MayKing Mistakes as a Local Business: The Follow Up

In my previous blog post, I outlined the importance of first impressions.  In this blog post, I want to explain about the importance of the follow up.  I will be the first to admit that following up is not my cup of tea and I don’t always follow up with everyone, but I do my very best (if they’re on Twitter, I will definitely give them a shout out to their business).  Back to my preferred local carpet guy and after our initial meeting, he explained my carpet options, agreed on a date of measuring the house for carpets and said that he would call back as soon as he had finished.

I waited eagerly but no call came.  I thought that I would wait a day: perhaps he had several places to measure up, or maybe he had a carpet installation.  He didn’t call the next day either, and so I finally gave him a call two days later.  He explained that he couldn’t get through to me on the number I’d given him, which was rather strange as I had received several calls throughout the day, but I gave him benefit of the doubt.  He explained that for one section of the house, he would have his colleague call me, and he would call me the next day to finalise the rest.  I waited a day for the rest of the quote.  Neither he or his colleague returned my call.

image by hobokengrace

I happened to be in the vicinity of local carpet guy’s showroom a couple of days later so I popped in and I explained that I had been waiting on his and his colleague’s call.  There was no apology or explanation, but he did proceed to give me all of the quote.  I left the place a little dejected.  Maybe he didn’t want my business.  I had expected to be asked when we would like to be booked in, or whether he required a deposit, but I received nothing.  After my experience, I reluctantly went into a big chain just to see what my experience would be there.

The showroom was laid out perfectly.  Big bright lights, free of clutter and easy for wannabe customers to walk around.  It’s kind of what you’d expect from a big corporate.  One of the sales assistants came over and asked my sister and I several questions.  He gave us a bit more advice than the local guy which I was extremely surprised at.  From past experience of going into large department stores and being served by a young college kid who had no experience and didn’t really want to be there, this sales guy’s knowledge, advice and customer service was surprisingly refreshing.  He booked an appointment for one of the guys to measure the place, and after the house was measured, the original sales guy followed up with a phone call a couple of hours later to see how we got on.

Surprisingly, the quote wasn’t very different to the local guy and so it left me with a dilemma.  Do I go corporate or do I shop local?  Do I choose excellent customer service with great follow up or go for the local guy whose customer service wasn’t entirely my cup of tea?  Price wasn’t a consideration because the quotes were both very similar.  Both products were of the same quality, so all I could to differentiate was the level of customer service.  After much deliberation, even though I had given the benefit of the doubt to local carpet guy several times, I reluctantly went with the corporate guy.  Following my decision, the corporate guy followed up my decision with an email confirmation; a text confirmation of date of installation and then a further email asking for customer feedback following the carpet fitting.  I still haven’t heard back from local carpet guy.

writing blog post ideas on my brand new carpet

What are your thoughts?  Was I wrong to go corporate (it certainly felt like it!), or should I have given local carpet guy one more chance?  Do you have any local business stories to share?

MayKing Mistakes as a Local Business: First Impressions

I’m in the middle of buying a house.  A new house requires carpets, right?  So I took myself to a couple of local carpet businesses.  Opposite the street were a couple of large chains, but I resisted the temptation of their large choice and huge discount signs plastered on the front.  I  decided I was going to support the local chap.  The local chap whose shop front wasn’t as flashy and inviting as the corporates but at least they did have some signage on the main road.  I walked into the showroom of the first local chap.

The presentation of the carpets were impressive.  Neatly displayed, plenty of signage to tell the customer where they were made in the UK (a big plus for me); the material of the carpets, cost per square foot and other great details  My parents, sister and I were greeted with a warm hello.  All looking good so far!

Now I’m not a shy wall flower so I walked up to the chap and asked him so basic questions.
“I know nothing about carpets” I declared, “so I was wondering whether you could help me by telling me about the difference between this carpet (points to carpet on my left), and this carpet (points to carpet next to it)?”  It wasn’t an unusual request I thought, I was certain he’d get asked that all the time.  So I await with abated breath with his answer momentarily, frighted for a split second that he may say something way too technical, something that I would’t be able to understand.  He is the expert right?  The conversations went a little like this:

Carpet Chap (CC): Err I don’t know.  I haven’t worked here for very long.
MK: Oh I see (smiles and cocks head to one side to show empathy), so how long have you worked here?
CC:  About 18 months.
MK: Oh. Err. Okay (tries a different tactic).  So can you tell me what your customers like?  What’s your most popular carpet?
CC: Err.  I’m not sure.

This goes on for quite some time, as I try to coax some useful information out of him, but to no avail, unfortunately.  In the end, I asked him to give me a ball park figure on a carpet I randomly chose.  He did manage to give me some calculations without using a calculator which was impressive (mental arithmetic was never my cup of tea) but we walked out of the showroom unsatisfied.

We then drove to the second local carpet business.  His opening hours were clearly marked on his website (he’s got a website – big plus!) but when we got there, there was a handwritten note to say that they were out.  There was no contact details on the note so we left and had to make arrangements for another trip later on in the week (cue sad face emoticon).

We returned later on in the week and this time we got lucky except that as soon as we popped in, the chap bellows “you’ve got 15 minutes before we close”.  What happened to the “hello, how are you today? Just letting you know we’re closing in 15 minutes?”  When I explained to him that we were wanting to carpet a whole house, his demeanour suddenly changed.  He put on a smile, walked towards us as he proceeded with a few pleasantries.  I was almost expecting him to roll the red carpet out and make me a cup of tea!

The show room was a mess though.  It was full of clutter and difficult for wannabe customers to walk around to touch the carpets, but I did forgive him when I asked the owner the same questions, I had asked the first local guy I visited.  The owner of this second local business was full of knowledge and answered my questions in layman’s terms and so I left the place walking on cloud nine compared to the other place.

Knowledge is key and I suspect that the guy from the first shop was obviously not the owner, but that doesn’t excuse him either.  Staff are an extension of your business and your brand, and if you can’t invest in training your staff, this will reflect badly on your business.  It will leave wannabe customers unsatisfied as I was. Before I went into business, I had a fulfilling career in Training and took pride in training my TEAm so that they could deliver training programmes to our clients.

When the first chap said he hadn’t been working in the business for very long, I could’ve forgiven him but 18 months is taking it a little too far.  Training your staff is so important. First impressions of your business is extremely important and lack of knowledge is certainly not going to win you brownie points.  First impressions is extremely important for both bricks and mortar and online businesses but I will be talking about mayking first impressions count online in a later blog post.

The first showroom was neat, product information prominently displayed.  Key features were highlighted on some brands and when you walked into the showroom, it was easy for customers to walk around.  The second showroom was, by contrast, cluttered, customers faced roadblocks throughout the showroom with carpet samples strewn across the floor, mayking it challenging for customers to walk around the place.  The owner was at the shop however, and despite the initial grunt, he was eventually courteous to me when he realised I was serious about buying carpets.  My own demeanour went from narked, to happy and back to being narked because of a lack of a followup but I’ll leave that for another blog post.

Do you have any great experiences or bad experiences of a local business to share?  I would love to hear from you in the comments below, but just leave the name of the local business out. I don’t like to name and shame here.