When was the last time you were a customer in your own business? Not as an expert in what you do but as a true never-before-visited customer? This episode talks it through and highlights the importance of excellent service and how our immersion in the professional sphere can often lead to a disconnect with the consumer's experience. Can you pinpoint areas ready for improvement; and is it maybe something you wouldn't expect? Listen in as we evaluate our own experiences as customers, using those insights to rethink our businesses.
Thank you to Zastro for sponsoring this episode of Lighting with Lisa!
Hello and welcome fellow lighting nerds and friends to another episode of Lighting with Lisa, the Lighting Industries podcast, sponsored once again this week by Zastro. I'll have more information on Zastro and the bonus you can get for setting up a demo with them by mentioning the Lighting with Lisa podcast. So definitely stay tuned for that. So I also want to, in my housekeeping, remind you all that the best way to contribute to the podcast at the moment is to email me, lisa, at lightingwithlisacom. And also don't forget about the two Facebook groups that I have up. One is the residential lighting industry job board, the other is the fixture finder group. Both links, links to both groups, are in the show notes, so please reference that again. Please do email me, lisa, at lightingwithlisacom. It is the best way to contribute to the episode, to become a sponsor, the episode, whatever you are wanting or looking for, email me there and I can always keep your, your, your input, as anonymous or public as you like, but it is your contributions that certainly help this podcast grow and expand and share new ideas with the entire industry. So please do reach me there. So this week I wanted to talk a bit about the experience of being a customer, so here's where this is coming from for me personally. And then it just kind of led to some realizations about customer service, the experience of shopping, the experience of shopping at a specialty store or even like if you wanted to make this an even bigger discussion of customers and a customer experience you could even think about like visiting a specialty doctor, visiting any sort of like specialist in whatever field, whether it's lighting or medicine or accounting or whatever it is. There is this effect that happens to those of us who live, eat, breathe, sleep or jobs, and it's a good thing. For those of us in the jobs we become, it becomes just such a part of who we are and how we operate and we notice things everywhere. We notice when a ceiling van is hung too high, we notice when a chandelier isn't installed at the right height, we notice the color temperature of light bulbs wherever we go in the world. We notice all of these things and they become such a part of our daily life experience. But in in so doing we a bit become like indoctrinated or maybe that's not the right word like immune to the experience, and it's really really easy to just kind of get just lost in the in the world and the understanding of what you're doing and you forget to see what you're providing, the expertise that you're providing. You forget to stop and look at that from the customer side and I really think it's not that I believe we lose a bunch of sales, you know, because of this. I certainly think the opposite. Our expertise is what sets us apart as you know, people working in lighting showrooms but I do think we often have a bit of a blind spot when it comes to excellence in meeting our customers needs. And, as I'm trying maybe not so eloquently or perfectly to say, I think a lot of that not hitting our highest standard just comes from, like living this life and like being so knowledgeable and so in your trade and so in your skill set, that you forget how much you really know and that the customer doesn't know. And, yes, you can answer a question, like you know, is this the right fixture for me? And maybe give a couple contexts of why. But then you just say, yes, it's good, let's get it on order, and then, like, the customer might just be left a little wondering like, okay, how did you reach that decision? Is there more that I should know? What are the pros, what are the cons Like? Sometimes I just think we get so caught up in our jobs and what we're doing and processing and getting this customer done to move on to the next that we really kind of forget the experience the customer is having. And again, I'm not saying that this is like a huge, like reason we don't make sales or whatnot, but I do think it's something we don't focus on enough and I don't think we all collectively strategize about it enough and like it's fits and starts right. Sometimes you will, sometimes you won't. But I just think this is really an area that we could all as showrooms really take a step back and improve on and I think there could be some really great payoff for all of us in the best way with having just unparalleled customer experiences. So here's kind of where I came to this thought process that I wanted to talk through this episode and, as always after the sponsored ad break, I'm going to talk about some potential things to try, some possible solutions. I always want this podcast to be about setting us up for success, just even if it's just a thinking point. So stay tuned for after the ad break for the ideas I've come up with for things to try. So we all know that customers are like priority number one in our showroom business, but because without the customers the business doesn't exist. So I think we're just so accustomed to that process that thought that sometimes we forget that it's something we really need to be mindful of every single day. And so if you're the customer, okay. So here's something that happened to me recently. I have to get a new fridge and freezer for my home. The ones I have are from 1991, literally date stamped 1991. They have lived very well. They've serviced our life in this home and the people before us for many years, but they