Residential Lighting: What are customers' expectations about service?
Becky Carroll: People are becoming very demanding thanks to Internet retailers that offer standout customer service, such as a 365-day return policy and free shipping on purchases and returns. [Brick-and-mortar] retailers need to think about how they compare not just with their traditional competitors, but even with those outside of their industry.
Residential Lighting: Who sets the bar for home furnishings?
Becky Carroll: One place that comes to mind is IKEA. It’s apparent that they’ve thought about their showroom from the customer’s perspective. It is a well-thought-out store designed to set a mood and appeal to the senses. If lighting showrooms can figure out how to appeal to emotions as part of the service experience, then they can make a positive impression on customers.
Residential Lighting: How can lighting showrooms make customers feel special?
Becky Carroll: [It depends] on the customer. What a designer might expect is different from what a homeowner might want. So, the showroom staff needs to understand each type of shopper.
Begin by brainstorming with your staff to [identify] what different types of customers need. Ask designers, developers and homeowners what [works for them]. Ask specifically, “What do you need from us?”
Residential Lighting: How can lighting showrooms put this information to use?
Becky Carroll: Take each set of needs and ask, “What can we do on the showroom floor to help meet them?” For example, if a customer wants a lot of hands-on attention, go over and greet them—by name if possible. Offer them something to drink. Make them feel special by offering a sneak peak at new merchandise. But, for customers who know what they want, let their experience be quick and efficient.
Residential Lighting: So, step one is listening. Step two is catering to specific needs. What’s next?
Becky Carroll: Step three is following up. Make sure your customers’ needs were met and that they are happy with their decision. Follow up again in a month or two.
Residential Lighting: Any final words of wisdom for lighting showrooms?
Becky Carroll: Your people are really your best marketing tool. If you make sure that each customer’s visit is a fabulous experience, then you’re going to be the place that people refer others to. Customer service sets you apart. In this economy, people want to know that it is worth it to come to the smaller showrooms as opposed to the big-box stores. Make it “worth it” with great customer service.
Becky Carroll is President and founder of Petra Consulting Group in San Diego and the author of the blog Customers Rock! (customersrock.net).