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Create Lasting Impressions By Listening

By Renee Kaiser Electrolux Home Care Products

As summer activities begin to wind down, it's time for floor care dealers to take a hard look at the business year to date. Doing so might not only help you achieve a successful fall to year-end finish, but also it can guide you in creating your business plan for 2013.

Sometimes taking that hard look can be a challenge. After all, you've poured your heart and soul into your business all year. If you're like most dealers, you've had some successes. Your local economy may be improving. You may think you've done everything the right way. Then again, maybe there are a few things you could do better.

Consider reaching out to your customers to get some honest feedback about what you do well and how you might improve. Many of our best BEAM, Electrolux and Sanitaire dealers send out questionnaires to their customers to determine how satisfied they are with the sales, service, installation experience and performance of the products they buy. Telephone surveys and on-line tools such as Survey Monkey make it easy to administer, participate in and gather survey results.

Another way to ensure that your customer's voice is incorporated into your business is to invite a group of recent and long-term customers to lunch and ask them some questions – in other words, assemble a focus group. This may be more expensive because you really should compensate participants for their time. Your Electrolux sales representative or a marketing firm can help you determine the best approach and also help you design a questionnaire that captures the most useful information such as:

• What is their impression of your showroom? Location, cleanliness, layout, point-of-sale information can greatly affect whether they will buy and how much they might spend.

• What is their impression of your sales and service teams? A key reason many consumers choose independent dealers over mass retailers is the assisted sales process. They expect your sales, service and installation teams to look professional and to be highly knowledgeable about your product lineup.

• What is their impression of your advertising and promotions? Just like your showroom and staff, your marketing materials should look clean and professional and demonstrate your knowledge.

• What is their impression of your products? Regardless of how well consumers like your showroom, your staff or your ads, the customer's experience with your products can either entice them to return or convince them to shop elsewhere. You could find out about an unknown problem that could have been solved easily.

The kind of information you receive from talking to consumers may help you determine the type of support you request from your manufacturing supply partners. Advertising, website templates, co-op programs, staff training, signage, display units, point-of-sale materials and even apparel might be a good fit. Perhaps there are other custom solutions that your manufacturing supply partners may offer.

The bottom line is that when businesses listen, they leave long lasting, positive impressions with their customers, and that's good for business.

Renee Kaiser is area sales director for Electrolux Home Care Products. A veteran of the home care products industry, she makes her home in Florida.

Reprinted from Floor Care & Central Vac Professional, August 2012