Having committed to undertaking a pricey kitchen renovation that may cost upwards of $50,000, imagine walking into a kitchen showroom and being greeted by a floor-to-ceiling photo of a smiling dozen, professional-looking people with an over-sized caption that reads: "You First. Your needs come first. We believe in being good listeners, respecting the demands on your time, protecting your home, and providing exceptional service. Welcome to Peterson Kitchen & Bath."
"Wow, this place must be special," you might think to yourself. "I haven't seen a customer-friendly approach like this before. This feels like the right kind of company to do our kitchen remodeling."
In the Popcorn Report, market research guru Faith Popcorn identifies "The Vigilante Consumer" as one of her 10 key consumer trends. She stresses that people want to know up front what a company stands for, how it will conduct business and what will happen if something goes wrong with its products or services. The marketer who does the best job in communicating this message of value to his/her potential customers will gain significant market share.
Has your company ever adopted a code of values? Following Popcorn's logic, it would make good business sense to identify and publish the values that consumers would find desirable in their kitchen remodeling source. But, to be effective, you need to look at this assignment totally from the consumer's perspective. For example, following are five important corporate values that embrace such a marketing strategy:
- Research. We believe that using both yours and ours is the foundation for receiving the greatest satisfaction from your time and dollar investment.
- Partnership. We believe each project is a team effort. An open exchange of information and ideas is paramount. Personalities need to mesh for a successful project.
- Selection. There are literally thousands of products on the market. It can be very confusing. While offering a good variety, we represent only those products with the best quality for the dollar within their respective quality grades. We are members in a national buying group to assure you of the best value in kitchen and bath products.
- Staff People. We are committed to having only the most qualified professionals work on your project from start to finish. We know from experience that their division of labor, and the quality of services they furnish, will ultimately have the greatest impact on the look and function of and satisfaction with the project.
- Trust. We believe in delivering what we promise no surprises and treating your home as if it was our own.
To have substance, this code of values must be written, signed off on by all staff members and be visible to your prospective clients. Frame it and hang it in a prominent place in your showroom. In addition, insert it as a sheet in your prospect information portfolio or as a page in your dealer capability brochure. That it bears the signatures of your entire staff will resonate well with prospects.
After all, every one of your competitors promises "good service." But how many are willing and able to supply the proof? A written code of values represents convincing evidence that your firm does more than just vocalize "good service." Yours has a staff committed to shared corporate values. As a result, your firm will be perceived as head-and-shoulders above the competition, making it easier for prospects to want you as their kitchen remodeler.
The next step is to synthesize the code of values into practical operating business standards to be published as part of your operations manual and followed on a daily basis. The purpose is to present a consistent, common professional identity to prospects and clients from one staff person to another or one store to the another.
The following represent seven key areas of operation where the code of values needs to be converted into everyday business standards that your staff will follow:
1. Office Procedures business hours, showroom duty assignments, etc.
2. Business Meetings frequency and content of staff meetings, training programs, etc.
3. Salutations on the telephone and in the showroom.
4. Appearance what's expected with personal dress, vehicles, showroom, work stations, etc.
5. Business Conduct with respect to general decorum, disparaging remarks, referrals, etc.
6. Business Presentation as reflected with consistency in logo, corporate identification program, business cards, signage, advertising, slogan, stationery, etc.
7. Business Performance with respect to lead follow-up, designs, contracts, deposit/orders, client communications during job, complaints, market research, quality control, etc.
As an example, what might your business standards say about proper decorum? How about: "Since proper decorum can enhance the impression of professionalism and responsibility in the minds of our clients, staff personnel should not make disparaging remarks about company personnel and subcontractors, or as to the competency of other firms engaged in similar kitchen remodeling activities, whether they are immediate competitors or not."
It is critically important to establish written business standards for your staff. How else are they going to know what you expect of them? How else are you going to be able to effectively manage and develop them? How else are you going to be assured that they are treating your customers properly?
The combination of a written code of values and set of business standards becomes the foundation of a strong corporate culture with a positive work environment. It has been my experience that firms that achieve this level of development retain highly skilled, productive employees for many years, rarely suffer slumps in business, and enjoy gross profit margins much higher than the industry norm. Simply put, setting business standards is good business.