If I were to buy furniture today…Part 1

Rooom & Board sign

On a recent trip to Seattle’s University Village (an outdoor shopping mall), my wife and I decided to make a visit to Room & Board Home Furnishings. We have always liked their product and since they are not now located in Portland, this was our chance to check out their latest selections.

When we walked in the front door of the store we immediately saw two employees.  They were  strategically positioned next to the front of store featured furniture display  and at the edge of the drive aisle leading around the store. I assumed that they were there to greet customers entering the store.  That was a rash assumption.

We should have gotten a “Welcome to the store” and an offering help upon entering.  Nope.  I thought I would get a “Good afternoon.” Nope.  I thought we would at least garner some eye contact, a smile or a nod.  Nope.

I was tempted to turn and leave the store immediately reinforcing the research that a customer decides within 10 seconds whether they are inclined to spend money in your store or not.  But, as I said, this was a rare chance for us to check out the store, so we continued.  My wife spotted some dining side chairs that she liked and she began to carefully read the labels on the chair while she tried them out.  Both of these could be considered potential buying indicators, but neither of the employees responded to her even though she was in their line of sight and only 20 feet away.  Still no movement.

Our next stop was a small room to the right of the door.  As we entered the room, we heard the two employees offer a friendly farewell to customers leaving the store.

Ah, they were not “greeters,” they were “good byers.”

After finishing in the room, we walked past the employees once again as they continued to ignore us.  Soon we were sitting on a couch that we thought was attractive, again within clear view of yet another unengaged employee.  Reading the tags and checking out the swatch samples, we talked excitedly about the couch and how well it would replace our current couch.  Again, no employee approached us.

Our wanderings continued unencumbered as we passed more unengaged employees in the quiet store; all the while checking out furniture and accessories that we could easily envision in our home.  But no one wanted to help us and no one seemed interested in our money.

Teachable Moments

In my emails today I received a job alert from Duke Careers.  There was a job posting from Room & Board.  They are looking for a “Design Associate” and I began to wonder if that is the title for their sales floor staff, so I opened up the posting.  Yes, in fact, Design Associates are Crate & Barrel’s frontline staff.  Given my recent experience, I read the job posting with great interest.  I ran across a few key yet ignored phrases describing their work.

We value our customers and consider it a privilege to help them create homes they love.

Our Design Associates are the cornerstone of the customer experience. Working closely with our customers, Design Associates inspire customers and help them create homes they love.

While many of our Design Associates have previous retail experience, they are first and foremost passionate about home furnishings and offer exceptional service to our customers.

Our Design Associates’ strengths include:  Providing professional, relationship-based sales experiences to customers…Leading with questions and incorporating a customer’s personal style and functional requirements to offer the best solution.

All of this is impossible, if Design Associates (DA) fail to greet and engage customers.

Taking this further, I hope that the DAs that day were merely lazy.  They certainly were not busy nor were they overrun with customers.  But I wonder if, even worse than laziness, the staff had looked at us and decided that we were not likely customers or that we did not have sufficient means to make a purchase in their store.  Perhaps, they looked at us and decided we were not the type of visitor that they liked to work with.

Regardless, a manager should coach each and every one of the 6-7 staffers we walked by as we walked through the store.  And if the “greetlessness” continues, changes should be made.

After all, my wife and I could always go home and order furniture on Wayfair.com.

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