TRUST & DELIVERY
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.
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.
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
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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.