Learn from Mistakes

A few weeks ago I was asked to speak at a conference to a group of retailers who wanted to learn about improving their Customer Experience (CX). On the way home I was tired and hungry and rushing for a plane so I stopped for a quick lunch at a fast food Chinese Restaurant inside the airport.

Several things weren’t quite right with my meal. First, the food was barely above room temperature and made wonder if it could be safely eaten. Second, I wasn’t offered a set of chopsticks so I could eat my meal. And third, my order didn’t come with the traditional Chinese Fortune cookie. I watched other people enjoy their cookie but mine was nowhere to be found.

A couple of days later I took a few minutes to send the manager of the restaurant a quick message to share my experience. I soon received his brilliant response:

“Thank you for the feedback you have provided.  I apologize about your poor experience during your visit to our store, it saddens me that we let you down.  I would like to offer you a free meal on your next visit if you come thru our airport frequently? Otherwise I can refund your order.

 I have talked to my team about your experience and we have already been more diligent on the rotation of our food.  For some reason the employees hate throwing anything away, but they now understand that it’s a must! They think it costs us a ton of money, but they didn’t understand that $10 worth of food being thrown away is far less expensive than 1) Losing a customer for life, 2) Possibly getting someone sick and having to pay medical bills, and 3) Dealing with bad publicity and the loss of business that would result from it.  I have also gone over that everyone should be offered both chopsticks and a cookie with their purchase as those are Chinese Food staples!

 Again, thank you so much for your feedback, I truly appreciate it.

 If you have any questions please feel free to call me anytime.”

The manager’s response was spot on! He not only provided me with some necessary Customer Service (an apology with a free meal or refund) but he told me about the steps he had taken to improve customer experience to ensure future customers won’t have the same poor experience I did.

The secret to success is that you learn from your mistakes so your store will evolve into the store your customers expect and need.

Scary Math

Like it or not customers write reviews all the time. More importantly, they read reviews even more. Do you know that 85% of all consumers trust online reviews as much as they trust recommendations from their friends. In other words, they read and believe reviews.

It’s been estimated that only about 1 of 10 customers who have a great shopping experience will write a review for others to read. On the other hand, about 10 of 10 customers who have a bad experience will write a review. Human nature compels them to warn other people so they won’t have to have the same bad experience.

So here’s the scary math. If you want your store to maintain a 4-store average, you’ll need 30 customers to have a great experience every time someone writes a bad review. Here’s why.

A single 5 star review combined with a single 1 star review gives you an average of just 3 stars.

(5 + 1) ÷ 2 = 3.0.

Two 5 star reviews combined with a single 1 star review gives you an average of just 3.666 stars. (5 + 5 + 1) ÷ 3 = 3.7.

Three 5 star reviews combined with a single 1 star review gives you an average of 4.0 stars.

(5 + 5 + 5 + 1) ÷ 4 = 4.0.

The success secret is to read your reviews to discover what your customers love and hate about your store. After knowing these things you can develop a plan to ensure the things they love happen more often and the things they hate happen less often.

Talk About the Product – Not About the Price

As we all feel the sluggish industry growth (only about 1.8% in the first quarter when compared to 2018) I am reminded of the need to make sure each customer receives the service they need and expect. Some time ago I did some secret shopping in several top 100 furniture stores. I actually visited 3 locations for each of the companies, and in each store I had the same experience. 

I walked in and was quickly greeted by a sales associate who asked what I was looking for. Each time I responded the same way “No thanks, I’m just here to look around today.” After a few minutes of wandering I found a comfortable sofa and sat down for a brief rest.

Within just a few seconds of stopping the sales associate reappeared and stood next to the sofa I was seated in. They turned over the tag, and said something like “This sofa is actually on sale this weekend,” or “You can pick this one up right now for just $799.” Not wanting to waste their time I responded that I really was just looking around and then excused myself.

For most customers, the price is not the sole factor that’s considered when making a buying decision. This is because most customers compare lots of options before deciding which product to buy. Price is one of several variables they evaluate when assessing a product’s overall value. If this wasn’t true, the lowest priced product would be the only thing that ever sold.

So, here’s the secret to success: Talk about the product – not about the price. When your customer appears interested in a piece of furniture, reapproach and tell them something about the product. You could say “That microfibre feels very soft and is surprisingly very durable. Oh, and it resists stains too,” or “The dovetail joints in that drawer are not only very attractive, but they are the strongest of all wood joints and will last for many, many years.

The next time you approach a customer who shows interest in a product go ahead and use the product knowledge you’ve been studying. Any sales clerk can turn a tag over, but only a real sales professional can talk about product. You’ll be surprised and grateful for the changes it’ll make in your ability to sell.

The next time you approach a customer who shows interest in a product go ahead and use the product knowledge you’ve been studying. Any sales clerk can turn a tag over, but only a real sales professional can talk about product. You’ll be surprised and grateful for the changes it’ll make in your ability to sell.