need replaced. So, as with, you know, a lot of appliances, as we all know, there could be a long lead time depending on the specific appliance that you need. This appliance, this brand, definitely falls in that category. So, while you know my units are still operating now we figured it's probably a good time to go ahead and get these on order, because we know we're going to be waiting a while for them, which, again, is totally fine. It just is the way of the world right now. I'm going to sidebar on myself a minute to say that we did go to the local dealer for these appliances and they got a quote. You know, everything was good. We did go to another dealer who's not a locally owned business, but just to check things out we actually the place we originally were working with. They didn't have anything similar to what we needed to buy on display, so we really just kind of wanted to go see a display somewhere and in so doing, they gave us a price quote and because of the manufacturer's pricing rules, the price was exactly the same from both dealers. I loved that. As the as the consumer, as an owner of a business, I was like, oh my gosh, in some ways like it was a dream, in that the only thing that would make the difference in that sale it wasn't who could race to the bottom first in pricing, it was who was going to give me the best service and the best experience. And that really ties into the topic of this podcast, because this is all about just thinking about your customer and providing them the best experience. And yet it just was real interesting to me how different industries work. Now, I don't know anything about the margins in the appliance business, so there could be in a whole other world of factors at play here, but I did find it pretty interesting that both retailers said our pricing is going to be is came out to be exactly the same. So this purchase again, it wasn't like you know, this has to happen. It was just planning for the future and there were a few options of what we could buy. And the salesperson I communicated with, the most a was off on a weekday, presumably because this business also has weekend hours and they work on the weekend. But there was no out of office message identifying to me that this person wasn't going to be available all day, so I shouldn't expect a response. That's always something I think we should be doing in our businesses. And the salesperson newest product was really good, but was seemingly unaware that it was impossible for me to know as much about these appliances as they did, because, again, they do this, it's their specialty day in, day out. And so this salesperson seemed to fall in this trap that he forgot what it's like to not know everything he knows and to be on the other side of this transaction. And appliances of any kind are not inexpensive, you know. You can easily spend a few thousand dollars on one appliance, given pricing levels right now in our economy, and it's not an insignificant purchase for any one of us. So I think when you're just dealing in this day in, day out, you forget, like the price seems to like kind of lose, lose significance to you as the sales person, but for the customer it's extremely significant and it's an extremely important to me to know that if I'm spending a few thousand dollars on this appliance, that it's going to be what I need, that it's gonna fit in the space, that that we've answered all the questions, that we've talked through the pros and cons of this manufacturer versus that manufacturer. Tell me what I don't know here so that I can make the best decision for my home and my lifestyle. And the sales person just kind of had lost the plot when it came to that course. I do what I do for a living, so I asked all these questions. But it really dawned on me how many of my customers might come into our store and have the same questions but just never ask them and we just don't address them. And how many times does that lead to the loss of a sale or maybe a remorse return because we didn't talk through all these things up front. Are we really setting our customers up for success by providing the information and the tools and the tips that might make them just that much more satisfied with their purchase and their experience. For most of our customers, the what they're buying goes into their single most important expense. As you know contributing members of society I don't know how the right way to say that, but like this is going into their house and our home, and our homes is most of our biggest expense. It's the biggest thing we spend money on in a single purchase and then in ongoing expenses. Our homes are hugely important. We spend a lot of money on and in them and sometimes, you know, when we're just thinking about, like, the pretty dining room chandelier, we kind of lose the understanding of just how impactful and meaningful this fixture can be and someone's home in their lifestyle. And I just don't always know and this is much of a criticism of my own business as anyone else's, and that's why we're going to talk about some tips to, you know, reinvigorate ourselves at the end of this podcast. So we just really need to, I think, collectively, work harder, better to set our customers up for success. And now I keep talking in this podcast about the customers of the lighting showroom. But if you're a different, if you're a different segment of the industry listening to this, whether your service provider, a manufacturer, sales agent I would also really really encourage you to be thinking through this same concept when it comes to your showroom customers or whoever whatever your customer model looks like. Are we really setting our customers up for success by our policies, by how we enact our pricing structures, by how we enforce things? Are we setting our customers up for success or are we just giving them roadblocks? And I really think collectively, the entire lighting industry, start to finish, needs to have some hard looks at this question and the possible