Published in Garden and Hardware News, Friday 19 October 2012

Keeping The Customer Happy: Sofa Stories

Two of my favourite anecdotes about the customer experience come courtesy of the humble sofa.

A while back, I’d ordered a new sofa from a well-known, high street retailer.

The first thing the delivery driver said to me as I opened the door was, ‘Sorry it’s not the right van. We can come back another day if you’d like’.

I wasn’t sure what he was alluding to, so I confirmed the most crucial pieces of info. Yes, he did have my sofa and yes – he had got the correct address.

After the sofa had been installed and the delivery guy was about to take his leave, I asked him what he meant about the ‘right van’.

‘Oh’, he replied, ‘We’re in an unbranded van today’.

Still none the wiser, I pushed him further…

‘Well, I was just checking because some of our customers will send us away if we don’t come in the right van. They want one with the shop’s name and logo on it. It’s an important part of the whole thing. They want the neighbours to see they’re not buying any old rubbish!’

And that puts me in mind of another recent sofa experience.

I like to go to a famous Michelin-starred restaurant when time (and funds!) allow. On my last visit, I watched a guest vacate a particularly comfy sofa.

As if from nowhere, a member of staff appeared to plump the cushions in a most distinctive way.

I stopped to ask her about it. She said she’d actually been trained in the art of cushion-plumping and that it was imperative she did it in the correct manner every time. ‘Consistency gives results,’ she said. ‘And it’s my responsibility to keep them up to scratch…’

In that same restaurant, I noticed that the customer experience even extends to the length of the flower stems in each and every vase. They must be cut to an identical length so as not to overly distract or obscure diners when conversing over their dinner.

We may live in a high-speed, high-tech world – but it’s often still the little things that the customer appreciates, whether we realise it or not. And it’s getting those little things right time and again that makes the difference between the customer choosing you or going elsewhere.

James King has worked in the homes and garden sector for the past thirty years and is the founder and owner of Oliver James Garden Rooms, shortlisted for an International Design and Architecture Award 2012.

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