll be there to pay the fare. But sometimes we can’t follow through. Maybe we wouldn’t have made the promise, if we had thought it out.

Sounds a bit like a plot to a crime movie, doesn’t it? (“I just had to steal the money to buy the car I promised.”)

Instead of the promise being just a promise, it often reflects the relationship. You can just hear someone in the background wailing, “But you promised. Why can’t you?”

Do you remember how you felt when you were a child? When I was a kid, my mom promised to take me to New York City to visit my cousins. Unfortunately, the morning we were supposed to leave I woke up covered with the measles rash. I cried and screamed, “You promised we could go.” Mom said it didn’t matter what she promised, the measles was a deal breaker.

No matter what she said, I couldn’t understand why the measles had anything to do with why we weren’t going. I believed a promise is a promise, which meant promises were not to be broken.

In reality, breaking a promise can damage our integrity and ultimately determines whether people will continue to trust us. Customer service is about keeping your word.

Here are five ways to stop breaking promises.

Stop making promises. Simply put, just learn to say no. We often promise because we’re worrying about what others will think of us. It seemed like a good idea when the promise was made, but now we’re over extended and can’t keep all of the promises we’ve made. Sometimes you have to say no; it’s better than promising what you can’t deliver.

Don’t agree to everything. Be very clear to what you’ve agreed to and how the promise will be kept. It’s likely your customer will only hear the part about how you’re going to fix the problem. When it comes to the conditions, it’s doubtful they will listen.

Put it in writing. When dealing with an unhappy customer, are you writing down what you intend to do and ask the customer to sign it?

If things aren’t going to work out, call early. When we have to deliver bad news, we often wait until the last minute. Unfortunately, this is when it’s the most painful for everyone involved. It’s just as hard to deliver bad news as it is to listen to it. Get bad news out of the way.

The best thing to do is turn our promises into goals. Goals are promises with accountability. A promise can make a goal even stronger, but without accountability it’s not likely to happen. If you can’t figure out how to keep your promises you will be in big trouble with yourself and the customer. Turning promises into goals will help you find the way to make them happen. Once you turn your promises into goals, you can define the steps to reach your destination. This will make it clearer for you and the customer.

Posted on

Underlayment: Education is key to upselling consumers

March 13/20, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 20

By Lindsay Baillie

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 12.07.00 PMUnderlayments are more than essential components that complete a hard surface or soft surface installation. They are also valuable accessories that help increase margins and generate higher ticket sales for specialty retailers.

According to various underlayment manufacturers upselling from an entry-level product to a specialty underlayment is achievable through comprehensive product education. This focus on education starts with the retailer and follows through to the customer.

“Retailers should take the time to educate themselves and their team on the benefits of a good quality carpet cushion,” said Todd Betz, territory manager, Innocor Foam Technologies. “Then they can help educate the consumer on all the benefits of a better cushion such as how it will last longer and make the carpet feel better underfoot.”

Deanna Summers, marketing coordinator, MP Global, explained that there are many features to talk about when upselling underlayment. It is important for retailers to learn the various underlayments they sell and share that knowledge with others. To help retailers learn more about underlayment, she suggests talking to the underlayment manufacturers as they should be able to help with point-of-purchase information.

“A retailer will likely have more opportunity to create interest in value-added underlayment, a product many customers may not even know about but should,” Summers said. “Oftentimes the customer will be much more particular on color and style vs. performance. Underlayment upselling is a way to hone in on performance characteristics the customer may not have given much thought to.”

Once a retailer is properly educated in underlayments, he or she should make it a point to include it in the conversation about flooring. “Making the subfloor an integral part of the discussion for any flooring project is the best way to ensure the customer gets what is needed for the subfloor, and the flooring professional maximizes the overall product offering in the sale,” said Thomas Trissl, principal, Schönox. “It’s a clear win for both.”

