Don’t Overlook These 7 Tenets of Good Business
Aug 31, 2016 08:01PM
● By Melanie Heisinger
By Lisa Z. Leighton
With so many products and services available online, business owners must do something to set themselves apart. Customers yearn for companies that deliver the goods and services they seek while taking the time to get to know them personally.
Keystone Furniture Galleries, Pennsdale, keeps customer service at the forefront of its business model, according to sales manager Charley Levering. The team of eight professionals, including sales representatives, store manager and financial officer, has a combined 269 years of experience. Levering has been with Keystone for 18 years—the shortest tenure of the group.
The business is second-generation-owned by Bill Pfeiffer. His father started the company in downtown Williamsport in 1946; September 2016 marks its 70th anniversary, a feat for an independent, small business in the competitive furniture industry.
Over time, the business has moved locations and subsequently expanded four times, including the warehouse (twice) and showrooms (twice). Keystone currently offers 200 product lines, many of which are American-made, and all of which are constructed of solid wood.
Here are 7 ways to incorporate superior customer service to help your business thrive.
1. Stand behind high-quality products and services—for longer than a year or two
Consumers are discerning, so offering regionally-made and handcrafted products gives a business an advantage. Keystone Furniture Galleries features products from seven Pennsylvania companies and buys American-made whenever possible.
“We stand behind what we sell,” stresses Levering. “When you carry a good product, it’s easy to do.”
For example, Keystone extends LaZBoy’s warranty from one to five years for parts and labor. “And parts are free forever,” adds Levering. “The customer only pays for labor.”
2. Personal relationships remain the foundation of customer loyalty
Customers look for opportunities to do business with people they know and like so it makes sense to take the time to get to know your customers and track their purchases. This allows you to tailor marketing e-mails, promotional messages and direct mail pieces to specific consumers, targeted to their unique style. “We are now seeing third-generation shoppers,” notes Levering. “That is incredibly satisfying.”
3. Treat employees like family
Profits tend to keep pace with employee morale. Family-sustaining wages and adequate time off contribute to a happy workforce. At Keystone, full-time employees receive health insurance, paid time off, and a 401k plan, in addition to competitive salaries. The sales staff earns a sales commission, a small percentage of take-home pay, and each takes a turn on the floor, so they’re not competing for or pressuring customers who walk into the store.
4. When there is a problem, solve it quickly
Levering shares the story of a recent customer who turned to Keystone for help fixing a recliner after playing phone tag with another furniture company for six months. Exhausted and frustrated, the customer has decided to replace the recliner. Keystone strives to keep its promise of service from a qualified employee within a few days.
5. Keep technology at the forefront
Every business needs an effective online presence and point-of-sale system. This keeps customers happy from the moment they search for you online until they walk in the front door.
Levering says Keystone was the first business in the area to computerize its inventory, sales and accounting systems. Their accountant at the time didn’t embrace the new computerized system at first—and even kept separate hard-copy books. Eventually, he understood that computers made procedures more efficient and accurate. Today, the company’s Web site is up-to-date with furniture styles and brands, contact information and store directions.
6. Offer add-on services your competition can’t
There is a lot of competition in the furniture industry, but few offer personalized and customized services, according to Levering. Keystone boasts a sales team that includes interior designers. At the customer’s request, a knowledgeable representative will come into a home or business, measure the space, and suggest furniture layouts as well as styles, fabrics, colors, decorative and accent pieces, and wall and floor coverings. Although Keystone does not sell wall or floor coverings, the creative team helps customers look ahead to the finished product.
7. Pay it forward
If you are able to “do good” by donating gently used goods to a community philanthropic organization, your business will be top-of-mind as one that gives back—an old-fashioned characteristic many value. Keystone donates customers’ gently-used furniture to local chapters of American Rescue Workers and Habitat for Humanity.
Many businesses boast of offering the “best” product or service in their industry, but very few also deliver one-on-one customer service generations before us came to expect. What happens if you take the time to care for each and every customer and make the experience memorable and enjoyable? It’s likely customers will return for years to come, and tell many friends along the way.
Lisa Z. Leighton is a marketing professional and freelance writer living in Columbia County. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.