Think about the very important people in your life. You care about them and know a great deal about what is meaningful to them. They receive special treatment for a reason. They earned VIP status.
Consider your customers. They are important people to your business. You care about gaining their favor and keeping them happy. Odds are you know a great deal about them, so do they receive special treatment?
Creating exceptional customer experiences can set your business apart from the competition. Ritz Carlton hotels are known for going above and beyond. Management authorizes each employee to spend up to $2,000 per guest per visit to make their stay memorable and personal. A Google search for “Ritz Carlton customer experience” produced over 39 million results. What they are doing works for their business.
In the home furnishings business, arming employees with $2,000 to create an exceptional customer experience isn’t sustainable. Don’t let that keep you from providing a VIP experience. Begin with defining the criteria for who qualifies as your most important customers and reviewing the sales data. Ensure that this group is indeed worth cultivating and what you offer them will be considered desirable for each customer included.
Create a VIP Appointment as Part of Your Digital Sales Process
Start with what you know about those VIP customers. If they’ve been interacting with your website, gather their useful and insightful information. What are they shopping for, what’s their design style, preferred color, size, brand or desired features? Even better, collect their preferences from the results of an interactive online quiz.
Nudge them to tell you even more and launch the in-store engagement by giving them a way to schedule their VIP appointment while on your website. Without a way to collect this data from your store website, you and your team miss out on gathering crucial customer information and the opportunity to set the business apart by adding value through an in-store design or product consultation.
Ideally, the customer can schedule via your website a VIP appointment from preselected times. Strategically schedule those appointment openings during your sales team’s downtime or the least-busy hours for your store to maximize productivity. If the customer doesn’t schedule online, you still have a meaningful opportunity to reach out to the customer and offer a VIP appointment if you collected their lead data online.
Services You Can Provide the Customer Add Value
Give your customers the feeling they are getting something special and make them excited to visit your store. What can you provide that customer above and beyond what they can do on their own? Without added value, it’s just another visit to a home furnishing store. Strive to help them save time and feel important.
Take the information you’ve gathered through your digital efforts and tailor the experience specific to their situation. Do your homework. Asking questions they have already answered via website interactions may diminish the experience. Remembering their preferences and customizing the appointment to their needs makes for an impactful and effective interaction.
If your customer is looking for a couch in a certain color and size, offer a customized showing of different options. Give them a sneak-peek into recently delivered pieces. Prepare the space ahead of time to resemble the size and shape of the room where their purchase will ultimately be enjoyed. Give your salespeople a head start to think about accessories, lighting and other upsell opportunities.
Prepare ahead and take care of the time-consuming aspects of the transaction. Prepare financing information or get approval from management to adjust the price if required to make the sale. Look at delivery dates and times, and have that information handy to amaze the customer by anticipating their needs.
It’s also important to make them feel special in small yet significant ways. Greet them by name and stun them with your attention to detail by personalizing the entire shopping experience. Offer a special design consultation, drink of choice, a special gift or a chance to win an incentive only open to your VIP appointment customers.
Perfect the Appointment, Then Introduce a VIP Program
Make the VIP appointment whatever works for you, your store, and especially your customers. Once you gain traction and figure out what works, consider taking the next step and create a VIP program. Incentivize your customers and build brand loyalty by offering exclusivity, special offers, discounts and special events. You can also keep customers engaged and motivated by offering a tiered loyalty program. Make whatever you do memorable to create an emotional connection.
According to the 2019 HelloWorld Brand Loyalty Report, the best ways to engage consumers are:
- Surprise offers or gifts for being a customer (61%)
- More convenient shopping process (50%)
- Solving a problem or question (45%)
- Recommending products based on needs (27%)
- Keeping customers up to date on the latest news and products (23%)
- Welcoming customers when they visit (20%)
Creating a VIP appointment and potentially a VIP program takes customer data and some extra work, yet will result in highly engaged and satisfied customers. These customers will continue to give you a return on your investment by providing repeat sales, keeping your retention rate high and providing free marketing through word-of-mouth referrals.
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