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Don’t Get Peppered With Efficiency

Furniture World Magazine
Volume 147 NO.1 January/February


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Each shopper and each sale is a little bit different. Provide an effective pathway to purchase and you will win big in 2017.


When you spend time working in the manufacturing world, you get really familiar with EFFICIENCY. Ever since Frank Gilbreth studied time and motion in the early twentieth century, manufacturers have worked to reduce steps to save time. You may have heard… Time is Money!

When McDonald’s started cranking out billions of burgers, all cooked the same, they removed 10-15 minutes out of the wait time and created the efficient Fast Food Restaurant. Everybody is looking to take a step out of the process. I thought I had seen it all until a lunch break during a recent business trip.

Mixing Salt & Pepper

When traveling, I like to stay away from the national chains and give my business to the local guy. I went to a hometown sandwich shop for a quick bite. The line to order was about 10 people deep. I waited, placed my order and then moved to the part of the process where the sandwich artist adds your condiments. She asked if I wanted salt and pepper. I’ve never been a pepper fanatic, so I asked if I could get a light dusting of salt on my sub. She told me that they mix their salt and pepper together because most people want both. And sure enough there was a large shaker filled with a black and white substance.
This act of EFFICIENCY probably shaves 5 seconds from the meal making process. You may be thinking “Multiply that 5 seconds by 10,000 customers and…” It’s my opinion, that this is taking efficiency beyond good taste.

Efficiency vs. Effectiveness

Think about these two words: efficiency and effectiveness. The first refers to getting acceptable results in the least amount of time. The second, effectiveness, refers to reducing bottlenecks and roadblocks while accomplishing goals. In the sandwich shop, efficiency is making the most sandwiches in the shortest period possible. Effectiveness is satisfying each customer with a tasty product in a reasonable amount of time.

Don’t Be Too Efficient

This translates to our mattress and furniture business too! Think about home delivery, the final mile of customer satisfaction. The most efficient way to deliver is drop off boxes at the front door, ring the doorbell and leave. It may work for UPS or your local newspaper kid, but would be totally ineffective in our industry. Imagine the returns for shopper-inflicted assembly damage. You’d spend twice as much repairing the ill will as it would have cost to give top flight service in the beginning.

Efficiency in the sales process would mean you would have an hourly paid armed guard at your front door handing everyone a pad of paper and pencil. The shopper would browse through your store, write down UPC numbers of your merchandise, and key them in at a self-service register like the kind they have at better Walmart stores. We sell products that have to be explained to shoppers, requiring an effective sales process.

Amazon Prime Experience

In 2017 shoppers will trade up on price to reduce headaches and hassles. Right now Amazon’s Prime shoppers are paying more for Prime Service even though Amazon displays lower cost options. This trend points to a need for furniture and bedding retailers to take a close look to see which of their efficient business practices are creating extra time and tasks for shoppers.

Your Telephone

A good place to start is at your telephone. You will score extra points with shoppers if you have a real human voice answering the phone within three rings. Those points double when you offer a friendly greeting and use your name along with the store name.

Your Promotions

Next, be sure that pricing and promotions are not full of holes and exclusions. No promotion should beg people to shop and then dare them to BUY!

Your Checkout

Put a stopwatch on your checkout procedure. Radio Shack lost their business partly because they asked for too much information from their shoppers, even if they were just buying two AAA batteries. Set up a blank Cash Customer Account on your POS system for orders paid by credit card and carried home by the shopper. Even if the order is for home delivery, you are wasting your shoppers’ time if you are spending more than three minutes to create the order (five minutes if it is financed).

Your Delivery

Getting back to that delivery process, the most effective time to deliver to your customers is when they are home! Consider starting your delivery routes at three pm and wrapping up at nine pm. You may interrupt a few dinners, but you’ll save your buying public from having to take time off of work or worrying about picking up kids from school.

World Class Experience

Manufacturers survive by eliminating the variables to create a pathway to efficiency. Retailers provide a world class shopping experience by thriving on variables. Each shopper and each sale is a little bit different. Provide an effective pathway to purchase and you will win in 2017.

Gordon Hecht is Senior Manager-In Store Concepts for Serta Simmons Bedding Company, introducing and expanding bedding business in conventional and non-traditional venues. He started his 30+ years experience in the Home Furnishings industry in Las Vegas, NV as a delivery helper and driver and later served in sales, retail management and consulting roles.
Read other articles by Gordon Hecht