Residential Lighting: How can lighting showrooms best serve interior designers?
Linda Truckenmiller: Five areas are important: sales materials, education, customer service, products and the sales staff. Sales material is the number-one thing. Many designers are often working when the showroom isn’t open. So, we need materials available at “off” hours and to take to the client’s home. I suggest [employing] a designer registration card, so we can be notified when catalogs are updated, and so we won’t waste time selling discontinued product.
Residential Lighting: What types of electronic communication are useful to designers?
Truckenmiller: Company contact information should include toll-free numbers, faxes and e-mails. [It’s helpful if] the Web site [has] thumbnail images of the entire product line, which can be enlarged for a better look, saved for a presentation or sent directly to the client. Allow us to search by product category, price range, style or color — not by collection name, which [doesn’t tell me very much].
Online purchasing can save me a trip if I have seen the light fixture with the client, and they have made a decision. A well-run Web site is important to designers because going from showroom to showroom is time-consuming.
Residential Lighting: What kinds of educational opportunities interest you?
Truckenmiller: Education is a way to designers’ hearts and minds. Many companies offer green solutions; it would be great to be introduced to their lines [through in-store lighting fixture manufacturers' presentations]. Designers lack information on LEDs, low voltage lighting, home automation, lighting controls, energy-saving lamps and basic [lighting] trends and styles. So, host some seminars and learning events. They don’t need to be technical.
Residential Lighting: What are you looking for in terms of customer service?
Truckenmiller: Designers are hired because the client wants individual attention to reduce hassles and problems. Therefore, designers will do business with [lighting] showrooms that can help make that happen. I’m a big proponent of having an account consultant within the showroom who goes over plans with me and provides updates regarding my shipments.
Also, [the lighting showrooms staffs should] understand the pricing structure for who buys the product. Is it the contractor, the designer or the client? Some showrooms have arrangements to pass the builder’s discount to the client. If they assume I work under similar arrangements, they may give the client my net cost.
Residential Lighting: Let’s talk about the importance of products and the lighting showrooms sales staff.
Truckenmiller: I love a showroom that invests 10 to 25 percent of its SKUs in unusual, high-quality lines. I gravitate to lighting showrooms that offer different lines. Our clients expect unique products. We also need a range of styles in all price points, since most people don’t do high-end in every room.
A well-informed, knowledgeable sales staff is crucial because my clients are well-educated and do their research. What I look for is a sales staff that will get to know my style of work and the products that interest me and those that can facilitate the sale and installation. They can be my silent business partner.
Residential Lighting: How can lighting showrooms recruit designer business?
Truckenmiller: If a showroom wants designer business, they should become members of design associations, such as ASID, IIDA and NKBA. Network with designers and learn their business. Just as designers get work on referral, so can showrooms.
Linda Truckenmiller, ASID, of Truckenmiller Design Ltd. in Hinsdale, IL, has been a residential interior designer for more than 30 years. She is a past president of the Illinois Chapter of ASID.