Tom Cohn | October 7, 2021
The numbers are shocking. According to a recent Pew poll, less than 25% of Americans trust the federal government to do the right thing. And it’s not just Uncle Sam. About a quarter of the US population is non-religious. One-third of Americans don’t trust the media to tell the truth, and according to Gallup, it’s hit an all-time high.
Can you blame people for being skeptical, tired, and suspicious? There have been monumental leadership errors, fraudulent practices, the use of “alternate facts” and direct deception from brands, the government, public figures and media that once provided a definitive perspective on the day’s news. Unfortunately there is no longer Walter Cronkite.
Become a trusted resource
In the midst of ongoing pandemic concerns, booming business volumes and unprecedented challenges in the supply chain, how does a kitchen and bathroom showroom win and maintain the trust of a skeptical customer base and market?
In her new book Trustworthy: How the Smartest Brands Overcome Cynicism and Bridge the Trust Gap, Margot Bloomstein offers a process to become a trusted resource for a showroom’s customer base. This roadmap has three parts: voice, volume, and vulnerability.
Voice refers to the consistent and familiar way in which a brand interacts with its market, both verbally and visually. A brand’s voice highlights the key features and characteristics of a showroom or design-build organization.
Volume refers to the amount of information a brand produces and determines how much content is enough. If you look at the kitchen and bathroom exhibition websites, most of them have a portrait or project gallery with lots of kitchen pictures. Where this use of images falls short is that there are usually just images with no explanation of anything. It’s volume for volume’s sake, and all too often it’s numbing. Do you really think that posting pictures of 50 different kitchens will call out “Trust us” to your customer base?
Showroom customers want and need confirmation. They want to rely on their knowledge and ability to make the right decisions for their project. You need showrooms to make them smarter. Showrooms can gain trust by teaching their customers to trust themselves by providing information and resources that make decision making and collaboration with a showroom easier.
At TraVek (Scottsdale, AZ), teaching customers to trust themselves begins and ends with strong communication and education. The showroom builds trust in its market by offering monthly remodeling seminars in the showroom, sharing dinner with an average crowd of 20-25 homeowners, explaining what to do with the renovation process, information they need to know, expectations, schedules, how to do it Interview and evaluation of contractors and price points to consider.
TraVek’s Susan Raisanen explains that building trust begins with an initial meeting with a customer at home, which all decision makers must attend. Schedules are explained and agreed upon, which is especially important in today’s environment where many showrooms may not be able to deliver products or launch projects four to six months after the contract is signed. TraVek continues to communicate with any customer who waits weekly, via a phone call, email or SMS, depending on which customer prefers the messages. “Even if the message has not changed, you can reach the customer with a weekly contact point that tells you: ‘You have not been forgotten, we still take care of you’, and that contributes to the trust factor with our showroom to strengthen ”, called Raisanen.
At Murphy Bros. Design, Build, Remodel (Blaine, MN), the new supply chain paradigm has transformed the approach to sales. John Murphy explains, “We are completely transparent with customers, especially during the first few meetings. Realistic schedules are presented, goals set and market conditions shared. We have even modified our proposals to show the potential for delays in the project scope at the beginning, in the middle and before a project can be completed. We have found that customers understand and recognize that other industries face similar challenges when we set expectations in the run-up to projects. “
Murphy Bros. also encourages customers to select a Plan B for each product type in the event of unexpected production delays and distracts customers from products that are known to be unable to meet deadlines. The company has also set up a small woodworking workshop in the back of its facility and hired a full-time woodworker to build bespoke cabinets when there is an immediate need for products that are not available through traditional channels.
Vulnerability refers to the uncertainty that arises when your company is exposed to risk and criticism in hopes of improving, finding support, or connecting with those who share similar values. Bloomstein claims that vulnerability is a strength of the company. It trades the security of safer bets and the certainty of how z are honest and have realistic expectations.
Vulnerability is how a company makes its values visible, how it has flaws, how it deals with the unexpected, and how values are expressed and why.
Richard Campbell (Bath, Kitchen & Tile Center with three showrooms in Delaware and one in Maryland) was not well received by his builder clientele when he informed them of product delays and unidentifiable delivery dates. “Almost all of our major builders told us they were leaving only to find that other destinations were having the same problems as us. We understand what our builders’ priorities are and have started developing solutions to meet them, e.g.
Bath, Kitchen and Tile has forged stronger partnerships with its builder clientele by working together to develop supply chain solutions. “You build trust by recognizing the customer and explaining that we are there together. Let’s develop solutions and offer options that work when others in the industry come to terms with the belief that there is nothing they can do, ”said Campbell.
Tom Caruso (Caruso Cabinets, Avon, OH) changed his business model to capitalize on the surge in new home construction. He, too, orders cupboards before a house is framed and orders truckloads of products every week. This has given Caruso the flexibility to switch when needed and deliver products based on the progress of a project, customer needs and top priorities.
Bellmont Hardware’s showrooms in the San Francisco Bay Area offer personalized communication with customers by relocating only by appointment. “This allows our sales team to pay undivided attention, which leads to more credibility and trust with customers,” said the general manager of the related company, who also happens to be named Rich Campbell.
Bath Kitchen & Tile, TraVek, Caruso Cabinets, Murphy Bros., Bellmont, and others advise their customers not to start demolishing until all products have been delivered. Most customers have come to terms with the longer deadlines and patience. Bath Kitchen & Tile has offered its customers a financing option that has been well received as payment only starts when the products are delivered. The company is also developing an automated communication system that informs customers about the status of their project every two to three weeks with different messages that keep excitement high, tell customers how important they are, and encourage contact with the showroom if they have any questions. The message is that Bath Kitchen & Tile wants to hear from their customers and speak to them while they wait.
You can’t have many points of contact in this setting, claims Brendon Murphy (Charleston Cabinetry & Countertops, LLC). In initial discussions with customers, he explains the 10 phases of a project from the first design consultation to customer approval at the end. “Reviewing each phase of the product sends the message that we want our customers to understand what this is about and shows that our approach is well organized and thoughtful, which helps build trust,” said Murphy.
Many showrooms have found that the dark cloud of the supply chain has a silver lining. Tom Caruso explained, “Because of the lead times, our attention to detail has never been so strong. We double-check and double-check every order to avoid mistakes, because if a problem arises it can take four months or more to resolve. “
Brendon Murphy sends his clients a message that he needs their help getting them what they want. In the first few conversations he asks the customers how much they want to invest in their property and explains that it is his goal to give the home more value in the end than they have invested.
Kitchen and bathroom showrooms can build consumer trust by effectively meeting customer expectations, using their voice at the right volume, making it easy to do business with at every stage of the customer journey, and making yourself vulnerable by explaining how to approach challenges and problems with transparency and honesty. And the entire industry can benefit from the wise advice from Mark Twain who said, “If you are telling the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” ▪
Tom Cohn is acting as the exec. vp of the Bath & Kitchen Business Group and President of Cohn Communications, Inc., a full-service strategic marketing and public relations agency headquartered in Bethesda, MD.