In addition to educating retailers and RSAs, experts say consumer education is also necessary. “Offering consumers product options and educating them on the difference in these options allow them to make more informed buying decisions,” said Colleen Gormley, marketing coordinator, Diversified Industries. “In order for a consumer to invest more in her purchase, it should correspond with some distinguishable value.”

That distinguishable value is what MP Global’s Summers believes makes upselling underlayment easy and rewarding. Once fully explained, the products essentially sell themselves. “Upselling underlayment for new hard surface flooring is a win-win opportunity every salesperson should take advantage of as often as possible.”

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 12.10.03 PMProponents believe premium underlayments can enhance a newly installed floor in terms of wearability and lifetime performance. They can also provide noise reduction, insulation, moisture dissipation and greater comfort underfoot.

“Other talking points can be specific to the type of floor in which the customer is interested,” Summers added. “For example, underlayment selected for use under laminate flooring should be both firm enough to support the overlaying floor but offer sufficent flexibility to smooth out little subfloor imperfections, helping eliminate any rocking of laminate panels.”

Another advantage Sarah Remillard, product manager, sports and reaction surfacing, Ultimate RB, pointed out is a quality rubber underlayment can make an inexpensive laminate or engineered wood floor sound like an expensive wood floor—adding even more value to the customer’s purchase.

Ultimately, providing customers with accurate product knowledge to make informed buying decisions help RSAs gain customer loyalty. “Not only do you increase your profit from the upsell of one product, but you retain that customer for future purchases,” Diversified Industries’ Gormley explained. “Additionally, customer satisfaction should increase when using a higher quality product.”

While educating customers on the various products can help upsell underlayment, it is also important to ask the right questions. This is crucial for purchases involving ceramic and stone underlayment which are all based on specific applications. As Julia Vozza, marketing manager, M-D Pro, explains: “The retailer simply needs to know the right questions to ask their customers when selling tile underlayment so they can find out the specifics about the particular application their customer is buying for.”

Some of these potential questions may include: Is the underlayment being installed below grade or in areas where moisture is a concern? Is the tile installation in an area where the tile would need to transition up to a thicker flooring surface like hardwood? Is there a need or desire to install an in-floor radiant heating system?

Dale Asp, business development manager, Impacta Floor Underlayments, suggests retailers also find out what the customer is looking to achieve with her new floor covering. From there the retailer can discuss the different options available while presenting underlayments that possess the greatest value. “When looking for a quality underlay product the benefits must be worth the increased cost. A quality underlayment can provide superior support for the flooring above, thus ensuring the new flooring will look and perform well for many years to come.”

Good, better, best
Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 12.09.21 PM
Another proven strategy retailers can utilize is the tiered model, experts say. “Most retailers are familiar with the selling of the good, better, best [flooring] options for their customers,” said Ann Wicander, president, WE Cork. “Retailers who are successful in selling our underlayments use the same principle.”

When presented in the showroom, this model can help customers understand the differences between entry-level and specialty underlayments, along with the varying price points. “We’ve seen dealers really make it easy for customers to see the benefits by putting out a cushion walk in the store so they can feel the difference between a good, better or best cushion, which really helps them to realize the benefits of a higher-end product,” Innocor’s Betz explained.

In addition to using a cushion walk, Future Foam recommends showing customers a sample book—some of which can be custom made for each dealer. “These sample books fold up nicely so they are very portable,” said Mark Foster, Midwest sales manager. “They show the features and benefits while providing a walkable demonstration. Assisting the customer in an actual demonstration on how her carpet will feel over selected cushions is always a good way to help her decide what she truly wants and to show how more comfort can come from choosing the right cushion.”

Jack McMahon, vice president, Carpenter, suggests retailers flip the good, better, best model on its head and start with showing customers their best quality underlayment. He then recommends briefly explaining the cushion’s merits and closing the sale with the confidence knowing the RSA has offered the customer long-term value. “Better cushion will increase the consumer’s satisfaction with her carpet. Additionally, successfully selling better cushion is another way to reflect well on the retailer’s status as a strong business that believes in adding value to each sale.”