answers, because I think often in showrooms were not always setting up our customers for success, although I know most businesses Truly try to, and I think the frequently the same could be said for manufacturers and sales agents and service providers. Nobody is intentionally trying to make life hard for somebody else, but are we really taking a careful look at things and are we truly setting one another up for success? So just something to think about. Now I'm going to stop for a minute and talk about the sponsor of this week's episode is Zastrow, and then on the other side we're going to talk some more about this topic and Maybe things we could do to improve our customer experience in the quality of the customer experience. So A big thanks to Zastrow once again for sponsoring the Lighting with Lisa podcast. Zastrow, you may remember, has a program called Illuminate which is tailored to lighting showrooms and based on the lighting and based on the net suite, oracle, net suite ERP software. It's all cloud based. It's truly comprehensive in a way you might not be expecting. So what I wanted to mention this week in the Zastro product or, as you're considering, any ERP or software solution for your business, is what workarounds have you set up for your operating system, for your business, and what do you think those workarounds are costing you in time, in accuracy, in efficiency? Is your work around so selective that only you or maybe one other person knows the work around and how to make it correct for your business, for your customers? What would happen if that person or people were not there? What would the impact be on your business? These things, I believe, are extremely important when you're looking at the software that is gonna manage not only your inventory but your sales orders, your purchase orders, your human resources function, your sales functions, your customer acquisition functions. You really need to be All of us need to be thinking about how we do this in a great, efficient and effective way. And so the Zastro system with their Illuminate program. It's all built on the net suite. It's the market and you know, market leading cloud ERP software. You get inventory management. You have your lights America integration. You have e-commerce integrations, a complete CRM solution. You can add in a human resources management function, fully automated integration with your showroom labels, your pricing changes, your Everything that, honestly, I've made work around for my business. There are integrations, there are ways to make these things automatic, and it is a cloud based solution. So if something random happens, like what happened at my store recently, everything. I've always had my business set up where I can work remotely, or anybody can work remotely. But there's one catch and it's that the internet at the physical brick and mortar location has to be functioning. If that goes down for any reason, it removes my ability to work remotely. Well, a cloud based solution Like the Zastro Illuminate net suite program is all cloud based. So a few weeks ago, when my store lost internet for reasons beyond our control it was the utility companies issue I was still able to work remotely when I would not have been able to otherwise. So it's worth checking out. Go to Zastro dot com slash Illuminate there are it. You can get more information, but this is just a complete set of tools to manage projects, to do like truly soup to nuts, everything you could think of for your business. When you mention the pie, when you sign up for a demo and mention the podcast, you're gonna get five hundred dollars off a purchase. So definitely do that. Here's your contacts. If you live west of the Mississippi River, you're gonna want to email Gail her name, her email address is gail at Zastro dot com. That's Z A S T? R? O. If you're east of the Mississippi River, you're gonna contact Thomas Thomas at Zastro dot com. It's definitely worth doing a demo, checking it out Again. If you make a purchase, you get five hundred dollars off If you mention that you came via the lighting with Lisa podcast. So please do check it out and thank you, zastro, for supporting the podcast. Okay, so back to this customer priority topic. So here's what I really started being mindful of after my appliance shopping experience. By the way, just to just to tie up the loose end, we did end up making the purchase with the locally owned business and I'm very happy, but it did require a bit more back and forth than I anticipated. So ever since this happened, I have been visualizing and acting what it would be like to be a customer in my showroom like from start to finish. What was from a customer perspective? What was it like from the moment I entered the showroom space? What's the workflow that happens once I enter and all seeing it all the way through to the exit point via product in our warehouse, with delivery and everything else. Actually, randomly, I had to take over running the warehouse for a day this week, which actually I really enjoyed doing. Only from the perspective of this topic and this question, to really think about the labels that we put on boxes and where we put them and what it says on the label, and is this really setting up our installers for success? And setting the installer up for success can be just as important as setting the customer up for success, because we all know the installer gets in the home and if the homeowner is present and something isn't quite perfect or perfectly labeled or perfectly easy to understand, the installer has this tendency to complain about where the homeowner got the products from and the homeowner very easily tends to believe that person that's in the product or in their home, standing right in front of them, then the place they purchase from who's like removed from that particular situation? And and we need to be setting them up for success too. It's a big process, it's a big job, there's a lot to keep in mind, but working in my warehouse really gave me some