Hank Darlington 0000-00-00 00:00:00
What Makes A Showroom Different, Better And Unique I work very hard at staying in touch with past and current consulting clients and as many other folks in the industry as I can. I keep in contact with owners, showroom managers and sales consultants as well as manufacturers and reps. This regular contact helps me stay current with what’s happening out there. In the last several months I have been asking the question, “What makes you better, different, unique vs. your competitor?” I’ve received a lot of different answers, but also quite a few that are very similar. These answers really haven’t been “mission statements” (although some could or should be), but are more like “best practices,” so for the purpose of this article that’s what I’m calling them. Below are highlights from the answers I received. I hope you will find at least two or three of these “best practices” might work well in your business. I like written goals and I like having a mission statement. I like having “best practices” that every member of the team can subscribe to.I wanted to attach people and company names to these statements, but several folks asked me not to, so I am only showing the state where the company is located. Here are some reasons why people believe their showroom businesses are better, different and unique compared with their competitors: Connecticut — “Honesty is our best practice.That means giving advice to ensure that products, services and pricing meet the needs of our clients. Honesty is no surprise to the client. Honesty is caring for their world, not just the gross profit of the sale.” New Hampshire — “Great systems is what separates us from our competition. We are a systems and process driven company. From the first phone call or visit to our showroom to the selection and quotation process to writing and delivering the order we have established procedures that help our team members deliver a great ‘experience.’” Delaware — “We believe that our clients want to know what we are doing — financially, technically and operationally. They want to be listened to and cared for, and they want to be treated with respect.” Maryland — “We are always learning how to see every aspect of selecting product, delivering 100% correct and complete on time through the eyes of our customer.” Georgia — “During the economic downturn these past few years we have undertaken significant initiatives to help rebrand and retool our marketing efforts. We clarified our company’s difference in the marketplace.” Alabama — “Our goal is to ensure our clients will love their home more after completing a project with us.We believe it’s the people and relationships that make our company great.” New Jersey — “Our success over the past 20 years Is attributed to our commitment to all the members of our company team (employees and vendors). Our employees must be fulfilled and compensated competitively for their efforts.” Massachusetts — “Our single best practice is staying in close contact with current and past clients. We work very hard at client relationships. Satisfied and happy clients tell others about their experiences.If they had a good experience doing their kitchen with us two years ago, they think of us when it’s time to redo the master bath.” Illinois — “We offer a turnkey solution for our client’s bath and kitchen projects. We show and sell a full range of products including plumbing, door hardware, kitchen cabinets, appliances, countertops, lighting and more. Plus we work closely with several plumbers and remodel contractors that we are happy to recommend for the construction side of the project. We believe we help eliminate unnecessary stress for the homeowners and improve quality throughout the process. We save our clients time in the shopping process and we truly simplify the whole experience.” Illinois — “Our best attribute in a word is ‘communication.’ We communicate with our clients on every step of the project. We keep them informed of the progress (and challenges). This gives the client a high degree of trust in us. Also, communication allows us to set expectations well in advance so that there are no surprises for the client.” Michigan — “A highly system-driven business process which provides a consistently good experience for our clients. New clients receive the same high level of service as long-time repeat customers.” Wisconsin — “I believe our ability to be very flexible is one of our main keys to success. Whether a client simply needs a new valve for a kitchen faucet or is doing a new construction project with 10 bathrooms we render the same high level of service.” Georgia — “We continue to excel because we treat the showroom as a separate business. We utilize proven business practices to create and implement systems for marketing, sales, financial management, motivating employees and more. Customer satisfaction in the form of ‘raving fans’ is the ultimate test of how well our systems are working.” (Raving Fans by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles is a great book on customer service.) Massachusetts — “Quite simply, we try to never forget that we are in the service business. We work hard to reinforce this simple fact companywide, so any clients’ interaction with any employee will reflect this. We also select our vendor partners with this as an important criterion. We never want to forget that we work for our clients and that satisfying them one at a time, everyday, is our most important goal.” Indiana — “When we started in the showroom business we committed to one concept: that a good name would be our most valuable asset. Over the years we have stayed true to that commitment and continually tried to enhance it. The more the client finds comfort and trust in us, the better our options are for a win-win.” Virginia — “We practice the ‘Great Game of Business’ (GGOB, open book management technique created by Jack Strack), which educates every employee on the financial standing of the company. Focus is on projecting the company’s finances for the coming month and communicating what can be done to improve those numbers.” Minnesota — “A pervasive company culture that focuses on integrity is our best practice. Our employees are trained and constantly encouraged to do the very best they can for our clients. We try to maintain a ‘zero defects’ policy. If it isn’t right — fix it!” Arizona — “Service, service, service! Our commitment is to always strive to provide a dream bath or kitchen remodel.” Tennessee — “In a nutshell, our company’s success is due to our ability to reliably repeat positive buying experiences for each and every client. This is done by consistently carrying our tried and true processes and systems through great people who care.” Maryland — “The driving force behind how every employee performs their job is the goal of customer satisfaction. Being able to measure the level of satisfaction through dedicated surveying of every contact — whether they ended up purchasing from us or not.This gives us a very clear picture of where our strengths are and what areas we need to target for improvement. All clients are contacted by phone and/or email and are asked to complete a fairly detailed questionnaire.” Maryland — “Our best practice is to invest in our people. We support, as part of our mission, the training and advancement of our employees in all positions and at all levels. We have a formal training program that includes sales training, product knowledge, technical training and all company policies and procedures. Training our staff to be leaders is what inspires our clients to say, ‘It’s your employees that make the difference.’” Pennsylvania — “Our best practice is having a clear understanding of our clients’ expectations before we start the selection of product — thus ensuring that we meet their expectations throughout the whole process.” Several of these are very general in how they were articulated, while others are more specific. But across the board there was an understanding at the top which is communicated to everyone involved in the process. It takes an entire team — all working together, pulling in the same direction, with the same end result of rendering great customer service each and every time to truly become better, different and unique. My challenge to you would be to get your team together and develop two or three statements that will tell your employees, customers, vendors, bankers and everyone else why your showroom business is truly unique and outstanding! Thank you to everyone who shared their thoughts. Hank Darlington, owner of Darlington Consulting, writes several monthly articles for magazines, teaches seminars, and offers a full range of small business consulting services to kitchen and bath dealers, distributors and manufacturers. Hank Darlington was inducted into the Hall of Fame by the National Kitchen & Bath Association in April 2004. He can be reached at 2010 Granite Bar Way, Gold River, CA 95670. Phone: 916/852-6855, fax: 916/852-8866, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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