 

Posted on

Lisbiz strategies: If you have to fall, it’s better to fall forward

March 13/20, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 20

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

Lisbeth CalandrinoNelson Mandela said, “There’s no passion to be found playing it small—in settling for a life that’s less than you’re capable of living.” Social media gives us an opportunity to play large. We used to talk about “word of mouth” but it’s now “world of mouth.” So how far are you willing to go? Are you afraid to step out of your comfort zone, afraid you will make some terrible mistake? I doubt it.

What happens if you fall? You might as well fall forward. What’s the point of holding on to the past and things that no longer work?

Casey Affleck is someone who is trying to live it large and is willing to fall. I was watching the Oscars recently and was a bit surprised when Casey Affleck won Best Actor for “Manchester by the Sea.” I had seen the movie and found it to be very dark, but I thought Affleck was outstanding. It was as though the part was made just for him.

After researching his background, I really do think it was made for him. His past has been somewhat checkered but he continues to move forward.

But who is Casey Affleck? He is Ben Affleck’s brother. My sister and I both suffered from that designation—the one of having a sister who everyone knew.

According to Casey Affleck, that’s what everyone says. Sometimes it works in his favor and other times it does not. Both brothers are quite different with different skill sets. But how does anyone know who you really are when your brother is larger than life and your biggest fear is you’re not up for it?

Casey Affleck has been in a lot of movies, including the “Ocean’s Eleven” series. It appears he has had several opportunities but just hasn’t had the right part until now. Interestingly, “Manchester by the Sea” almost wasn’t that part for him. John Krasinski was the first choice, but he didn’t have room in his schedule. Second in line was Matt Damon, but he also turned out to be too busy. Affleck was the third string.

Even though he was not the first choice for “Manchester,” he was willing to go for it anyway. Affleck decided if he fell he would still learn something.

Boy, do I get this. There were also two of us in my family—my sister, Sonna, and myself. We both had the same last name, high ambitions and were very different. My sister was larger than life and was even inducted into the WFCA Hall of Fame. Everyone knew Sonna. I was known but not as well, and then my turn came. My sister had a very prominent speaking gig and the last minute fell ill. She asked if I would fill in for her. At first I worried people wouldn’t want me. Not only do they not know me, but I also don’t do what she does. What if I failed?

I decided I wasn’t going to flop and said I would do it. Sonna called and they said they did know me and were happy to have me. As the story goes, my sister became very ill and was unable to speak at future gigs. It was then that I took over. These gigs introduced me to another part of the industry, gave me new connections and helped me grow.

How are you willing to fall? Do you want to continue to play it small or are you willing to play large and fall wherever? It’s up to you.

Posted on

Dead David: How to make customers feel more special

March 13/20, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 20

By David Romano

 

Dear David:
I am getting concerned that competing on price and products is getting more and more difficult in the flooring industry. I feel confident we do a better job than most when it comes to installation, but I am not sure if that is enough to attract and retain customers. What would you suggest we do to provide a guest experience that is both different and memorable?

Dear Inquisitive Owner,
Screen Shot 2017-03-06 at 10.37.51 AMGood customer service is expected and necessary for a retail business to thrive. But when we service customers in ways they don’t expect, we create a wow factor that sets us apart from the competition. In today’s retail environment that is a necessity. Customers don’t want their expectations met anymore; they want them exceeded.

This may seem simple and obvious, but in the hustle and bustle of daily work it’s often overlooked. Wowing your customers involves going the extra mile to create a memorable, delightful experience. Satisfy customers by providing the service or product your customers pay for in a timely fashion. Then wow them by going beyond their expectations and provide additional value. Here’s how to do it.

Do what you said you were going to do. The first step to wowing your customers is not upsetting them. That starts with doing exactly what you said you were going to do, without exception. Remember, 95% of issues encountered are directly related to not setting proper expectations. It is important to ensure expectations set by the sales associate and customer flow through quote to installation.

