Today we question the unquestionable. Who really loves customers the most: small business or large? As window coverings professionals, we assume the “fact” that small business owners love their customers more—give them better service, lavish more personal attention on them, extend tender loving care unmatchable by a large business. In fact, the marketing edge of the small business owner is assumed to be the extra attention and personal service that customers can expect when they deal with a small business owner.
Is this assumption true . . . or not? Either way, how does it affect
your business? Simple: If you want more business, then this is a
good read to discover what business owners who really love customers
do. For this discussion consider a small window coverings business
as one in which the owner works personally and directly with customers.
A large business is one in which multiple shop-at-home decorators
are employed and the owner manages full-time rather than serving
Chain department stores and D-I-Y home improvement stores are not
compared here because they rarely have a shop-at-home window coverings
department. Do chain stores compete with you? Rarely. Run a list
of jobs lost in the last 90 days and see how often Home Depot, Lowe’s
and chain department stores come up.
WHAT DOES ‘LOVE YOUR CUSTOMER’ MEAN?
Most window coverings specialists define customer care as something
that happens after the order is written and before it is installed.
They pride themselves on making multiple trips to design treatments
and select fabrics. They talk about fabricating to perfection, and
returning repeatedly to assure customers are satisfied before they
pay the balance.
Yes, these things are important—most of them, at least. And
yes, a small specialist can shine when the same person sells, orders
and installs or goes with the installer to assure everything goes
up as intended. But what about before the order is written? What
about after the job is installed? What do those actions tell us
about who loves customers the most?
A lot of business owners resist going on home appointments. They
question whether a customer is “worth my time.” Some,
with a beautiful store, want customers to come see their fabulous
displays before they will set a home appointment. Some micro-businesses
that sew draperies believe, “I am very good at designing and
making draperies. If someone wants the best, they should call me.
It’s not my job to go after them.”
Possibly these examples stem from gender roles in dating and courtship—the
female role is to be appealing and the male role is to find and
woo her. Whether the store is beautiful or the seamstress is talented,
both want customers to take the first step.
THIS IS BUSINESS
But this is not courtship. This is business. Customers have busy
lives of their own. They have kids to raise, a job to go to and
an active social life. The cliché “time-starved consumer”
is real; it is today’s lifestyle. That makes it our job to
go after customers; to be sure they know who we are, what we sell
and that they should think of us as one of their choices when they
need custom window coverings.
If we really love customers, we will fight for the privilege to
serve them. We prove our love by investing time and money to create
awareness before they buy. And, when they do call, we should consider
invitations to their homes as an honor and a blessing. We cannot
prove our love for customers only by treating them passionately
after we have an order.
WHO WINS THE PRIZE?
So, who wins the prize? Who loves their customers more, small business
or big? If you refer to the chart on the next page you probably
will conclude that if you measure it by investment before and after
the sale, big business has the edge. But if you measure it between
the appointment and installation, small business has the edge.
The good news for small business: If you really care about customers,
invest a budgeted amount to create awareness and to follow up; then,
in a close contest, you can rightfully claim the prize for who loves
customers the most.
article is based on Steven C. Bursten’s actual experience with
sales and financial information working with hundreds of window coverings
businesses. Whether you are a sole manager who aspires to higher sales,
or you manage 50 window fashion decorators in a multi-million-dollar
business, this series will help you manage sales better and increase
your profitability. Bursten is the retired founder of Decorating Den
Interiors and author of a how-to book on new business start up, “Bootstrap
Entrepreneur”, and is a leading expert in window coverings
marketing, sales systems and sales management through his company,
custEmers.com. Questions and comments welcome: firstname.lastname@example.org
or call (888) 333-8981.