From Home Furnishing Business
In this column we like to address topics or issues you face in your retail businesses and offer direct answers about what to do and how to do it.
Understanding that many dynamics in your business like competitive situation, store culture, price points, services offered and other things will impact the exact way you end up handling each improvement opportunity. We also must accept that trying to give a complete solution that will work for everyone in a short format is rather difficult, if not impossible.
Such is the case with this month’s topic that follows the issue’s theme of delivering the sale. I am sure you could Google “delivering furniture” and get many links to articles about how to stage the trucks, load them and bring product into the customer’s house. There are also great systems like Dispatch Track, to help set up, schedule and communicate about the delivery. Some programs allow consumers the ability to track the truck on delivery day so they know when it will arrive. These are all resources you should consider to make your delivery operation more efficient. However, that is not what we are going to address. Instead, we are going to look at delivery as part of the sale and the selling process.
Since the delivery is the completion of the sale—the final touch so to speak—selling it and/or adding value to it, is something that should be part of the sales process. You are not merely delivering the product to the customer, you are also delivering on an inherent commitment you made during the selling experience to make sure the customer is happy with the outcome. That promise may have been overt or assumed, but nonetheless it was made or they would not have purchased from you. Here are some points to consider:
To charge or not to charge? While I believe that the majority of big-ticket retailers currently do charge for delivery, many home furnishings stores do not. There are many reasons for this, but the most critical have to do with competitive pressures in the market place and store culture. Collecting a fee for delivery is good for your bottom line, so if you don’t and are struggling with profit, this might be a good place to consider a change. However, if competitors don’t charge or you have built free delivery into your marketing and store culture over a period of time, then charging for delivery may be a difficult thing to add.
Whatever you do, get credit for it. We often make the assumption our customers understand everything that goes into delivering furniture. That is not the case. To them it is a simple matter of throwing it on a truck and bringing it to them. They have no concept of what it takes to unpack, assemble, detail, blanket wrap, load the truck, drive to the home, take the products inside and set them up. Often consumers expect the crew to move existing furniture to another room before placing the new furniture. This is the most labor intensive and costly service provided, yet when it is given away, retailers do not get the credit for the move.
Change the perception about delivery at your store. The best recommendation for improving the delivery process and customer satisfaction is ensuring you set the right expectations for it on the sales floor and with the delivery crew. Delivery should be a value-added service that leaves customers with a great feeling about the experience with your store. Chris Cooley of Michael Alan Furniture & Design of Havasu City, Ariz., empowers her delivery crew with the title director of final impressions on their uniform shirts. That says it all. No wonder she won NAHFA Retailer of the Year honors last year. Even without that title, the delivery staff and sales people need to understand the importance delivery is to changing a one-time customer into a long-term client.
Here are some other suggestions to improve your delivery performance:
· Marketing—Brand your delivery service, make it something of which you are proud.
o Create a name for it like Sample Furniture’s Final Touch Delivery or Red Carpet Service or White Glove Fulfilment
o Consider offering multiple levels of service options for customers and create handouts and instore graphics promoting them. Some rough examples:
§ Free Customer Pick Up—product is ready in carton for customer to load onto their own transportation, must bring back for warranty service or pay service pick up fee
§ Basic (Low Cost)—Product is delivered to customer in its shipping carton, with no existing furniture movement and any subsequent warranty service pickup is on a reduced charge basis
§ Premium (Higher Cost)—Product is prepped, detailed and delivered to customer. In house set up is included along with minimal movement of existing furniture. Any subsequent warranty pickup visits are free.
· Sales Training and front end support is very critical to having the proper sell-in for your delivery process.
o Often salespeople never mention delivery process to the customer, either because they don’t want to or don’t know what to say. We recommend developing dialogs for salespeople to use to discuss the delivery so that they sell each customer what they need and forecast what to expect when the truck arrives. This process should be supported with POS materials and printed details on the consumer contract.
o The best way to help the sales team better understand what goes into a delivery is to have them experience the process. They should spend a day in the warehouse helping or observing how the deliveries are staged and trucks loaded. They should then go out on the truck for a day to greet customers and observe what happens on deliveries.
o Many salespeople do not like to expend the effort selling delivery since they feel they are not paid for it. However, the bottom line is that they are paid to provide customer satisfaction and delivery is a big part of that. The better the customer understands what to expect, the more likely they are to be happy with the end results
· Back-end training and support will help bring the delivery team into the selling process so that they better understand how important their role is in it.
o Put your delivery crews through as basic version of your sales training so that they know what the sales person does that results in the delivery of goods to the customer. Focus on information about what the customer wants and how they approach shopping for the home.
o Many retail stores have a huge disconnect between the sales floor and the office and by default, the delivery department. I often hear complaints from each about the other and when I ask for details, they don’t have any. In fact, sometimes they have never even met the person they are angry or upset with! Involve your delivery crew in meetings with the sales and office teams at least once a moth, weekly if possible. Invite them to company events with the sole purpose of having everyone get to know each other – it will do wonders for your morale and reduce interdepartmental squabbling.
o Conduct follow up phone or email surveys right after each delivery to get customer feedback about their experience. Set perfect delivery goals for your teams and pay bonuses for achievement of goals. Make a satisfied customer the goal for each team member, not just the number of pieces delivered.
o Celebrate your successful delivery efforts with the sales team. Your goal should be to create a team mentality that delivers customer satisfaction beyond expectations from the sales floor to the customer’s home.
You are probably doing many of these things already, but might be missing the one piece that will take you to the next level. The biggest thing you can do is make sure everyone understands they are all in it together and will succeed or fail together. The more they help each other and the better they communicate, the higher their chance to be a winning team.