Follow up when they least expect it. If you get the element of surprise on your side, it’s easy to wow a customer. Pick up the phone and ask how everything is going: How was the sales process? How did installers do? Ask for suggestions on how things could have been done better. This has two distinct benefits. No. 1, it lets you know early on if she is having any problems. No. 2, if everything is great the customer has the satisfaction of knowing you’re thinking about her and you care.

Give them more than expected. Everyone loves to feel like they are getting a good value, and any small thing beyond the norm that a business can offer customers is a plus. For example, leave a baggie of grout with the color specified, leave some additional carpet or a few pieces/box of wood for repairs, place a sticky note on her bathroom mirror thanking her for the bathroom project, vacuum the carpet, wear booties, cover the floors, etc.

Offer them something they didn’t know they needed. Here’s your opportunity to consider the upsell, but you can approach it in a delicate way. It’s important to make sure your customer knows about everything you offer, in case she has a need she didn’t realize your company could fill. Sell her area rugs with wood floors, upgrade the cushion to a moisture barrier if she has pets or kids, sell heating elements for cold tile floors, push window coverings or cabinets, etc.

Express your gratitude. There are plenty of creative ways to thank people for their business and it doesn’t have to be complicated to make a big impact. The key is to put in the effort and do it. Send a cookie cake with a thank you message with your logo, give a date night package and if the transaction is large enough a quick vacation getaway which she will always associate with her flooring purchase.

Posted on

Dear David: The right way to greet customers

February 27/March 6, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 19

By David Romano

 

Dear David:

Screen Shot 2017-03-06 at 10.37.51 AMI held a sales meeting covering the proper ways to greet customers. During that meeting, we did a lot of roleplaying. What I noticed right off the bat was there was no consistency and lots of bias. I understand greetings should not be canned and sales associates should sell the way that makes them comfortable, but is there some standard I can teach them?

Dear Inquisitive Owner,

I first would like to applaud you for conducting a meeting using roleplaying. So many times I hear, and even witness, meetings where videos from 1986 and presentations from 1992 are shown to the sales team in the hopes they will understand how to greet customers. Watching those videos or presentations will never have the same effect as getting them involved in uncomfortable situations where they work out a solution in front of the entire team.

I do agree with your statement that greeting should not be canned; customers see right through that cold and impersonal interaction. It’s like going out to a restaurant and watching the manager ask the same question, “How is everything?,” to all the restaurant guests in the same manner.

Following are elements of a greeting that should be followed religiously:

  • A greeting with a handshake. A handshake can tell you a ton about someone. In one simple, three-second act, you can find out if the customer is dominant, impressionable, sweet or cautious. Knowing the customer’s personality style and adapting your selling style accordingly is what separates a great RSA from an average one. Remember: 20% of what makes a salesperson successful is her skills and knowledge; 80% is her ability to make a connection and build rapport.
  • Making an introduction. It is important to be on a first-name basis with the person who could potentially spend thousands of dollars at your store. That exchange of names should take place sooner rather than later in the sales process.
  • Offer your assistance. This is where you briefly find out what brought the customer in to the store. You can find out all the pertinent details when you offer the customer a beverage and a snack during the qualification process. For example, you might ask, “So, what project are you working on?”

I disagree with the reader’s notion that each sales associate should sell the way that makes her feel more comfortable. The common belief that you should treat others the way you want to be treated might be a good golden rule in life, but it’s not appropriate when it comes to sales. What I propose is, “Treat others the way they want to be treated if you want to be a successful sales associate.”

For example, if the customer is direct the associate needs to conduct himself accordingly. Conversely, if the customer is cautious the sales associate needs to become the expert and build trust. Customers who are sweet and sensitive want a sales associate who shows they are genuinely interested in providing a solution to their issue. Have your sales team take a DISC test to review the various personality styles in order to better understand the concept of relational selling.

Practice these tips and you will find the proper greeting will lead to better close rates, a higher level or return/referral business and more money in your pocket.

