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Trust & Delivery Accountability

Furniture World Magazine

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Delivery

 

TRUST & DELIVERY
ACCOUNTABILITY


Provide truthful delivery time estimates by keeping your vendors accountable and your sales & delivery personnel informed.

People develop a higher level of appreciation and trust for businesses and individuals that serve them well. Once salespeople earn a shopper’s trust, they can begin to build personal relationships. It’s something big online retailers can only emulate.

This issue of trust is more important than ever before because of the need for furniture retailers to provide ongoing and truthful communications with clients regarding when their purchases are likely to arrive. However, knowing this and actually doing it well requires intervention at a number of information and accountability levels. Vendors, sales staff and delivery personnel must all be included in this process.

Salesperson Accountability

I have witnessed many instances of salespeople providing false representations about when furniture will be received and delivered to customers. This behavior has accelerated in today’s competitive marketplace as people are shopping around for in-stock merchandise in an environment where online retailers often have a competitive advantage.

Conversion rate. Calculated by measuring the number of sales made virtually divided by the number of leads, conversion rate provides a measure of how well retail teams perform when selling remotely.

Large online retailers are shipping product like mad. They have assets and resources far outweighing many brick-and-mortar stores that have spent years fighting for their fair share in their respective market areas.

Once a lie has been told, no matter how hard a retailer works to keep the sale, trust has been sacrificed. Honesty and ethics are more important in today’s world than ever before.

When retailers are short of best sellers and popular models, salespeople have an incentive to collect money and provide a general low-ball delivery estimate. This is the definition of over promising and under delivering. Once a lie has been told, no matter how hard a retailer works to keep the sale, trust has been sacrificed. Honesty and ethics are more important in today’s world than ever before.

When realistic expectations are set at the onset, most customers will understand. If a client does decide to cancel, however, salespeople should be required to submit a report so management can work with salespeople to make sure that they did everything possible to keep the sale.

Once a sale has been made, additional customer trust problems can be minimized by implementing the following best practices.

Vendor Accountability

It is not enough to just follow up with vendors to check on expected delivery dates and lead-time delays. The single most important thing a retailer can do with information collected from vendors is to inform customers.

Most customers can accept imperfections, but they will never accept an error followed by flawed follow up or follow through.

If vendors can’t keep their promises, neither can you. That’s why every furniture retailer must allocate resources and work hard to keep vendors accountable. The first step is to keep track of promised delivery dates. If vendor promises are not met, make sure that a highly competent and organized person is tasked to follow up. Without accurate information and holding vendors accountable you will spin more wheels than NASCAR!

Attention to vendor accountability allows retailers to provide customers with insight into difficult supply chain issues. Honest conversations minimize calls from upset clients when upfront delivery estimates cannot be kept. We all know that forecasting during a pandemic is near impossible, but updating customers every two weeks, at a minimum, is not. To do this well, your operating processes may need to be adjusted. Make sure that your staff is provided with tools and training that will prompt them to communicate routinely and effectively with customers. The result will be better client retention, fewer refunds and a reduction in negative reviews on social media and review websites.

Keeping Delivery in the Loop

Even when managers and salespeople are kept well informed about the delays that individual clients experience, most retailers don’t bother to keep their back-end employees in the information loop. Do your service and delivery people understand how to interact with customers who are frustrated or angry?

Attention to vendor accountability
allows retailers to provide customers with insight into difficult supply chain issues."

Most delivery teams are focused on providing seamless home delivery experiences. It can be confusing and off-putting for them when they arrive at a client’s home early, unpack, assemble and deliver the goods, clean up and then have to deal with dissatisfied clients due to COVID-related lead-time disruptions. Delivery teams should be fully briefed so they can be prepared to effectively assist clients.

Retailers must add value to ensure a great experience from beginning to end. That’s why it helps to think of delivery personnel as facilitators of an extraordinary experience. Provide them with training that includes a script they can fall back on should they need to assure customers that their concerns or complaints will be handled effectively. Customers need to be told that information will be passed on to managers whose job it is to listen, then do everything possible to make them happy. Just as objections at the point of sale are implied needs that salespeople can use to close sales, delivery problems and errors can be seen as opportunities to gain trust and loyalty. Most customers can accept imperfections, but they will never accept an error followed by flawed follow up or follow through.

Adding Value

Adding value to the client’s experience is the best way to under promise and over deliver.

The open sales funnel has ballooned in the past two years due to supply chain disruptions. It is, therefore, very important to manage and track customers who enter this funnel. Improving the experiences of customers who are waiting for products to be delivered is important for most furniture retailers in the current business environment.

I would like to offer as an example, a small coffee shop I frequent, located in a small town where everyone knows everyone. It’s not quite Mayberry, but there is a Barney Fife and a pseudo-Andy Griffith. The loyalty they earn is derived from a lot of little things they do very well. They know my name, what I want and when I want it. When I pull up to their drive-thru window, any one of their three regular employees greet me by saying, “Good Morning William, Cuban with light milk?” There have been occasions that my coffee is waiting at the window when I arrive at 6:15 am. Selling furniture is not so different. Furniture shoppers have become more particular. They demand service with their product. Providing the highest level of service includes, knowing their names, keeping track of their personal preferences and realizing that what they desire is exactly what they deserve. Going above and beyond is remembering where they earn a living, what their rooms need, what other rooms they have yet to furnish and details about their individual style preferences. Just doing that is a lot of work, but it’s only the beginning.

You want to WOW your clients, not just close transactions. If the average furniture and accessory purchases over a single client’s lifetime is valued $80,000, it’s a mistake to be pleased with making one $5,000 sale. That’s why you must turn customers into raving fans and believers.

Have your sales staff follow up after the sale to check in with their customers. Remember, it’s the little things that make a big difference. You do not automatically deserve to be in business, you have to earn that right every day no matter your brand name or market share. This industry is at war and you must provide your clients with an unsurpassed home furnishings shopping experience, or you can watch others do it gracefully. The choice is yours.

We all know that forecasting during a pandemic is near impossible,
but updating customers every two weeks, at a minimum, is not.

 


 

William Vanderford is an operations manager at Red Knight Distribution Center located in Clarksville, Tenn. He has worked in this industry as a warehouse manager, service manager, service technician, delivery driver, as well as a warehouse associate. William believes that leadership and attention to goals can make today better than yesterday. At Knight Distribution Center he has helped to implement standards, policies, and procedures in efforts to build structure and consistency allowing for operational savings and increased profits.

He attended Mississippi College and was an all-state football player in High School, where he learned the foundation of his work ethic, as well as the value of accountability. William uses metrics to validate successes and highlight areas that need attention.

Questions about any warehouse or service-related topic can to be directed to William Vanderford, care of editor@furninfo.com.