Stop Chasing the Business Away

Is your company easy or hard to do business with?

Does your organization have a destructive habit of chasing business away without really meaning to, or even realizing it as if it had a case of corporate body odor or bad breath? Are your prospects excited and pleased by your company's overall approach, or are they left frustrated, dazed and angered by the way you do business?

Those are questions that kitchen and bath dealers, distributors and manufacturers need to ask themselves every day they're open for business.

The good news, of course, is that many already are asking those questions. Others, sad to say, are apparently ignoring the questions altogether remaining insensitive to important consumer buying needs and oblivious to key operational issues . . . all the while turning prospects off and potential business away.

Ironically, most of these turn-offs aren't deliberate. But they might just as well be, because their impact on a company's bottom line can be just as damaging as if they were intended.

One kitchen designer I know of call her Jane Doe recently wrote to six cabinet manufacturers in search of a supplier on the West Coast. Ms. Doe included specs for two projects she was handling both pretty straightforward and not requiring unusual components and asked if the cabinet companies could supply either project.

Guess how many of the six companies bothered to respond?

The answer? Two. Neither of which had a door style compatible to either project.

"But what about the four companies that didn't respond?" an exasperated Jane Doe asks. "Do they have so much work that even a courtesy phone call is beyond them? How can we get companies like this to be more responsible and responsive?"
My answer? I'm not sure.

One thing I am sure of, however, is that Jane Doe won't be contacting those unresponsive cabinet companies for business, ever again. I'm fairly certain, too, that these kinds of maddening "transactional turn-offs" quietly kill off millions of dollars in sales each year throughout the kitchen and bath industry.

Take the case, for example, of Stephen Wells, CKD, a dealer in Oklahoma City. Wells, a 17-year industry veteran, writes in this month's issue of Kitchen & Bath Design News (Page 46) that he's had it just about up to here with inconsiderate, cold-calling sales reps who barge into his showroom unannounced and expect a captive audience while they pitch the virtues of some product line Wells has no interest in to begin with.

Wells suggests, understandably, that's there's no way he'll ever buy from those unwelcome reps, regardless of how great their products are. In fact, Wells now makes his displeasure known to them by actually billing the reps a hundred and fifty bucks an hour for the time he spends with them at the expense of his own clients.

Stories like those of Wells and Doe, in one form or another, are far too pervasive to remain unaddressed. And dealers and designers, it should be noted, are not just innocent parties to these kinds of customer-service gaffes.

I've heard cases of receptionists at design firms putting callers on hold for what seems like an eternity before coming back with an arrogant, standoffish attitude. I've heard of cases in which delivery or installation personnel were so crass that the homeowners wanted to turn away a truckload of products they'd already spent thousands of dollars on. I've heard of cases in which homeowners, for the life of them, couldn't figure out exactly what was being offered, or how to buy it, or how it works, or who to even ask about it.

These kinds of commonplace occurrences are inexcusable in a business climate in which
customer-service standards are being raised, not lowered.

It's imperative that kitchen and bath product marketers monitor their service standards constantly in search of commissions and omissions that might discourage a prospect from buying and fix those problems as soon as they're uncovered.

If your company suffers from a case of body odor or bad breath, you better apply some remedy to it fast, before people decide the best way to deal with you is simply to keep their distance.