Are you a window fashions dealer who is happy with the status quo—sometimes missing important customer follow-up tasks, copying To-Do lists every day, setting appointments on a paper schedule with lots of cross-outs, and not closing on outstanding estimates because you don’t get around to following up? If so, you probably aren’t satisfying your customers as well as you could be—and you may not be operating your business as efficiently as you could be. Most dealers could benefit from a customer management system to help operate the business.
As Troy Jordan, owner of Windo VanGo, with two Hunter Douglas Gallery™ stores in Maryland, puts it, “We recently re-evaluated all our software and we’ve made a lot of changes. We realized that we need a tool that lets us see everything at once about our customers and projects, a tool that includes both a calendar and scheduling system. We have totally upgraded our systems, and we can already see the difference in how we’re working with customers. Our salespeople even have portable tablets and portable printers they take into the home, which really impresses our customers—and helps us serve them better.”
An ideal business management system would be comprehensive, easy-to-use, and built for the needs of the window fashions industry. It would include several key facets in running a business:
• Calendar management
• Customer management
• Marketing management
• Project management
• Sales management and reporting
Hunter Douglas has created such a system for its dealers. It’s called iCM, which stands for Internet Customer Management. This Web-based business tool helps dealers manage their customers’ entire experience—from start to finish, and beyond. For customers, this results in a more satisfying shopping experience. For dealers, the result is better control and a stronger bottom line.
We urge dealers to manage their businesses more efficiently and serve their customers more effectively—and we give them tools to accomplish these goals. When dealers manage their customers’ experiences more smoothly, they achieve significant dollars-and-cents results very quickly—such as increased close ratios, higher average sale amounts, and more repeat and referral business.
ACCESSIBLE ANYWHERE, ANYTIME
An important selling point for a customer management system is the fact that it’s Internet-based. That means that information is accessible anywhere and at any time, and a dealer is not vulnerable to loss of data in the case of a computer crash. “I lost my computer hard drive two days ago,” says Jessica Goodman, Interior Style Designs, Long Beach, CA. “It had five years of everything on it—QuickBooks, taxes, forms, photos, addresses, phone numbers and more. But because I’m on the Hunter Douglas iCM system, which is Internet-based, I didn’t lose any of my customer information. That is such a relief.”
Installers can log on at night and check the next day’s schedule from home. Salespeople can log on anytime to check their appointments, adjust their schedules to indicate a down-time they won’t be available for appointments (for example, to attend a child’s soccer game or doctor’s appointment), and pick up their reminders to confirm appointments and send thank-you notes. Store managers can log on to schedule customer appointments and make changes to scheduling. And storeowners can view all projects, all customer information and all employee schedules, as well as retrieve sales reports and perform follow-up tasks.
Since the program’s launch last fall, iCM has changed the way many dealers do business and relate to their customers. “When you can see how many quotes are outstanding in dollar amounts right at the touch of a button, it makes you take action—and that’s one way iCM helps,” says Ryan Welsh, Blinds and Us, a Hunter Douglas Gallery dealer in Greenville, SC. “The first month I saw $40,000 sitting out there that we hadn’t closed. (That’s a big check we’re losing out on!) We clicked on the customers, called them up, and closed the sales. That month we had a record month, all because of following up more closely with these quotes.”
BETTER SCHEDULING, FOLLOW UP
“The scheduling tool has been most useful for us,” says Mari Latimer, Classic Coverings and Design, a Gallery dealer in Bend, OR. “Scheduling used to be a bottleneck; now it’s easier and faster. We use it for everyone who works with us including installers and design consultants. Before we had to call our installer and find out his availability, then call the customer and check her availability, then call him back to confirm. Now, with iCM, he logs on and blocks out his other commitments on the schedule. We can see when he’s available and schedule him ourselves. It saves us a lot of time and is a much cleaner process for the customer.”
“We used to have customers call our sales reps directly on their mobile phones to set up appointments; now we have them call the office,” says Shannon Cocagne, The Blind Guy, a Showcase Priority Dealer from Rancho Cordova, CA. “We don’t have as many missed calls, and can more easily schedule appointments and installations. iCM also makes it much easier to follow up on outstanding quotes and inquiries. We can see exactly where every project is. And we’re following up the leads better.”
If I were to name one area where dealers could have the biggest impact on success, it would be to manage their businesses and their customers more effectively. Using a business management system transforms a dealer’s way of doing business and yields positive business results very quickly.