I receive a trade magazine that is sent to retailers in the craft industry. One of the editor’s topics was on KISSES, and she graciously granted me permission to use her acronym and one-word definitions. All of it is so appropriate for wholesale and retail workrooms.
Most workrooms want the security that comes from a loyal clientele. Some are not quite sure what they have to do or what they have to offer to receive such loyalty. One way is to give them all the KISSES you can!
This is certainly an age of available knowledge. In fact, in many instances, there is just too darn much information! If you have ever tried using a search engine on the Internet to find information, you know what I mean. Who could ever have time to look through more than 4,000 search results?
If you stop to think about it, getting that many responses from a search engine actually is a blessing for you. Most likely your clients are computer savvy, but do not have time to search through all the results. Even if they search only the first 10, they are likely to have only facts about each product or service they are researching. They are not likely to find apples-to-apples comparisons. You, on the other hand, because of your education and expertise can do the comparisons for your clients.
If you can tell your client why Product X will meet their needs better than Product Y, then you may find price is not such a big issue. Know your products and services and everything about them and, more importantly, know what they can do for your clients. They will appreciate the research time you have saved them.
More than likely, you are a very creative person because you own a window coverings business. You enjoy taking an existing design and adding your special touch to it. But if you are a wholesale workroom, you might not think you have the opportunity to be creative. Have you tried showing your creative touches to your clients?
Fabricate some unique and creative samples to show your decorator clients. This is a good way to inspire the decorator or the homeowner. Your excitement and enthusiasm will carry over to them.
I once consulted with a decorator who said, “I have so much fun with my clients!” Having fun with them gets them totally involved and inspired.
Many customers just can’t see a treatment in their minds’ eyes. You must be able to show them photographs or drawings or use some of the marketing materials available from your suppliers to help put together window combinations and convey the finished product to your customer.
Contractors and architects today are often thinking outside the box with no thought given to how window treatments can cover their unusual windows. For some clients, you will have to show them pictures or drawings of treatments for their unusual windows. Seeing it on a normal, rectangular picture window is not the same as seeing it on a triple arch!
Remember that most homeowners do not collect window treatment pictures like we do. They don’t know what is available unless they have accidentally seen similar windows. Even if they did see photos, they may not remember them when they are ready to do their own windows.
Wholesale workrooms get experience fabricating treatments for difficult windows. If you also install the treatments, try to get photographs when you are finished so you can build a resource book for your decorators and designers. Even if you do not see the installation, you know how it should look. Sketch out the idea. This information and your ideas might just be what your decorator needs to solve a window problem for her customer.
• Knowledge—Know your products and services and everything about them. Know what they can do for your clients.
• Inspiration—Fabricate some unique and creative samples to show your clients. This will inspire decorators and homeowners, alike.
• Suggestions—You must be able to show clients photographs or drawings to help them put together window combinations and convey how the finished product could and should look.
• Sensitivity—Truly listen to your clients and make the extra effort to bond with them by caring about their needs and situations.
• Education—Do not keep your education to yourself! Wholesale workrooms especially need to let their clients know that they are far more educated than our predecessors who didn’t charge enough for their work.
• Service—Giving more than is expected not only will endear your clients to you, but they likely will tell their friends about you.
Truly listen to your client and make the extra effort to bond with him or her by caring about their needs and situations. You might be the first one they see when they need to unload a lot of grief, anxiety or aggravation. Remember that they are not necessarily looking for a solution—just a sensitive ear.
The future is going to bring us more senior citizens as customers who are lonely and just need someone to talk to. When you care about a person with no thought of what they may or may not buy, it shows and makes a real difference. You will find that they will believe you and trust you beyond any doubts.
A valuable education goes beyond product knowledge. The exciting thing is that there are so many avenues of learning available today: trade magazines, Internet e-lists and forums, trade shows and seminars, membership in industry associations (such as the Window Coverings Association of America [WCAA]), books . . . and the list could go on much longer.
When I started in this industry, there was only one home sewing book available. Beyond that I had to learn by word of mouth, taking a treatment apart, and trial and error. Now, there is so much information available that one could never take advantage of it all.
However, it doesn’t matter how much information you’ve accumulated if you cannot sell yourself. Do not keep your education to yourself! Wholesale workrooms especially need to let their clients know that they are far more educated than our predecessors who didn’t charge enough for their work.
Every time you attend a show or receive a certification, let your clients know what you have learned that will benefit them. Explain why the certification or the WCAA membership is important to them. If you don’t explain your education to them right from the beginning, they may challenge your prices later or, worse yet, go to a less educated and less expensive competitor without telling you why.
Sincerely giving more than is expected not only will endear your clients to you, but they likely will tell their friends about you. Your client may have special requests or needs that require you to offer some products or services you have never offered before. It may require much research on your part to determine if there is anything available to meet their requirements. It might be that you have to create your own solution.
Customers appreciate businesses that go the extra mile. Who knows? Maybe your creative solution is a niche market that needs to be met!
Today, even what we once took for granted as good customer service is hard to find. Those who give outstanding service will have more customers than they can handle.
KISSES will bring you customer loyalty and here’s a story to prove it.
My son is a loan officer for a mortgage company and he tries very hard to give his customers outstanding and fast service. He even gives every client a book that he considers a valuable resource. Not long ago, he had more work than he could handle to give each client the good service he normally would, so he hired a woman to help him. Because interest rates had dropped dramatically, one of her first jobs was to call past clients who qualified to tell them it was a good time to refinance. One couple said several other mortgage companies had approached them, but they were “waiting for Mike to call.” He had told them he would call when the time was right.
They waited for that call. How many of your clients trust you that much? KISSES anyone?
P.S. No, I did not teach my son everything he knows or he would be in the window coverings industry! However, he has taught me a lot!
Kitty Stein, CWP, WCAA past board member, is a 26-year veteran of the drapery workroom industry. Having owned drapery workrooms as one person and as a company of nine, she is now president of Workroom Concepts, a consulting firm offering educational resources to the industry on its Web site (www.workroomconcepts.com). Her experience in the window covering arena has contributed to her success as a business consultant. A professional speaker and writer, she has authored several industry products including Order in the Workroom, The Price List, Workroom Specifications and Price Your Work with Confidence, available through D&WC.