Here are more ways to make your business more customer friendly than the business down the street.

Years ago there was a popular song by this title. The theme of the song was that in love "little things" added up to be more important than a few "big things." The same thing is true in running our showrooms.

Last month I shared 31 "little thing" ideas that will make you better than you are today. If you can make yourself more customer friendly than the business down the street or across town, you will enhance your chances of outselling and outservicing your competition. Let's see how many more we can add:

  • When redoing any part of the showroom, plan it out to the last detail. Have new product on hand and ready to install. Sell old product before it's taken off display or it will end up in the "bone pile." Have the installer lined up. Try to accomplish the change-out during nonworking hours. If it can't be done without carrying over into working hours, clean up the mess and have a professionally done sign: "Please Excuse Our Mess While We Improve These Displays for You."

  • Do you have a "kid's area"? I know - this is a catch 22! You love kids, but hate seeing them come into your showroom. A kid's area might be an enclosed 7-foot by 7-foot area. Set up a few bean bag chairs and provide some books and videos with an easy-to-operate VCR. You might want to add a couple of video games.

  • Are your public restrooms up-to-date and stylish, convenient and clean? Or do warehouse, counter and office employees use the same facility? What your public restrooms look like tells a lot about you!

  • Do you have a tag-and-hold system for when you bring in product and hold it for delivery to the job site? Is product put on the shelf under the client's name? Is it all kept together and easy to find when it's time to deliver or be picked up? Do you mark every box with the client's name, your invoice number, the date the product was received and what room the product will be installed in? (This is important because it saves the contractor and you a lot of time).

  • Many of the products you sell are subject to breakage, tarnish, scratching, etc. Are you tired of taking product back that the client claims was damaged, but you know was in good condition when you delivered it or the customer picked it up? Put a label on the product "Inspected by_______." Also, don't leave material at the job site without going through it with the clients. Have them sign a shipping paper "Inspected by ______." You'll see less product coming back.

  • Do you have referral lists for your clients: builders, remodelers, plumbers, designers, architects and other home product suppliers? Obviously, give out only names of people who are friendly and loyal to you and your business. They should be giving out your name as well.

  • To make the above item more effective and professional, create a 5-inch by 5-inch card with your company name and logo that says "Introducing (client's name)." Have space to fill in the company or person's name, address, and phone number that you are referring them to.

  • Do your salespeople have a quote follow-up system? They need to follow up every quote in a timely manner until they get the order or lose it! Potential clients may judge your company's efficiency on how timely you get a quote out to them. If you lose an order, find out why and use the knowledge to improve your close ratio.

  • Do you do "Spec Packages" for the clients - especially contractors? These give the details they need to know for bidding the installation and for rough-in and installation. Find a "techie" high school student who can "cut and paste" specs from the vendor catalog to the computer to nicely done spec sheets.

  • Are your RGA's (return goods authorization) handled in a prompt and efficient manner? Do you need a system to make sure these products are returned to the vendors ASAP? Turn these problem products back into cash (or credit). If you procrastinate you'll end up with a shelf full of "dogs" that you don't want or the vendors won't take back.

  • What do you do for "after the sale" follow up? Do you send handwritten thank you notes or a small gift of appreciation for the business? Some ideas might be: a dinner for two at a nice restaurant; a gift certificate to Starbucks; a subscription to a popular home or food magazine; flowers or a plant. Be creative. "Little things mean a lot!"

  • Do you do an "after the sale" Customer Satisfaction Survey? This might include a nice cover letter from the owner/boss and a short (5-10 questions) easy to complete survey form on various segments of the transaction: How were they greeted, what were their first impressions, how was the quote process, how did the salesperson do, how was the delivery, was the follow through done in a timely and efficient manner. Design the survey so the client only has to check off excellent, very good, fair, poor, unacceptable. Leave room for comments. Include a self-addressed envelope. Possibly offer a gift certificate for taking the time to respond. You'll learn a lot about how your business is perceived by your clients.

  • Referrals are your most important form of advertising. With them, you will succeed. Without them, you'll fail. Develop a way to ask for referrals and say thank you when you receive one. I know some businesses offer a small spiff, credit at the store or a gift for referrals that turn into orders.

  • If you don't have a Web page, you need one! Today's customers (of which 78 million baby boomers are a major part) are very technologically inclined. They are doing a lot of homework on the Internet before they go shopping. The more informative and appealing your Web page is, the better chance you'll have to entice them into your showroom.

    This "little things" subject could go on and on, but we're out of space. Let's have a little fun. E-mail me one more "little thing" that you do at your business. In one of my future articles I'll list the ten best and give full credit for the source! Call it sharing, call it networking, call it wanting to help upgrade how the decorative plumbing showrooms are run¿r simply call it "customer friendly."