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

NAFCD Releases Executive Trends Index   Full Article
Chicago, IL, July 17, 2014 -- The North American Association of Floor Covering Distributors said it has released its Q2 Quarterly Executive Trends Index.

Initial Jobless Claims Fall Again   Full Article
Washington, DC, July 17, 2014 -- Initial claims for unemployment benefits hit the lowest level in nine weeks, according to the Labor Department.

Metroflor Forms Sales Team for Aspecta Brand   Full Article
Norwalk, CT, July 17, 2014 -- Metroflor Corp. said it has established a network of specification representatives for its contract LVT brand, Aspecta Plank & Tile, which debuted at NeoCon last month.

Housing Starts, Permits, Fall in June   Full Article
Washington, DC, July 17, 2014 -- Housing starts fell unexpectedly in June to a nine-month low, according to the Commerce Department.

Summit International Names Sales Director   Full Article
Florham Park, NJ, July 17, 2014 -- Summit International Flooring said that Marc Becker has been promoted to national sales director.

Foreclosure Activity Hits Eight-Year Low   Full Article
Irvine, CA, July 17, 2014 -- Foreclosure activity hits its lowest level in eight years in June, according to tracking firm RealtyTrac.

Contract Furnishings Mart Opens 11th Location   Full Article
Beaverton, OR, July 17, 2014 -- Contract Furnishings Mart has opened its 11th Northwest location in Beaverton.

Producer Prices in June Rise More Than Expected   Full Article
Washington, DC, July 16, 2014 -- U.S. producer prices rose more than expected in June, according to the Labor Department.

Builder Confidence Grows in July   Full Article
Washington, DC, July 16, 2014 -- Builder confidence in the market for newly-built single-family homes rose four points in July to a reading of 53 on the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index.

Industrial Production Rises in June   Full Article
Washington, DC, July 16, 2014 -- U.S. industrial production edged higher in June, according to the Federal Reserve on Wednesday.

Mortgage Applications Fall Last Week   Full Article
Washington, DC, July 16, 2014 -- Mortgage application volume fell 3.6% the week of July 11 from the previous week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

J+J Flooring Group Offers Customized Rugs   Full Article
Dalton, GA, July 16, 2014 -- J+J Flooring Group has rolled out a new commercial customized area rug program called Invision Rugs that complements the broadloom and modular products offered by J+J brand Invision.

Shaw Releases Sixth Sustainability Report   Full Article
Dalton, GA, July 16, 2014 – Shaw Industries said it has released its sixth annual sustainability report.

New York Area Manufacturing Surges in July   Full Article
New York, NY, July 15, 2014 -- A New York-area manufacturing index rose to its highest level in more than four years this month.

Retail Sales Rise in June   Full Article
Washington, DC, July 15, 2014 -- Retail sales rose in June despite slower auto sales, according to the Commerce Department.

FIANA, CFI Planning Joint Event in September   Full Article
Vancouver, WA, July 15, 2014 -- The Floor Installation Association of North America and the Certified Floorcovering Installers are planning a joint convention in New Orleans Sept. 4-6.

Beaulieu International Group To Build Plant in Georgia   Full Article
Cartersville, GA, July 15, 2014 -- Beaulieu International Group said it will invest $200 million to build a campus-style manufacturing facility in Cartersville.

Volkswagen Chooses Chattanooga for New SUV   Full Article
Chattanooga, TN, July 14, 2014 -- Volkswagen said it will invest $600 million to build a new seven-passenger SUV at its factory in Chattanooga.

Median Age, Credit Scores For High-End Borrowers Fall   Full Article
New York, NY, July 14, 2014 -- The median age of borrowers seeking high balance mortgages has declined steadily over the last three years, according to private lender LoanDepot.

Meritage Homes To Acquire Atlanta Builder Legendary   Full Article
Scottsdale, AZ, July 14, 2014 -- Meritage Homes said it will acquire the Atlanta-based homebuilder Legendary Communities for approximately $130 million.