Pierce Flooring: Best Practices
By Sonya Jennings
Operating in Montana for 70 years, Pierce Flooring has seven locations throughout the state and seek to meet the needs of every type of customer in this thinly populated area of the country. Pierce covers both ends of the market with a full service and discount brand. Pierce Flooring & Design has four locations, and Pierce Carpet Mill Outlet has three. Jon Pierce, general manager of Pierce Flooring and Pierce Carpet Mill Outlet comments, “In a place like Montana, with low population, our company needs to be all things to all people. There is no job too large or small.” While Montana is the fourth largest state in the U.S. geographically, the total population of the state is right at one million.
Pierce attributes Pierce Flooring’s success to the overall brand strength of the company name, based on longevity and a long history of taking good care of customers. He notes, “The power of goodwill and going above and beyond, particularly in a low population environment, is stronger than any ad you can buy.” The company stands by the Pierce Promise: “If it isn’t right, we take care of it…no questions asked.” For example, a recent customer purchased flooring for her home, and when the installation crew was installing the product, they saw wrinkling carpet in another section of the home. Although this carpet was purchased seven years ago, the crew restretched the carpet for free.
As another example, if a customer is having trouble getting the competitor to come out to the home to repair a seam or restretch an area of carpet, Pierce Flooring will make the trip and repair the competitor’s product for free. Pierce states, “The positive word of mouth we get from adding that wow factor has a greater return than any other way of attaining business.” Pierce is a big believer in the viral marketing of word of mouth by going above and beyond. Pierce once overheard a customer saying that she loves white cake with white frosting. The next day, that very cake was delivered to her home. He adds, “It’s the smallest things that people remember, and they mean so much. We empower all of our salespeople to take it to the next level and do the unexpected.”
Expanding financing opportunities as a way to pull in more customers is also proving to be a successful strategy at Pierce stores. Company employees excel at selling GE consumer credit. Offering financing creates many sales opportunities in situations where it would not have been possible otherwise. While GE does charge the store to sell consumer credit, Shaw often reduces that or buys it down—often to zero dollars. Pierce stores will announce a promotion such as “a whole house for $40 per month” via television commercials, the company website and reader boards. Many people are likely to respond to such an enticing deal with a phone call or visit. According to Pierce, “The relationship between our stores, GE consumer credit and Shaw has been highly successful for our business.”
Offering exceptional service is the goal of every Pierce employee and, according to Pierce, the key to achieving that end is training. He comments, “The world is constantly changing and if we don’t change, we’ll fall behind. That’s why we train every week.” Internal training is held every Tuesday morning at 8:00 a.m. Topics include new product training, company history education and sales training. The company often uses the training tools offered by Mohawk University. Employees at all seven company stores also take part in monthly webinars by Shannon Vogle at Creating Your Space to learn how to promote the company on sites like Pinterest, LinkedIn and Facebook. She also speaks at the company’s annual sales meeting.
Pierce’s business is one-third residential replacement, one-third new construction and property management, and one-third commercial. The stores promote mainly through television, with commercials produced by an ad agency. The commercials feature real customer testimonials from well-liked, well-known members of the local community. In Montana’s tight knit communities where people know and recognize each other, this works very well. The customers who highlight their experiences in Pierce Flooring commercials are not paid, and they are not actors. They volunteer to give their testimony based on a positive experience at Pierce Flooring. The commercials are often shot in the customer’s own home, adding a personal touch to the testimonial. According to Pierce, “You can brag about yourself only so much. If a happy customer is bragging about you, that goes a long way.” The commercials highlight local people who are known to have good taste—for example, a high profile realtor, the wife of a well-known builder, and the wife of a banker.
Commercials for Pierce Carpet Mill Outlet are more promotional and price focused. The key is to be fun and entertaining. Local college football teams are tied into the commercial, giving it hometown appeal. Four percent of total company sales is spent on advertising. The company promotes the commercial side of the business with an outside sales force that targets banks, churches, hospitals, airports, libraries and retail stores. The sales force is state wide and works with architects and specifiers to get Pierce products specified. The company is also involved with homebuilders associations in all of its markets and hosts in-store homebuilder events and Chamber of Commerce events.
According to Pierce, “We operate one of the most robust and interactive websites in the flooring business.” The company has hired Creating Your Space to build and maintain the company website. The website provides visitors with an industry friendly virtual room designer. Photos of a room can be uploaded to the site, and the virtual room designer will place any Pierce product on the floor so the customer can see what her home will look like once the product is installed. Creating Your Space also provides a blog on the website and keeps the company’s presence fresh and exciting on social media.
At Pierce stores, employees have seen a retail trend in carpet moving toward the newer products made from nylon featuring a soft carpet fiber. Retail sales are split 50/50 between hard surface and carpet. Hardwood is in high demand, and LVP and LVT are very popular with tile/wood looks and higher quality laminate with a wood look. On the commercial side, carpet tile continues to gain strength in style, fashion and color. Pierce comments, “It’s practical and versatile to install and that is attractive to commercial customers.” LVP is doing well commercially because of its stability, integrity and few maintenance issues.
SEVENTY YEARS IN FLOORING
In 1943, George R. Pierce, who was at the time running an automobile business, was able to purchase a large bulk load of battleship linoleum. He sold it at a profit, and that marked the beginning of George R Pierce Flooring located in Billings, Montana, which was soon shortened to Pierce Flooring. George Pierce met the demand for broadloom carpet, plastic wall tile for bathrooms and linoleum for countertops. Over the years, the company has grown to seven locations throughout Montana operating under two brands, Pierce Flooring and Pirce Carpet Mill Outlet, and employing 135 people.
Copyright 2013 Floor Focus