Posted on

Technology: My Flooring Warranty helps retailers stay relevant

February 27/March 6, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 19

By Nicole Murray

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-06 at 10.11.40 AMLas Vegas—Retail experts believe the key to generating repeat business and developing long-term relationships with customers lies in maintaining consistent contact even after the job is complete. My Flooring Warranty says it offers the tools to help floor covering dealers accomplish that goal.

How it works: My Flooring Warranty takes customers’ data into a portal and strategically plans points of contact so the retailer remains top of mind with the customer. This is critical given today’s rapidly advancing digital social media environment. By maintaining contact long after the initial purchase, My Flooring Warranty is essentially looking to influence the conversation in the hopes to generate more business down the road.

“The typical buying cycle in this industry is approximately eight years,” John Mapes, director of development, told FCNews at Surfaces 2017. “If a consumer does not hear from your company for seven years, that is a major issue. “We answer one of the biggest questions a consumer can ask, which is, ‘How important am I to you now that I have given you my money and the service has been completed?’”

Contrary to its name, My Flooring Warranty does not offer extended insurance of coverage for products retailers sell. In fact, according to Mapes, the company operates “out of sight,” meaning the consumer believes she is interacting directly with the retailer. “When people first hear about us, they very commonly misunderstand exactly what we do. We do not offer extended warrantees or advertising in any way.”

The My Flooring Warranty tool is all predicated on timing. The company conducted research showing patterns in the flooring replacement cycle and delivers a specific communication to the consumer accordingly. As Mapes explained: “Let’s say one year after a new rug has been installed, most consumers begin thinking about getting a new kitchen floor, so that will be the main gist when we make contact. Then two years later, most customers are thinking about cleaning that brand new kitchen floor based on warranty requirements so then that becomes the focus.”

Retailers currently using the tool recommend sending a satisfaction survey to the customer one week after the service has been completed. According to Mapes, the typical completion rate is 60%. There is then an added incentive by attaching a prize chosen by a third party.

Those dealers who have used the system attest to its results as well as the support the company provides. “My Flooring Warranty walks our sales staff through accessing our service provider’s portal, keeping everything easy and intuitive to use,” said Michelle Niemeyer, marketing director, Coyle Carpet One Floor & Home, Madison, Wis.

Others agreed. “The program has truly revolutionized the referral marketing relationship between service providers and flooring retailers,” said Jim Bardwell, formerly marketing directory with Pro-Care of Nashville who now serves as executive director of sales, marketing and education for North, Central and South America, FiberProTector. “If you want a turnkey system to maximize your referral marketing efforts, then you owe it to yourself to check out this amazing program and get enrolled.”

My Flooring Warranty primarily targets purchasers of soft surface products but it will be extended to include hard surfaces—products that typically entail a much longer replacement cycle.

 

Posted on

Lisbiz Strategies: Learning how to adapt to millennial customers

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

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

Lisbeth CalandrinoEveryone wants to know who exactly are the millennials and what type of customers they represent.

Everything I read says they’re a new type of customer. They don’t want to be sold anything and are armed with the Internet and every device possible.

Social media has changed how customers get information and who they listen to. Our new customers have stopped listening to salespeople and are instead consulting online friends. What does that mean to RSAs? It means we belong online. Where do the RSAs fit? Their place is providing great customer service. The new consumers want service and they want it fast. They are willing to do all of the research and want us to help them make the right decision.

Social media is the place to build connections, but many stores use it to only show products. They need to have RSAs interacting with customers online. Facebook and LinkedIn are good places to start.

Millennials are comfortable with the online process and don’t mind doing their own research. When the customer comes into the store, RSAs should talk with her about what products she has found. Then they can help the customer make sure she has the right products. Instead of selling features and benefits, salespeople should be selling solutions, answering questions and demonstrating the value of the products.

