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

Retail Sales Flat in July   Full Article
Retail Sales were flat in July as car demand slowed and consumers remained cautious in their spending. This is the weakest performance in six months.

Mortgage Application Volume Down Last Week   Full Article
New York, NY, Aug. 13, 2014 -- Mortgage application volume fell last week as both purchase and refinancing applications declined, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Valinge Awarded Another U.S. Patent   Full Article
Viken, Sweden, Aug. 13, 2014 -- Valinge said it has been awarded a U.S. patents regarding mechanical locking of LVT/resilient floorboards.

Another Investment Firm Discloses Armstrong Position   Full Article
New York, NY, Aug. 13, 2014 -- Another investment firm has disclosed a large position in the shares of Armstrong World Industries.

Home Price Increases Continue To Moderate   Full Article
Washington, DC, Aug. 12, 2014 -- Home-price growth continued to moderate in many metropolitan areas in the second quarter, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Domotex Turkey 2015 Set for May   Full Article
Hannover, Germany, Aug. 12, 2014 -- The dates for Domotex Turkey 2015 are May 25-28 at the Turkish carpet trading capital, Gaziantep.

Job Openings Edge Higher in June   Full Article
Washington, DC, Aug. 12, 2014 -- Job openings increased to 4.67 million in June, according to the latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Ceramic Tile Standards Subject of Gathering in SC   Full Article
Clemson, SC, Aug. 12, 2014 -- International trade and standards for ceramic tile were the focus of discussions as delegates from 15 countries met in Clemson to develop new standards.

Propex Marks 50th Anniversary of Polybac   Full Article
Hazlehurst, GA, Aug. 11, 2014 -- Propex recently celebrated a significant milestone for the carpet industry at its Hazlehurst manufacturing facility.

Realtors Applaud FICO Calculation Changes   Full Article
Washington, DC, Aug. 11, 2014 -- The National Association of Realtors said it supports the decision of Fair Issac to make some changes related to how it calculates FICO credit scores.

CRI's Seal of Approval Certifies Several Products   Full Article
Dalton, GA, Aug. 11, 2014 -- The Carpet and Rug Institute's Seal of Approval testing and certification program for carpet cleaning supplies and equipment has certified several products.

Wholesale Inventories Rise in June   Full Article
Washington, DC, Aug. 8, 2014 -- Wholesale inventories rose 0.3% in June, the same as the previous month, according to the Commerce Department.

Retail Credit May Come Easier for Many Borrowers   Full Article
New York, NY, Aug. 8, 2014 -- Obtaining retail credit could come easier for millions of Americans following a change in how the most widely used credit score is calculated

Carpet One Members Hear Two Famous Speakers   Full Article
Grapevine, TX, Aug. 8, 2014 -- Carpet One Floor & Home members gathered this week to network with their fellow store members and receive updates on new products and programs.

Mats Inc. Flooring a Finalist in USGBC Program   Full Article
Stoughton, MA, Aug. 8, 2014 -- Purline flooring by Mats Inc. has been named a finalist in the U.S. Green Building Council’s Best of Building Awards 2014 in two categories.

More Markets Returning to Normal in Housing   Full Article
Washington, DC, Aug. 7, 2014 -- Markets in 56 of the approximately 350 metro areas nationwide returned to or exceeded their last normal levels of economic and housing activity in the second quarter.

Builder Confidence Grows in Senior Housing   Full Article
Washington, DC, Aug. 7, 2014 -- Builder confidence in the single-family senior housing market for the second quarter is up year over year, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

Initial Jobless Claims Fall Last Week   Full Article
Washington, DC, Aug. 7, 2014 -- Initial claims for unemployment benefits fell by 14,000 to 289,000 in the week ending Aug. 2, according to the Labor Department.

Investment Firm Takes Significant Stake in Armstrong   Full Article
New York, NY, Aug. 7, 2014 -- San Francisco investment firm ValueAct Capital now owns 16.8% of Armstrong World Industries' common stock.

Surya Breaks Ground on Cartersville Headquarters   Full Article
Cartersville, GA, Aug. 7, 2014 -- Rug company Surya held a groundbreaking ceremony for its $33.5 million, 1-million-square-foot warehouse and headquarters facility in Cartersville.