The plan was for Simon’s Furniture, Mattresses & Appliances to implement the web-based communications tool Greenboard in May to see how it helped unify a sometimes disjointed sales process.
The coronavirus changed that. In March, with most of his staff furloughed and only himself, his father and an operations manager running the store, Jared Simon decided to implement the new program to funnel all incoming calls, emails and website chats into one space. It didn’t take long for Simon to realize the power he had with Greenboard. Simon says Greenboard, a Home Furnishings Association Solution Partner, is going to be a must for retailers as shoppers visit furniture stores in any number of new ways over the next few years.
Greenboard software records information from every touchpoint — phone calls, emails, web forms, live chats, abandoned carts, failed payments and text messages — and stores that information in one central location. Any sales associate can then use the information to follow up with the customer by phone, email or text. That’s exactly what Simon has been doing the past six weeks, either from his empty showroom of his home office.
“There’s no more sticky notes for me, and that’s a huge relief,” says Simon. “Everything comes to me from chats, to emails, to phone calls, and Greenboard keeps it all organized for me. “I’m sitting at my desk at home with all the customer contacts, and I’m not feeling the least bit overwhelmed.”
Simon estimates he and his father, Kirk, are doing the work of three salespeople these days using Greenboard. That might not sound terribly impressive, but in the months to come Simon believes staffing will be hard to come by if employees choose not to go back to work for health fears. Simon believes the lingering effects of the pandemic will affect all of retail over the next year and maybe even longer. He’s already having to pay warehouse employees as much as $10 more an hour because finding people to deliver furniture and appliances to customers’ homes, he said, requires “hazard pay.”
“You need to offset that expense somewhere,” says Simon. “Greenboard is helping us by doing the job of one-and-a-half people so far.”
Determining qualified buyers
Greenboard is also helping Simon determine the most qualified of his customers because the software captures all the information about them when they visit the store’s website. That’s important when stores reopen and social distancing moves from walks around the park to walks around a showroom. Simon is inviting customers to his store for one-on-one appointments based on the information Greenboard captures.
“You see all the connections with the customer before you even invite them into your building,” he says. “We can see what they’ve been shopping, what they put in their cart and what was taken out. That way you can invite a much more qualified person and not someone who’s going to be coughing and sneezing and sitting on 14 sofas before walking out. Sometimes the qualified people just want to come in, touch the sofa, sit on it and buy. I think Greenboard is going to help us attract those people to the store.”
When a shopper emails a retailer’s store or e-commerce site, Greenboard automatically creates a customer profile. With caller ID integration, when a customer calls a store, Greenboard searches its database for an existing customer profile. If one exists, the pertinent information – name, salesperson who has worked with the customer’s financial information – shows up on a screen and is routed to the right salesperson. These days that’s usually Simon. If a profile doesn’t exist, Greenboard creates one.
What’s the importance of grabbing that information upfront? A lot, says Lenny Kharitonov, a former furniture retailer who created the software. The typical close ratio for a furniture store is anywhere from 22 percent to 30 percent, he says. If customer re-engage with customers a second or third time through Greenboard, that ratio can jump to as high as 70 percent, Kharitonov says.
“You can’t measure what it means to a customer when they get a call from your store to let them know you’re thinking of them,” he says. “Sometimes a customer leaves (a store) and gets caught up in other things even though they really are serious about making a furniture purchase. Greenboard keeps your sales associates and your store in front of them and lets them know you are serious, too.”
When a customer returns to a store, Greenboard has all his or her information stored, including what products he or she was looking for, with fabrics and finishes. “If the sales associate who first helped them isn’t in that day, there’s no catching up to speed, no confusion for the next associate who will be helping them,” says Kharitonov. “That makes for a better customer experience.”