I know what you’re thinking, “We already do that.” My experience tells me it isn’t true. RSAs are still spending inordinate amounts of time studying features and benefits of products and then telling the customer what to do. Of course they need to know these things but remember the customer has already searched the Internet for the right products. Features and benefits are worthless unless they provide an explanation to a customer’s concerns. The old adage still matters: They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Technology allows you to stop selling your customer and focus on the relationship. Does your website have products and ideas about color and design? Do you have a blog that provides useful information for your customer? Your blog can help her determine what to look for in a flooring store as well as how to find the salesperson. Communication used to be one-to-one but now it’s one-to-many. If you don’t have an online presence, you are likely to fade into the background behind your competitors. It’s impossible to talk about your competitors online; offline is the only place where you can show the customer you are better. The key is to get them into your store. Social media allows you to develop networks where you can share common interests with your potential customer. MeetUps are a wonderful way to build new customers and get closer to the ones you know.

Why don’t we understand customers come from building positive connections to other people? We can’t tell who is ready to buy, but we can get to know them before they buy and build communications. An online friendship is a great way to build trust, which is an essential factor in the buying process.

This new customer doesn’t need any selling; she needs experts who will help her make the right decisions. Customer service is more important today than ever.

Posted on

Lisbiz Strategies: Use behavioral economics to your advantage

December 19/26, 2016: Volume 31, Issue 14

By Lisbeth Calandrino

Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 3.56.12 PMSimply put, behavioral economics provides a framework to understand the real-world, decision-making process. We’d like to believe we are all rational human beings and, therefore, make logical decisions. In reality, nothing could be farther from the truth.

So how can behavioral economics help you improve your profit margin? A better understanding of how and why consumers spend their money can help you persuade them to spend it on your products or service.

Everyone loves the word “free” (even though everyone knows nothing is really free). Have you noticed how consumers react to the prospect of “free carpet installation” or how quickly they walk out the door when they learn it’s not offered? It’s a fact that dopamine levels in our brain are actually measurably enhanced by the word free. When dopamine levels are raised, we feel good and tend to act irrationally. This could be why consumers flock to take advantage of free items no matter how ridiculous the actual purchase terms seem to be.

For many people, instant gratification is more important than their own future. Feeling good now is more important than paying attention to their budget or actual cost vs. value. People overspend when they are feeling depressed, i.e., “This will make me feel better.”

Following are some key points about behavioral economics to remember:

  1. Not all money is equal. This explains why 70% of lottery winners go broke in seven years. Since they didn’t work to earn the money and never actually felt the money in their hands, they are willing to spend frivolously. This may also explain why people are apt to spend their income tax rebate checks on unneeded items. It’s not really “free” money; it’s actually their own hard-earned dollars.
  2. Financing takes the sting out of the price. In fact, consumers are willing to pay more money for items when they can delay the pain. Financing may actually increase costs in the long run, but consumers tend to not worry about the future when they can have the pleasure of using the merchandise now.
  3. We gain more pleasure from a loss than a gain. Consumers give more weight to a cell phone carrier’s plan that states “unused minutes will be lost” vs. a plan with “unlimited minutes” available.
  4. Each of us has a price we will pay. Why did JC Penney lose market share when it changed to whole dollar pricing? The brain encodes numbers so quickly it rarely includes the second number. The number 2.99 is actually registered as “2” and 3.00 is encoded as 3. While it is true the actual difference is only one cent, the brain translates it as a difference of one dollar.
  5. Higher prices usually signify higher quality. If you are selling better merchandise, show the products first and then the price. Tiffany’s displays items with large photos and uses very small fonts for pricing.
  6. Remove the comma and the price becomes less expensive. Phonetic length of your price actually affects buyer perception of cost. For example, $1,499: one-thousand four hundred and ninety-nine (10 syllables) vs. 1499: fourteen ninety-nine (5 syllables).
  7. We prefer bundling to individual pricing even if it costs more. Car dealers offer packages to new car buyers. Adding $300 for leather seats is considered frivolous when compared to dealer packages—even when those packages include less-desirable options.