time to think through. Okay, how does this process work? Is my customer, the actual purchasing customer, set up for success? Is the installer? Are we providing the information, the tools, the resources they need to make their job a successful one? So I would really recommend, well, not working in your warehouse unless you just are absolutely dying to. Although it really was a good day, I enjoyed it immensely, but I would highly recommend taking a bird's eye view, taking a step back. Try not to think of yourself as the person that created the processes that they're following in your showroom, but try to view it from the customer. And is the process and procedure and protocol that I set in place for this business? Is it really serving my customer in the way that they need? And here's something to really think about Customer needs are not one size fits all. This was like my biggest moment as I was not only a customer myself, but as I was thinking through the customer process in my business. Customer needs are not one size fits all. There are some customers who are going to need a lot of attention, a lot of communication, a lot of hand holding. There are going to be other customers that maybe this is like their fifth custom home they've built. They've worked with this designer in the past, they know the process, they know the procedure, they're good, they don't need a bunch of attention. Now, let's not to say we shouldn't still pay them plenty of attention, but there are just different levels of need. There are different levels of understanding of the process. So if this is somebody who's building their first home from the ground up, they're going to have a lot more questions. They're going to have a lot more needs of communication. They're not going to necessarily know the full steps of roughen and trim and everything else, and why would they know? It's their first time doing it. That's where I really strongly believe it is our job to make sure we're effectively communicating with the homeowner, the builder, whatever it is, to give them the best possible experience, knowing where they're at in their experience of buying their first home, building their first home, whatever the case may be, customer needs are not one size fits all and that's something that I think we all again, as I mentioned before the ad break, no matter what part of the industry we're working in, whether it's a manufacturer, sales rep, service provider really think that through. And I know sometimes it just seems intuitive like yeah, at least I got it. Some customers need me to be on call for them and some don't, or whatever, like it sounds easy enough when you say it, but are we really absorbing it? Are we really acting in that manner? And so many times you might say, well, yeah, everyone does need a little bit different, but it's too costly to provide this for this person, this for that person, this for this person. There has to be commonality, and I get it and of course there is going to be. But if you have a customer that just needs a response they just need to know that their email was received, whether or not you are able to reply back right away then you need to make sure you have your out of office on when you have your scheduled day off during the week, something, anything. That's one tiny little thing. But customer needs are not one size fits all. Some customers are totally fine waiting a few days for an answer back on something. Now I don't believe that's how anybody should ever operate, but there is a world in which we need to know and understand the needs of each particular customer. Or perhaps a customer is prefers sometimes, like my dad is one of these. He prefers to be a bit more self, sufficient, he prefers to be given some information that he can read. He comes from a very scientific background and he would like to be able to research things on his own time with helpful information I provided, and then he'll come back with questions. So it's just the point being to really think through is your processing serving the needs of the maximum amount of your customers or are there tweaks? Are your salespeople identifying the homeowners, the clients who might need a bit more attention, who have never been through this process of building a home before and might have a little more anxiety or confusion or not understand the full process? Like, are we just? Are we just? Are we adjusting as needed to the particular needs of each customer of ours? And the other thing that I have found extremely valuable outside of, like you know, trying to walk through my entire sales experience, start to finish. Is this really serving my needs as the business owner? Is it serving the needs of the customer and really taking ego out of it and just looking at it, analyzing it? Is this appropriate for us? The other fun actually thought experiment is to think about what your favorite moments as a customer have been in any situation buying jewelry, buying, appliances, buying, I don't know, going to the doctor, whatever it is. What have your favorite experiences as a consumer is a customer been, and how can you replicate a version of that in your business? So Like there's just so many like fun nuggets you can get as a brick and mortar showroom business and when you're out in the world of like just a great salesperson experience. And I think oftentimes my best experiences have come back to a salesperson or a selling environment where the salesperson is just so knowledgeable and attentive that it just eases like all pressure of like. Okay, maybe this is more than I wanted to spend, or maybe they were able to show me this other thing I didn't even know about. Maybe they actually saved me some money because I came in thinking I had to have this thing or this brand, but they showed me these other features of something I haven't heard of and maybe it ended up saving me money here just so many little instances of being a consumer that maybe you can take just little pieces of that back to your store. Whether