Tuft Talk - December 2012

By Frank Hurd

 

What can the carpet retailer learn from successful auto dealers? For one thing, the best auto dealerships work hard to build customer loyalty from the very first time an individual enters their dealership. They strive to create this loyalty at all levels of the dealership: with the salesman who sold the car, with the service manager who interacts with the customer and schedules the work, and with the mechanic who makes the repairs or installs new features.

The best dealerships also send a thank-you email after each purchase or repair, offering the buyer a direct number to call should they experience any problems with their vehicle. They contact their customers when it is time to service their vehicles and ask if they were satisfied with this service. They send a birthday card or email on the anniversary of the purchase. All of these efforts keep their name in front of the customer and remind them that the dealership appreciates their business. Compared to a carpet retailer, the auto dealer may have more opportunity to get in front of its customers, but that doesn’t mean a carpet retailer can’t replicate these practices. 

My experience when buying carpet has been this: my wife and I visit a flooring retailer, and she selects the color, texture and style that fit her decorating scheme. Next, a salesman measures the job and provides us with the cost of the carpet, including installation. The order is submitted to the manufacturer, and an installation date is arranged. Next, the installer shows up with our new carpet and installs it. That is the end of any interaction with the carpet retailer, unless the installer does a poor job. In that case, we contact the retailer to get resolution for improper installation. 

Is this the way it should be? Under the scenario I just presented, the customer has no incentive to return to the retailer until the next time they have a flooring need. The retailer has not given the customer any reason to remember his brand. Is there another way to approach this, learning from successful auto dealers how to best build customer loyalty, encouraging them to come back and even referring others to the flooring store? 

In all the years I have been buying carpet, no retailer has ever followed up after the carpet was installed. If you are doing this, then you are well ahead of most of your competition. To remain competitive in the flooring market, consider a yearly follow-up notice with a “tips for cleaning your carpet” information piece or, better yet, an invitation to an upcoming private sale. Or perhaps invite the customer to a seminar by a home decorator on the latest trends in interior home décor. This is a great way to let the customer know that you remember them and hope they will remember you when they next need new flooring. With email, routine contact with customers is convenient, inexpensive and professional. 

Beyond following up with email, I would like to offer another suggestion to improve your business and build even stronger customer loyalty: diversify with a carpet cleaning division or partner with an established local carpet cleaning company. The first option, opening your own cleaning company, is more costly and may present a risk if you are entering a business with which you are unfamiliar, but it offers the best opportunity to control the message going out to the customer. The second option, partnership, is less costly but demands that you convince a partner that it is to their benefit to work with you. 

I am sure by now you are starting to see that what I am proposing is, in a small way, replicating what the better auto dealers offer by providing a full-service maintenance department. Why not offer the same with carpet cleaning? If you choose to partner with an established cleaning firm, you will need to make certain that your name is part of the package and that you are an active partner in guaranteeing quality service. A short three or four question survey will let you know if this is happening. Of course, you will not limit your marketing efforts to those who have purchased carpet from your store; you will also reach out to those who use your partner cleaning service as well. 

Regardless of which option works better for you, I would suggest taking this concept one step further by including a deeply discounted carpet cleaning six months to a year after the sale. This is an easy way to get in the door, while instilling in the customer the need for a routine deep cleaning of their carpet. Another added service you might consider is to arrange for a certified installer to inspect and repair any defects, including those that may not be noticeable to the customer, before the carpet is cleaned. Doing so demonstrates your commitment to excellence and your willingness to stand behind your products. It is also an opportunity to see if there are any future carpeting needs in the home. This is a great way to build customer loyalty, and, hopefully, build your customer base from the carpet cleaner’s customers.

Yes, this plan will cost money. And, at present, the economy is still soft, so it’s not without some risk. However, you should view the plan as a profit center, not as a cost center, realizing that it can help expand your business into new areas and generate business that you would not otherwise have. 

There is another benefit as well. Many customer complaints about carpet are centered on cleaning issues. By offering a program like this, you are addressing your customers’ concerns directly, backing the cleaning with your reputation. The goodwill is reciprocal; if they are happy with the way their carpet is maintained, they will be more likely to buy from you the next time they need carpet.

To take the concept of full service one step further, consider equipping your firm to handle carpet damage from hurricane flooding, sewage backup, broken water heaters, fire and smoke. If your carpet cleaning service provides for quick water extraction and drying of carpet to save the customer’s investment, you are providing a great service. When the damage can’t be repaired, providing efficient removal of the damaged carpet can be part of this full-service approach. Reaching out to your customers with these services can only strengthen customer loyalty and grow your business. 

Successful auto dealerships have cultivated their customers’ loyalty by foreseeing their auto needs and meeting these needs with confidence and competence. There is no reason a carpet retailer can’t do the same. Carpet may be seen as a commodity product with no brand loyalty, but that doesn’t prevent the retailer from building customer loyalty to their store and services. 

