Doing the little things that make your showroom customer friendly will help cement relationships with customers.

We all know how important "little things" in our personal lives can be - your significant other filling up the gas tank in your car without being asked, a note on your pillow saying "I love you" or carrying out the trash when it's not your turn. These "little things" help cement an enduring relationship.

Well, these same little things done in running a showroom business will help cement relationships with customers. Your goal should be to be as "customer friendly" in as many ways as possible. Sure, there are a lot of "big things" that you have to do to be successful, but it's the sum total of the "little things" that will make you better than your competition.

As I do showroom consulting all over the USA and Canada I have a checklist of "little things" that I look for at each business. Following, in no particular order, are some of them:

  • Is the drive up to your showroom as inviting as possible? Are the window displays and signage well done and clean? Is the entrance and parking area swept?

  • Is the parking area and entrance well lit for winter when it gets dark earlier?

  • Is there a roof or awning over the entrance for rainy day convenience?

  • Are there "reserved" showroom parking spaces as close to the door as possible?

  • Is there an urn for smokers to deposit their cigarette butts?

  • Are the hours of business posted on the front window or door?

  • Is there a professionally done sign suggesting that "Children and parents must go hand in hand"? (Let them know up front how you feel about children running all over the place.)

  • Is there a "sign-in" book at the front receptionist desk so the clients can be waited on in an orderly manner? (In addition to requesting the customer's name, you should ask address, phone number and "How did you hear about us?" You'll learn a lot about your marketing efforts.)

  • Are the store hours "customer friendly? (This should include Saturdays and one evening.)

  • Is there a professionally done "Story Board" in the front of the showroom that tells who you are and how you work? (For example: are you retail or wholesale or both? You help them select the products they want within their budget. If there are special order items there will be a deposit required, etc.)

  • Does the business do "music on hold" or "messages on hold"? The latter is preferable because it gives an opportunity to tell why you are unique and the best at what you do. There are companies that furnish the equipment and the messages. They're changeable and tell your story.

  • Are refreshments offered? Bottled water, soft drinks, coffee, tea, cookies? If you are a high-end showroom, then offer high-end refreshments and do it in a high-end way. Don't use plastic foam cups, use china. Have napkins with your logo on them.

  • Do the receptionist and salespeople know how to qualify the clients? (Who are they? Why have they come into your showroom? What is their project? What is their time frame? Do they have a builder or plumber? Do they know what their budget is? Who will be buying the product? Who are the decision-makers?) You need to learn all of this within 5-7 minutes so you can determine whether it will be worth your time and your client's time in coming to your showroom. This really isn't a "little thing" - but it's so very important for everyone concerned that I've listed it here.

  • Is there "junk" lying around the showroom or salespersons' desks? (Never-ever!)

  • Are there any holes in the displays? (Missing strainers, waste and overflows, faucets missing from sinks?)

  • Does the showroom remain clean and neat throughout the day? This is a daily, hourly, every-minute responsibility for all showroom personnel.

  • Does the company display a "Wall of Fame"? This includes any and all awards, recognitions, articles, memberships, and certificates. Your goal is to show that you are a winner, involved and successful. Everyone likes a winner!

  • Is the showroom accessorized? Make every display "feel at home." Use towels, soaps, tissue, pictures, carpets, wastebaskets - anything and everything that will give your showroom that "warm and fuzzy" feeling. I know of several showrooms that are even selling "soft goods." Use them to accessorize and make money doing it!

  • Is the company creative in selecting strainers, waste and overflows, supply lines, box flanges, soap dispensers? Are they done in colors and finishes to match the products they're being shown with? (These are upgrade sales and profit potential items. The name of the game is to "show and sell.")

  • In the kitchen, bar and island sink area, are the cutting boards and colanders being shown? (Again, show and sell.)

  • Does the company show and sell a diversity of related products? (Magnifying mirrors, bath ventilation fans, lights, towel warmers, steamers, saunas, knobs and pulls and anything else that makes a complete package.) Why let them go somewhere else when you can sell it?

  • Do the salespeople dress the part? If yours is a high-end showroom, you have to dress high end. No jeans, not even on "casual Fridays." Everything has to be consistent. How you walk, talk and dress is a big part of your presentation.

  • Is there a scrapbook with unique and special jobs in it? Are there letters of testimonials from happy clients? People are visual. Help them see. The pictures of jobs might have to be done professionally to be consistent with "high end."

  • If the showroom is high end, I look to see if the business cards, letterhead, logo, invoices, quotes, etc., all look and feel high end. This would hold true of the advertising, marketing and promotional materials also.

  • Is the quote form professional and all-inclusive? Do the salespeople use one page for each bathroom and another for the kitchen? Are the quotes typed or handwritten? (Typed is more professional.)

  • Are all quotes completed and out to the customer within 48 hours? If you can't get the quotes done in a timely manner, the perception will be that you might not be able to deliver the product on time either.

  • Are the terms of doing business articulated to each client and on the quote form and on the sales order form? (For example, a 50% deposit is required on all special order material; all special order material would be subject to a return/handling fee should it be returned, etc.)

  • Is the fax heading unique?

  • Here's another "big thing" I watch for: Is follow-through prompt on all promises, returned phone calls, e-mails, etc.? It's important to do everything you say you'll do - and in a timely manner.

  • Are there VCRs with educational videos located in one or two areas of the showroom? This helps to educate the clients and gives them something to do if everyone is busy. Check your major vendors - most have videos available.

  • I also like to check and see if there is a "resource library" of current and timely magazines and books available for the clients to look at or "check out." People like to see other projects and products. Remember what I said about people being visual?

I can't believe we've run out of room for this article. I haven't finished with the list of "little things" that will make you better -- possibly even the best showroom business in your trading area. I'm pretty sure several of these ideas will make sense to you. So right now you put a big red star beside each of those "little things" that you can incorporate into your business beginning today.