it's the type of refreshments they offered their customers, did they have maybe not just coffee and water, but sodas, or whatever it is that you really was a value add to your experience as a customer. What can you pick from that and take it back? Was it a small, locally owned business but then they had very easy like email communication or a customer portal or something that just made it that much easier to shop with them? Like, what are the little things you've experienced out there in the world? Was it they had great social media and you just felt connected with the business right off the bat? Was it the merchandising in their space that just really invited you in and made you feel welcome and warm in the space? What was it about a great shopping experience you had that really elevated it, that really took it to the next step, and what aspect of that experience can you repeat in your own business? Some of this is very intuitive. I know I'm not like setting the world on fire with these opinions. The point of this podcast is to stop and think about how your business is operating from an eagle eye view, because we do all get so into it, so focused on our day to day tasks, that we forget to step back and look at these things and the customers and the customers having a great experience is something we cannot ignore, no matter what part of this business you're in, it's something you cannot ignore and you cannot forget that you are the expert and that's why they're there. And don't get so blinded by your expertise that you forget that the customer in front of you doesn't share it and doesn't understand and might need a bit more explanation. They might have additional questions, they might not have any at all, and that's just great. But I do think sometimes we get so into our processes and our day to day and I need to get this customer out of here because I need to answer these emails or I need to make these phone calls and we just get so wrapped up in that that we forget what the customer themselves is going through, what their experience is, and we really need to make sure that, as much as humanly possible, every customer has a fantastic experience in our stores from start to finish. So, as the average customer who Gods Just really? I'd encourage everyone again, no matter what your portion of the lighting industry business is, I would really encourage everyone to step back and think about your customer process. I would encourage you maybe to reach out to a customer or two that you have a really great close relationship with and ask them what are some things that we could be doing better for you as you bring your customers in. If you have a great close designer you work with, what's something we could offer to make your experience in our showroom that much better? And maybe they say nothing it's absolutely perfect, we adore you. Fantastic, that's what we want to hear. But maybe they have a little tidbit for you. Maybe they say every time we talk about ceiling fans, the homeowners always get so confused about Cfms and I feel like we never really talk about what a great ceiling fan is or what sets the. You know the price difference or whatever. It could be something as easy as that that you're just glossing by because you already know this stuff, but your customer doesn't fully get the picture and just a small course correction can really set everybody up for more success. If you're a service provider providing a tool for industry, is it clear how to use all aspects of that tool? Have you communicated with your customers all of the possible options? Or, if you feel like you have, but understand they're not being used in the right way, have you been reinforcing that message of hey, maybe you forgot you can do this or that? You know because, as we use tools in our business, when it's a new tool for you, you're just getting to know it. You just kind of use it in a rudimentary fashion. Then, after months of gone by and you're well accustomed to the basics of the tool, but you've forgotten all the advanced functions that you know you were told about at the beginning, but you didn't quite. You weren't quite capable of using them then. So then, as you move along and you're a little more advanced, it might be worth it every six months to have a check in are you using this? Do you know about it? Do you have any further needs? So it's. This is in all areas of our industry. I really think we could all benefit from stepping back, viewing our businesses as a customer, might, might, and really thinking through all the particular needs of a customer and are we truly meeting them to the best of our ability and providing the best customer experience? It's really my mission for my store and I know it is for so many of you listening to this that also own brick and mortar showrooms. We just want to share our joy and love of lighting and fans with the world. We want them to have. We want our customers to have the best experience, to have fun while they're shopping for these pretty fun things for their home. We want them to be so pleased every Thanksgiving that they sit down, that they have that dining room chandelier. They want them to be happy every time they turn their foyer light on to welcome family and friends into their home. I know we all are aiming for these same great moments for our customers, so every now and again I think it's worth taking a step back, taking a really top level. Look about what that process is, from entry to exit point for every one of our customers. Are we really meeting their needs or have we just become processing procedures and maybe we need to make some refinements to make the experience better for everyone? All right, that's all for this time. Thank you again to Zastrow for sponsoring the podcast. I really appreciate you, and don't forget to mention the podcast when you sign up for your demo and get $500 off your purchase. It's a great deal. Don't miss it and it's absolutely worth checking out. All right, everyone. Until next time, take care.