Customer reviews are an opportunity

Customer reviews are an opportunity_HFA blog

My wife doesn’t know this, but one day (when the kids are older), I think I’ll be back in the retail game. Being in so many stores, I get a chance to critique a lot of things from visual, salesmanship, leadership, and merchandise style and value. I’ve often found myself thinking about what can be learned from the losses and enjoyed by the wins. Retail is very democratic, and, judging from customer reviews, the company that speaks to the customer the best will win the day.

I’ve been in more than a few Saturday morning meetings in my time to teach salespeople about products I’ve sold into their stores. Before turning the floor over to me, the manager would often remind the staff that a YELP review contest was still going on, so make sure you get customers to post reviews. This is a perfect example of a marketing manager trying to get a crystallized view of how customers are being treated at the store level. The sales side, being the nimble and creative group that they are, games the initiative to their financial benefit. Dangerous? Expensive? Dishonest? Absolutely!

As the person responsible for ensuring a store experience delivered to a customer – that exceeds expectations and follows the company’s prescribed methodology – offering a bonus for a good customer review is the laziest shortcut out there. Look around the corner and see how that will wind up. Sure great customer reviews look amazing, but when a consumer goes into a store expecting that same great service and does not receive it, the pending review of shame is sure not to exceed one sad and lonely little yellow star.

It’s tough to take care of all facets of your business AND stay on top of reviews, but those customer reviews are the lifeline of your future business. It’s your pipeline, and it’s a way to ENGAGE WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS… So don’t stick your head in the sand. Instead, celebrate the time your customers take to share their experiences with you, good and bad.

If that day ever comes when I dust off one of the retail furniture concepts I have swimming in my mind, I’d like to think that the insights my customers share with me will be the greatest source of opportunity and validation by which to run my business. Customers are brutal, that’s true. But maybe they’re brutal because they feel like they need to be to get satisfaction. Some things I would love to see in my customer reviews would be:

  • Our salesperson Paul was a pure delight. Knowledgeable in not only your products but inventory availability. We found the perfect item, and delivery was as easy as can be. Thanks, Paul and the whole team at Wild Jon’s Wacky Sofa Emporium, for making the process easy, quick, and even fun!
  • Your store was bright, clean, and fresh. The vibe of your store matches your Instagram ads, and we had a lot of fun picking out our new living room furniture. The problem is I was so inspired by the vibe of your store that now I want to redecorate my whole house!
  • Why is everything that you have modern? I am looking for a traditional living room and dining room set like the one I grew up with and can’t seem to find it anywhere. It’s so frustrating. I want solid wood and quality products. – Gary P.
    • Response: Hi Gary, and thank you for your comment. I’m Wild Jon, and I wanted you to know that I read every comment and take to heart what the people in our community say about their experience with us. To be honest with you, I wish there were more solid wood options because you are not the first to request this. We have tried to bring in some solid wood pieces that were more traditional in design, but they didn’t sell very well, and so we had to sell what we had from the floor. However, I still have the information and some of the wood samples in my office, and it would be a pleasure to show you what we can special order for you. Please call me anytime at the store, and I can show you what’s available or email me at
  • I visited your store Saturday, and all your sales staff were busy with customers, so I walked around uninterrupted for twenty minutes or so and found something close to what I was looking for. No one was available to help me out, so I went to the counter to see anyone else. Tammy apologized and said even the owner was with a customer because all the salespeople were with appointments and suggested it would be good to make one since they get a little busy. WOW! An appointment? I made an appointment for the next day and fortunately had the pleasure of working with Denise. I bought the sofa I wanted… AND a love seat… AND an occasional table… AND some wall art, two rugs, and the matching dining set. I can’t believe it! The credit was easy and fast to apply for, and the payments fit our budget, so we figured why not. I’ll never buy furniture anywhere else!

I know that getting customer reviews like these ain’t easy, and it takes an unbelievable amount of intention, culture, and leadership to get there. Every customer has to count. They have to matter, and you have to believe that they are the sole reason for your existence because no one else will give you their money. The customer that buys that ADV recliner for $299 is the same customer that will tell her kids how great you were to her and send them in to buy from you. She may be moving and need a whole house of stuff. You never know. If you truly believe that they matter (and preach that every day to your staff through every level of the organization), then the fruits of reviews like these will be yours to revel in from now until the day you either sell, retire or become complacent. And with that comes market domination.

Jonathan Schulman

Jonathan Schulman started in his father’s Los Angeles case goods factory, working the floor during college at Shelves and Cabinets in San Diego, and then owning his own stores that he later parlayed into a few Ashley Homestore locations. For several years, Jonathan was on the road as a furniture rep for the AICO family for his first eight years, then as a multi-line rep. Jonathan is the current President of IHFRA.

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