The independent furniture retailer landscape is becoming more competitive, and with increased pressure from online giants, close to 40% of home furnishing storefront locations have closed in recent years. Despite this trend, more than two-thirds of Americans say they prefer to support local retailers, and are searching for brick-and-mortar locations.
The desire to support independently-owned businesses has customers looking online for specialty furnishing shops that may be off the beaten path or right in their own backyard. In fact, search interest in local shops hit an all time high last year. Once someone finds your store, there’s a good chance they’ll call. A recent study found that 60% of consumers prefer to pick up the phone to get in touch with local businesses instead of emailing them or connecting via social media. Since you only have one chance to make a first impression, it’s crucial that you offer customers a positive and efficient phone experience so that you can turn callers into in-store shoppers.
Hello? Anyone there?
A top challenge for independent furniture retailers is answering every call they receive. The phone can ring off the hook with customers calling about driving directions, business hours or in-stock items. Because it simply isn’t possible to have a dedicated employee whose sole responsibility is to answer the phone, many calls don’t get answered. In fact, nearly half of calls to small businesses go unanswered. Missed phone calls mean missed revenue opportunities, as most customers are unlikely to call back and may just make an online purchase or call another furniture retailer.
To remain competitive and profitable, independent furniture retailers must overcome resource challenges to ensure they are connecting with their customers whenever the phone rings. Does that mean they need to hire someone to staff their phone line 24/7? Absolutely not.
Answering the Call
In the last decade, as phone technology has become more advanced. features that were once only available to enterprise organizations are now available to small, independent businesses at an affordable cost. Using this technology, owners and managers of retail stores can gain more visibility than ever into what topics customers call about most, the frequency at which they're calling, and more.
Here are three ways that furniture retailers can increase floor traffic by making the most of advanced phone technology:
Identify peak call times and staff appropriately
By understanding retail traffic patterns in your area and using historical sales data, you probably have an idea of when your store is likely to see the most foot traffic. But while peak phone periods vary from store to store, it often coincides with times when in-store business is also heavy, making it especially challenging for employees. Research shows that in-store sales conversion rates actually drop during peak times. Employees are often overwhelmed by the volume and aren’t able to efficiently provide the kind of service that creates sales. Heavy call volumes during peak periods only add to the amount of distractions that take salespeople away from in-person service. Fortunately, modern phone technology allows you to track your incoming call volume and peak times. Knowing when customers are likely to call means you can have enough staff on-hand to answer the phone while also providing excellent service to your in-store patrons.
Professionally answer missed calls
When a call is missed or someone reaches your business outside of operating hours, you want to make sure customers still get the information they’re seeking. With advanced phone technology your customers can be greeted professionally, even when you can’t pick up the phone. Customizable automated agents can answer and provide basic information, like directions, store hours, and current sales or events. If the agent can’t answer the request, it can route calls to employees to answer more complex questions or customer service issues.
Improve employee training
Studies show 90% of consumers are more likely to buy when helped by a knowledgeable associate. Teaching all of your employees how to engage a customer over the phone and accurately answer commonly-asked questions could mean the difference between making a sale or not. Create regular briefing sheets (ex: new products, upcoming sales, etc.) for team members to review when they arrive for a shift, and be sure to keep one near the phone so they can easily access the information when speaking to customers. For phone training you can use a call recording feature to find good examples of positive customer interactions. Some modern phone systems also provide transcripts, which should be reviewed often in order to get ahead of any customer service issues and give specific feedback to individual employees.
Fortunately for independent furniture retailers, cloud-based phone technology has recently become much more affordable, intuitive and easy-to-use. For Pennsylvania-based Snyder’s Furniture, not answering the phone immediately and professionally often resulted in missed opportunities or a poor customer experience. As a small business, it just wasn’t feasible for the retailer to have a dedicated salesperson responsible for answering the phone. Since adopting advanced phone technology earlier this year, Snyder’s has been able to better staff its showroom during peak call times and improve employee training using phone call transcripts, allowing the Amish furnishing specialist to modernize the customer experience and provide excellent service to both callers and in-store shoppers.
Whether you carry one-of-a-kind antiques or modern designs, answering calls with intelligence provides a streamlined experience and keeps high levels of customer satisfaction, productivity and profitability. If you want to turn your customer calls into floor traffic, there’s never been a better time to invest in your phone line.
Bob Summers is the General Manager of CallJoy,
which was built within Area 120, Google’s internal incubator for
experimental ideas. CallJoy is an easy-to-use cloud-based phone agent
that enables small business owners to delight customers. For more
information, visit their Facebook Page, Twitter Page, or LinkedIn Page