One of the most popular features of Sleep Savvy is Retail Road Trip, which takes readers inside the operations of mattress retailers.
The idea behind Retail Road Trip always has been that the best place to learn how to improve aspects of your business is to study retailers who already are doing those things well.
So, as we wrap up 2017, we’re revisiting the six retailers we featured this year to give you some of their best ideas for improving your customer service. (When you have the time, we encourage you to read the full stories of all these retailers: They are full of guidance and inspiration on everything from advertising to merchandising to e-commerce.
1. Offer something few others do. All Sleep, a single-store retailer in South Windham, Connecticut, began as a waterbed specialist and never stopped selling waterbeds and waterbed accessories. Market share for the category declined over the years but waterbeds still have big fans who love the unique feel of the sleep surface. Where do those fans turn when they want a new bed or need more water conditioner? All Sleep, of course. The retailer also has built a niche business of handcrafting waterbed frames and now headboards and platform bases, too. Like All Sleep, Trent Bedding, a sleep shop in Bowling Green, Kentucky, has something shoppers in its area can’t find anywhere else: a Fill Station pillow kiosk that allows shoppers to create custom pillows. The station has an added benefit of bringing people back into the store to change the fill and feel of their pillow. What can you offer that no one else in your market does? (All Sleep: November/December 2017 issue; Trent Bedding: October 2017 issue)
2. Be a good host. If you have brick-and-mortar stores, you can do something e-commerce-only sellers can’t: You can offer shoppers a chilled glass of wine or a warm cookie like Michael Alan Furniture & Design, a mattress and furniture retailer in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. The retailer is known for treating customers like guests, which makes them feel comfortable and relaxed as they browse and rest-test. Sweet Dreamzzz, a two-store sleep specialist, is based in the Los Angeles area, where the warm weather leaves people thirsty. So, the retailer leaves cold bottles of water outside the store—free for passersby. And, as an especially nice touch for dog lovers, Sweet Dreamzzz also puts out water bowls for canine friends. What treats or beverages could you make part of your store’s gracious customer experience? (Michael Alan Furniture & Design: March 2017; Sweet Dreamzzz: July/August 2017)
3. Throw a fun party. Taking “be a good host” to the next level, Michael Alan Furniture & Design also is known for throwing big parties throughout the year—some are tied to special days (the store’s anniversary) and some help raise money for charities (an annual Sleepless for a Cure in Havasu event that aids breast cancer prevention services). Whatever the theme, all the retailer’s parties honor the store’s loyal customers. Pick something to celebrate in 2018 and throw a shindig! (March 2017)
4. Deliver on delivery. Trent Bedding’s delivery teams have earned a reputation for being on time (honestly, they’re usually early) and for going out of their way to make customers happy. “Need that recliner moved from one side of the bedroom to the other after we set up the mattress? Sure. No problem!” Your store’s delivery team is the last in-person contact shoppers may have with your store for a long time: Ensure that your delivery service stellar. (October 2017 issue)
5. Be a friend, not a salesperson. Albany, California-based Nest Bedding has both a robust e-commerce business and a chain of brick-and-mortar stores. It’s the physical locations that give the retailer a chance to connect on a more personal level with customers—a feeling many people crave in a world that seems increasingly impersonal and even hostile sometimes. Founder Joe Alexander says he prefers to hire “nice people and teach them how to sell” rather than “hire a veteran salesperson and teach them how to be nice—that’s virtually impossible.” All Nest’s retail sales associates are taught to listen more than talk and to use a friendly, low-pressure conversational approach to helping shoppers choose a bed. What qualities are you looking for in RSAs in 2018? (April 2017)
6. Make introverts comfortable. Consumers like online shopping for lots of reasons, including convenience and pricing. But some people prefer e-commerce because they are introverts who don’t relish a lot of small talk and interaction with strangers. Things like in-store diagnostic systems, video explainers and good signage can help such shoppers gather much of the information they need on their own. As an introvert himself, Joshua Eves of All Sleep helps shoppers by including a worksheet with each bed that shows the price of the mattress if purchased with a variety of base options, explains its construction and provides other information. Make 2018 the year that you improve the in-store information you provide shoppers. (November/December 2017)
7. Turn wrong things right. Whether they call the store to complain to the manager or vent on social media, you must resolve customers’ complaints as quickly as possible—before word of their dissatisfaction spreads. Rotmans, a family owned furniture and mattress retailer in Worcester, Massachusetts, has a customer service team that monitors online reviews of the store on Google, Yelp and Facebook, responding rapidly to unhappy customers and negative comments. Sweet Dreamzzz owners Robin Stuart and Spencer Ace will go so far as to make personal house calls to resolve issues. (Rotmans: September 2017; Sweet Dreamzzz: July/August 2017)