“Cherry Picking” Season Is Over

Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

It’s common knowledge that the furniture shopping experience has changed over the past several years. Not long ago furniture salespeople practiced the fine art of “cherry picking.” There were crowds of interested shoppers and the salesperson got to decide which ones to serve and which one to ignore.

Alas, cherry picking season is over.

Not only is traffic down dramatically, but shoppers today are different from the ones we used to get. They seem a lot smarter and better prepared to shop.

The Internet gives shoppers important information about brands, styles and specific pieces of furniture. More importantly, and often with devastating results, the internet also tells them which stores they should shop in and which they should not. Reviews let them know which stores will treat them well and which will not. They learn which stores have sales people who have product knowledge and which do not. They find out which stores have manipulative salespeople and which do not. In other words the tables have turned and the furniture shopper gets to do the cherry picking now. Read More

According to the consulting firm BRP, 79% of consumers say personalized service from a sales associate is an important factor in determining where they shop. In fact, consumers want personalized service more than they want product incentives, easy return policies, credit options, and virtually every other incentive they can be offered. Furthermore, 63% of consumers are likely to stop shopping at a retailer where they’ve had a negative shopping experience.

Our success secret this month is that you acknowledge that “cherry-picking” season is over for the retailer. Take whatever actions are necessary to improve every customer’s shopping experience in your store by ensuring that your salespeople are able to ask meaningful and helpful questions of their customers. During the course of conversation and in a natural way, salespeople need to ask questions to learn about each of the following:

What are the required product features the customer is seeking?
Who will be the end user of the product?
How will the new piece effect the customer’s room?
What is the customer’s degree of time urgency?
What are the customer’s budget resources?
Who is the real decision maker?
Why is the customer motivated to think about buying now?

Asking the right questions is the first step to helping customers have the personalized experience they want and expect. You’ll be surprised at the change that will come over your customers when they are truly served and valued. They’ll appreciate being treated like important individuals who deserve a top notch shopping experience…and maybe they and their friends will start cherry picking your store.

The Furniture Training Company has an entire course focused on teaching salespeople to provide personalized shopping experiences. Schedule a brief demonstration by calling 866-755-5996.

Improve Customer Experience and Increase Sales

Every furniture store carries the same or very similar home furnishings products. Not only that, they typically present very similar “unique selling points”; family owned, lowest prices, best selection, and so forth. Unfortunately, offering similar products and touting similar selling points places you in a price war with your competition. Price wars are messy, discouraging, and fraught with thin margins that lead to thin hair.

Continue reading “Improve Customer Experience and Increase Sales”

The Key to Staying in Business

As we’ve called thousands of furniture stores to discuss our training services it has become abundantly apparent that most furniture store owners and managers are anxiously working to improve the customer experience in their stores. In fact, I recently attended a convention for a buying group and listened as the CEO announced new benefits for the members including upgraded websites, electronic price tags and store makeovers. Clearly, the group leadership understands the need to continually help its members upgrade their customer’s experience.

Continue reading “The Key to Staying in Business”

Customer Reviews Reveal Sad Truth

As we participate in industry shows and events around the country we hear a persistent call for furniture stores to improve their customer experience. We hear about the need to upgrade signs, websites, and showrooms and the use of gifts, surveys, and contests. Unfortunately the experiences described on Yelp, Google, Facebook and other social media make it clear that despite these changes and improvements, many furniture customers continue to have poor shopping experiences. To often they feel unappreciated, neglected, judged, and disrespected. Read these reviews posted by customers who recently visited a furniture store.

We got less than zero help, not even a person to walk up and greet me! And we were THE only ones over there so we went across the way to …”

“Talk about high pressure rude sales people.”

“I concur with other reviews that characterize their staff as haughty and aloof….which is absurd for anyone in the customer service business.”

“They carry awesome brands and assortments of furniture, too bad most of the employees are rude and stuck up.”

“The store and the product are fine, but the delivery and lack of customer service around delivery events display a lack of concern for their customers.”

“…No sales person would help us, some were busy with customers,  the other sales personal were too busy talking with each other.”

“I’d give it zero stars if I could. HORRIBLE from beginning to end. Most of the staff was rude and could care less about customer service.”

“Their salesmen are heavily commissioned so when you walk in they just follow you around relentlessly trying to see if they can be the one to get you to buy something.”

“I don’t know if they just decided to not treat me as a customer because I wasn’t wearing fancy clothes and assumed I was going in to spend only $200 bucks on a couch.”

Reviews like these make it clear that while an effort is being made to improve the furniture shopping experience, too little is being done to ensure that the most important interaction in the customer’s shopping experience, working with the RSA, matches the quality of the advertising, websites, and showroom aesthetics. Until the RSA becomes prepared to provide the high quality experience the customer needs and wants, the industry will continue to receive poor ratings that will drive customers to the Internet and elsewhere.