Carpet retailers need to be proactive in maintaining contact with customers and meeting their service needs, so that when it comes time to purchase new carpet, they are the first to come to mind. Getting email addresses is relatively easy and a smart way to maintain contact. This won’t replace other means of advertising but will act as a supplement, hopefully building a clientele of repeat customers for your carpet business. It has worked for the auto dealer, why not the carpet retailer? 

Copyright 2012 Floor Focus



Other Archived Articles

Tight Lending Standards Still Hurting Home Builders   Full Article
Washington, DC, Oct. 9, 2014 -- Tight mortgage lending standards continue to affect sales for single-family builders, according to a survey released by the National Association of Home Builders.

Wholesale Inventories Increase in August   Full Article
Washington, DC, Oct. 9, 2014 -- U.S. wholesale inventories rose 0.7% in August, according to the Commerce Department.

Initial Jobless Claims Hold Steady Last Week   Full Article
Washington, DC, Oct. 9, 2014 -- Initial jobless claims held steady at 287,000 last week, according to the Labor Department.

Quick-Step Starts Promoting Q-Wood Flooring on the Internet   Full Article
Dallas, TX, Oct. 9, 2014 -- Quick-Step developed a new website specifically for its Q-Wood category of flooring.

Mortgage Application Volume Rises Last Week   Full Article
Washington, DC, Oct. 8, 2014 -- Mortgage application volume increased 3.8% last week from the previous week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Got You Floored on Fast 50 List in Piedmont Region   Full Article
Greensboro, NC, Oct. 8, 2014 -- -Got You Floored, Inc. was named by the Triad Business Journal to the Fast 50 for the Piedmont Triad Region in North Carolina.

Georgia Gov. Deal Visits Mohawk in Calhoun   Full Article
Calhoun, GA, Oct. 7, 2014 -- Earlier this week, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal toured the Mohawk Flooring Center in Calhoun and spoke to employees about the importance of the flooring industry in the state of Georgia.

Interface Issues Third Quarter Earnings Warning   Full Article
New York, NY, Oct. 8, 2014 -- Shares of Interface fell 16.5% in after-hours trading Tuesday after the company announced lower-than-expected preliminary third-quarter results.

National Retail Federation Expects Holiday Sales Boost   Full Article
Washington, DC, Oct. 7, 2014 -- Retail spending during the holiday season is expected to be the highest in three years, according to a forecast by the National Retail Federation.

Job Openings Highest Since 2001   Full Article
Washington, DC, Oct. 7, 2014 -- Job openings increased to 4.84 million in August, up from 4.67 million in July, according to the latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey.

Builders Offering Incentives as Sales Soften   Full Article
New York, NY, Oct. 7, 2014 -- Home builders nationally have begun sweetening offers in light of slowing sales, according to a Bloomberg News story.

Domotex To Feature Installation Technology for First Time   Full Article
Hannover, Germany, Oct. 7, 2014 -- Domotex 2015 set for Jan. 17-20 will feature 1,300 exhibitors from more than 60 countries.

Fincibec Group Seeking Tile Award Entries   Full Article
Sassuolo, Italy, Oct. 6, 2014 -- The Quinquennial Tile Award, now in its fourth edition, seeking entries using the Fincibec Group's three brands, Century, Monocibec and Naxos, between Jan. 1, 2011 and Dec. 31, 2015.

Armstrong Raising Some Vinyl Prices   Full Article
Lancaster, PA, Oct. 6, 2014 -- Armstrong said it will raise prices in the U.S. and Canada on commercial vinyl composition tile and BioBased Tile by 4%, commercial wallbase by 4%, and select residential tile products.

Stifel Sees Stronger Hard Surface Sales, Weaker Carpet Sales   Full Article
New York, NY, Oct. 6, 2014 -- Analyst Stifel Nicolaus believes that third quarter flooring sales will show stronger sales of hard surface flooring and weaker sales of carpet.

NeoCon East Offers Education for Designers   Full Article
Baltimore, MD, Oct. 6, 2014 -- NeoCon East has announced its educational program for design professionals seeking continuing education.

Duncan Appointed President of Mannington's Residential Business   Full Article
Salem, NJ, Oct. 3, 2014 -- Mannington Mills announced today that Ed Duncan will replace Kim Holm, who is retiring, as president of Mannington’s Residential Business.

Services Sector Growth Slows in September   Full Article
Washington, DC, Oct. 3, 2014 -- The services sector of the economy grew at a slower pace in September, according to the Institute for Supply Management.

CRI Annual Meeting Set Nov. 12   Full Article
Dalton, GA, Oct. 3, 2014 -- The Carpet and Rug Institute's 2014 Annual Membership Meeting will be held Nov. 12.

Unemployment at Six-Year Low in September   Full Article
Washington, DC, Oct. 3, 2014 -- The unemployment rate fell to 5.9% in September as the economy created 248,000 jobs, according to the Labor Department.