I am hard-pressed to think of any other industry that started serving one customer and is now serving another customer. The Design Center industry started as a business to business industry and is now ‘toe-dipping’ in the business to end-user industry. For the record, I am not voting on how it should or shouldn’t be, but rather appreciative of the challenge of identifying the REAL client/customer and how to best serve them.
Let’s try this: they are all customers of some sort and of some one’s. Either they are your customer (the designer, architect, contractor) or they are your customer’s customer. Regardless of who THEY are, WE are the same: purveyors of luxury products and deliverers of a luxury experience. And whoever they are, they are influential in what product is purchased and from whom. From that perspective, we can create an experience in which everyone wins.
When they enter your showroom, you either know them or you don’t. If you know them, welcome them back BY NAME. If you know who they are but have never met them, INTRODUCE YOURSELF. If you don’t know them at all, INTRODUCE YOURSELF. Only after a warm and sincere welcome can anything else happen.
Once you get through that (and of course, offer them refreshments and offer to take their packages or coat) ask them to tell you about the project they are working on and listen to their response. Then you can ask if they are a designer or if this is their personal project. If they are a designer, you can begin to sketch the project and ask your qualifying questions (remember those…if not send me an email). If they are an end-user, thank them for coming in and ask who their designer is so that you can relay the notes you take and the choices you make to their designer. If they say that they don’t have one, ask if you can offer some designer names that you know of or if you can call the Designer Connection in the building to have someone come down to meet them (the option of either / or is often effective in helping them to choose). If they decline both, restate your desire to assist and ask if you can tell them how this building operates, as it is primarily a ‘to the trade’ building and not retail, and you want them to be comfortable and to be able to purchase whatever they select.
In all cases, be gracious, open and welcoming. Treat them as you would want a member of your family treated if they were out looking for products for their home. Chances are they don’t know or understand the process and just need to be informed. Under no circumstances do we get to be snobby or snippy with them, regardless of how they are behaving. Our own ‘bad behavior’ comes from not knowing what to do in an uncomfortable situation, just as their’s does.
This is a game redefined, and one we can all benefit from. Business is a challenge right now and will go to those who try new things, and get beyond their own discomfort for the comfort of their customer. Remember the motto of the Ritz-Carlton employees: “We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen”. Graciousness is defined by being generous and kind when we don’t feel like it and doing it anyway…and it’s also when it counts the most.
Be BOLD. Be Kind. And keep swinging for the bleachers!