Star Flooring & Decorating: Best Practices
By Sonya Jennings
In 1939, Earl Goebel founded the first Star company, a lumberyard. Today, Star has several companies under its umbrella, including a door mill, a lumberyard, a manufacturing company and a flooring company called Star Flooring & Decorating, which was started 35 years ago selling sheet vinyl and carpet. Today, the flooring business has two stores in Wichita, one for the construction/builder market and the other for the retail customer, and another construction/builder location in Oklahoma City. Star Flooring & Decorating offers carpet, hardwood, ceramic tile, luxury vinyl tile and plank, laminate, cork, bamboo, countertops and cabinets.
Focusing on continuous improvement, Star Flooring & Decorating boasts an average 9.65 customer satisfaction rating (on a scale of one to ten) from its customers. The number keeps ticking up due to minor tweaks occurring continuously behind the scenes at Star.
The retail sales process is highly choreographed. Within the first two minutes of a customer entering the Star retail store in Wichita, a salesperson has introduced him or herself and offered a refreshment. The 18,000 square foot showroom has been completely remodeled with lowered shelving and furniture fixtures for better visibility, and is professionally scented by Scent Air. The staff is professionally dressed; the store is meticulously clean; the coffee is fresh and good; and jazz music plays while the customer shops. Allen Clouse, director of retail sales, explains, “Every detail has been thought of. Our showroom is designed to give a pleasurable shopping experience.” After installation, a customer satisfaction survey is conducted over the phone by a Star employee—but not by the customer’s sales associate. This ensures an unbiased opinion. The interviewee asks, “On a scale from one to ten, how likely are you to refer Star Flooring to a friend?”
The technique Star Flooring uses to continuously tweak the customer satisfaction process is called Kaizen, and it is a careful review of each part of the sales process from when the customer walks in the door until after the completion of the installation. The Kaizen process brings together employees from every part of the sales process. During this meeting, the Star employees drill down on exactly how the process can be changed to better serve the customer; through Kaizen, many company processes have changed and improved.
In addition, Star was able to eliminate all surprises from the process of installing a floor. One of Star’s best technical experts was taken off the sales floor and tasked with reviewing every line item of every customer’s installation packet. His job is to catch any errors. He might, for instance, notice that too little grout has been ordered for a tile project, spot a potential underlayment issue, or question the plans for removal of furniture from the installation site. Clouse comments, “We gave this important job to a very technical guy. Basically his job is to catch anything that could possibly go wrong before it goes wrong.”
The Kaizen process has been so successful at Star Flooring that now the entire Star brand is undergoing the same process, and an individual was hired specifically to manage the Kaizen process across Star. To this individual, profit center leaders from throughout the company send ideas on what issues need to be addressed in their particular area, and the Kaizen employee organizes a meeting between all the people who touch that process. Clouse adds, “This is basically working ‘on’ instead of ‘in’ the business, and it is what will make our company continue to do better all the time.”
As part of its ongoing improvement process, Star Flooring & Decorating changed the way it compensates its salespeople. During the recession, company leaders read a book called Drive by Daniel Pink. The book contains scientific information about exactly what drives and motivates people. As a result of reading this book, Star moved from a commission-based compensation to a base-plus-bonus structure. The company also began conducting one-on-one meetings every week with each salesperson, giving them very specific criteria to measure performance. They call this a scorecard, and the process allows each employee to see on paper what their goals are and where they stand in relation to those goals. According to Clouse, “Base-plus-bonus, and the other changes we made to tracking performance, allows our employees to have stability and not worry about putting food on the table—and they are given the tools to have mastery over their job.” Star also changed the work schedule, ensuring that every salesperson has at least every other Saturday off to be home with family and friends.
In addition, a lively and entertaining storyline in advertising keeps store traffic flowing. Star Flooring & Decorating advertises most heavily in radio and also has a strong presence in television. The company’s ad agency buys time on light rock and country stations that target the female listener age 35 and older. Some radio ads are recorded by Clouse and promote a specific call to action based on a current promotion. Other radio and television spots feature a fictional couple named Bob and Brenda, acted and voiced by paid talent, focusing on different flooring and remodeling issues. Bob and Brenda are an upper income, middle-aged couple who, in one commercial, experience a bad shopping trip to a big box store and, in another, undergo a successful kitchen remodel with the help of Star Flooring. New spots are featured on a regular basis with Bob and Brenda entrenched in a flooring or remodel challenge, typically in an interesting and funny manner, for which Star Flooring provides a solution.
According to Clouse, “Bob and Brenda look like our target customer, a middle-aged couple with a nice home that they want to improve and maintain.” The commercials all end with the company’s tag line, “From Star to Finish.”
Star Flooring has moved away from print advertising but still holds direct mail campaigns to advertise private sale events for specific customers two or three times per year. These events feature deep discounts throughout the store and have a high response rate.
To promote the new construction/builder market sales, the company has a builder partner program offering rewards and incentives for builders. The company is also heavily involved in builder associations, and it participates in local trade and remodel shows.
Star Flooring & Decorating has steadily moved from being a flooring-only business to one that offers additional products and services, and that has opened revenue streams for the company. Nearly half of the salespeople on the showroom floor are degreed interior designers, and the others have a talent for design. Not only can a client gain a designer for a remodel project, but she can also hire a remodeler through Star Flooring, streamlining the entire project. When a client comes into the store and expresses interest in renovating a kitchen, Star’s salespeople offer to connect her with a remodeler to handle the project. Star Flooring works with five different remodeling companies that all share the same professionalism and quality standards that Star does.
The team, including a Star sales representative and the independent remodeler, meets at the home of the client to go over all the specifics of a job. The remodeler quotes the project to the client, using Star products for flooring, cabinets and countertops when applicable, so it is a win/win for both Star and the remodeler. The remodeling company does not mark up the cost of Star products, so the quote from the remodeler usually ends up being very competitive or lower than other quotes.
Currently, flooring sales are approximately 50% hard surface and 50% carpet products. The latest trends are the continued success of the LVT and LVP products. Many homeowners now have pets, and these products offer durability and easy maintenance. Clouse comments, “LVP and LVT are quiet, warm and waterproof. This is becoming a more and more attractive option for many clients.” Hardwood is also on an upswing, particularly engineered hardwood.
Copyright 2014 Floor Focus