Don’t fix it
To satisfy customers, explore every shopper’s sleep experience and offer an accurate explanation of mattress performance
BY GERRY MORRIS
“It started sagging where we slept. The store would not take it back and allow us to exchange for something more firm.”
“I have had the same issue with each of the mattresses … felt like you were sinking down into a valley.”
“It’s so soft, just not for me. I need extra firm.”
These quotes and all those below are real and recent from the website Goodbed.com. They’re representative of an ongoing issue that continues to plague our industry—warranty complaints, returns and customer dissatisfaction. Even though the numbers are improving, they garner a lot of negative attention.
The problem is not with the products themselves. Most customer dissatisfaction can be attributed to wrong selections or failed expectations. In either case, this issue easily can be rectified at the point of sale. In this article, I’ll explain the cause and the cure.
In my opinion, Goodbed.com is to the mattress industry what Trip Advisor is to the travel industry—a reliable, up-to-date, “finger on the pulse” consumer review-driven resource with no agenda other than providing useful and accurate shopping information for consumers.
I researched several other consumer-advice sites and they all confirmed GB’s information—and validated what I already knew. Even though mattresses have improved in quality and bigger, thicker models have been around long enough to become mainstream, body impressions and the “too soft” complaint continue to be the major source of customer dissatisfaction.
Just take a look at these statistics from GB’s brand ratings. (While not scientific, I’m confident they’re an accurate sampling.)
The No. 1 complaint about 11 of the top brands was “saggy, mushy, too soft, body impressions,” which all fall under the category of “surface integrity.” The percentage of complaints attributed to this category ranges from 63% to 80%.
This problem has spawned growth of another category of dissatisfaction: warranty claims due to body impressions and comfort issues being denied as manufacturing defects.
“They sent their furniture specialist out and their finding was the bed was not defective. I will never buy furniture or anything else from either ‘brand’ or ‘retailer’ again.” Ouch.
The story behind the numbers
Behind each of these complaints is a sad story to go along with it. “We have swapped our new mattress for the old one we’d had in our guest room.”
This disappointment and loss of credibility—not to mention the aggravation and stress of having to return and replace a mattress—extend beyond the customer to the retailer and even the manufacturer. Everyone involved is affected in an adverse way. And it’s a shame that an incalculable number of perfectly good mattresses have been returned, only to be scrapped or resold at tremendous discounts.
This one problem has increased consumer cynicism toward our industry, with no help from some so-called shopping advice experts: “Pillow tops are filled with poly and memory foam and are intentionally designed to become saggy and uncomfortable in a short time. … All in an effort to have you buy mattresses much more frequently than in the past.” Uh-oh.
As consumer tastes evolved from “firmer is better” to seeking more comfort, manufacturers responded. There is only one way to create more comfort without sacrificing support or durability and that is to add more upholstery layers. Bigger, thicker, softer mattresses also visually validate and justify increased prices. More is better and more is more expensive. The downside is that higher prices are accompanied by higher expectations.
The good news is that the majority of customer complaints and dissatisfaction can be dramatically reduced through a simple conversation between the retail sales associate and shopper.
Selling mattresses can be challenging enough. Working with a skeptical customer reselecting a mattress after a failed experience takes challenging to a whole new level. It’s best to get it right the first time.
RSAs are responsible for investigating every shopper’s experiences with her previous mattress and expectations of a new one, along with offering a thorough explanation of and education about mattress performance.
Asking the question, “What feel or comfort level are you looking for?” will not reveal the information necessary to find a mattress that will provide satisfaction.
Rather, try asking, “Are you familiar with the different comfort styles that are available—pillow top, plush and firm? Understanding these is the best way to help you make a good selection. As you lie down, let me know which type is most similar to your current mattress and then which one you prefer now.”
From there, it’s vital to dig deeply for information, which is prerequisite to knowing which models to recommend. The best predictor of the future is the past.
“How long did you have your mattress? Did you like it at first? Did you sleep well on it until it wore out? Did you have any shoulder or back pain or pressure points that affected your sleep?”
If someone prefers a soft, thick mattress, it’s imperative that you ask if she have ever slept on one before. Many people who like the initial feel in the showroom tell a much different story after spending a whole night on it.
For people accustomed to firmer products, thick and soft are often too dramatic a change, not only in their body’s ability to adjust, but also in their mind’s ability to accept the impressions that are sure to occur.
“Will it bother you to see compressed areas where you sleep? Do you expect a new mattress not to show impressions? In the same way that shoes conform to your feet when you walk, mattresses will conform to where you sleep. The thicker and softer the mattress, the more you will notice those impressions. This is not covered by warranty because the mattress is expected to conform to you.”
On the side of the mattress, locate the top of the spring unit or the supportive core on a foam mattress, and then show your shoppers how deep the upholstery layers are. Point out that it is unrealistic for anyone to expect those soft layers not to pack down when our body weight compresses them night after night.
“You sleep on a firm mattress and in a soft one.”
Never try to talk someone out of a mattress she really likes, but do spend plenty of time explaining what she can expect. The more dramatic the change in comfort, the longer the adjustment period and the more likely she will be dissatisfied with it, especially if she had an overall positive experience with her previous mattress before it wore out.
A don’t-fix-what’s-not-broken approach is probably best. If a customer does want to change comfort levels, the less dramatic the better. Always err on the side of firmer if there is any question at all. Firmer can be made softer by adding aftermarket comfort products, but softer can’t be made firmer.
Today’s mattresses are more supportive, comfortable and durable than ever. Take the time to help your shoppers find one they will be satisfied with by engaging them in a thorough examination of their experience and expectations and an accurate explanation of mattress performance.
Sleep well and help others do the same. O
Gerry Morris is an author, consultant and training coach with more than 20 years of experience in the mattress industry. Morris’ Inner Spring training company has a strategic partnership with The Furniture Training Co. to offer a premium online training course, “Sell More Mattresses with Gerry Morris.”