Flooring America is a division of CCA Global Partners the nation’s largest floor covering cooperative. With more than 500 independent, locally-owned flooring retailers, Flooring America’s member stores work hard every day to become the most recommended flooring stores in North America.
MO: Can you talk about your Five Star Selection System and how it can help guide customers through the decision making process?
Keith: The Five Star Selection System is a process in which most consumers are familiar. We use the rating system to give to everyone of our products in the system to help the customer to identify products from good, better and best trade up systems. We rate every product in our system from 1 to 5 (5 being best) based on performance, durability, wear, texture retention, etc. to help consumers understand the performance of the product as well as to help our sales professionals assist customers through our good, better, best merchandising system. We also use the Five Star rating system in our apps. Our My Floor Story iPad app allows consumers to rate our stores based on their experience within those stores. The consumer is able to rate the store, sales professional and the installer, which gives an aggregate rating for that store. Once again, it’s extremely simple and effective. More then the big box stores, reviews and recommendations from our customers are critical to our success. Since the majority of our business comes from referrals and returning customers, we absolutely care about what consumers are saying about us. Yes, we love good reviews, but we also want to know about bad reviews so that we can react to it immediately. We constantly monitor the web and social media because a satisfied customer is paramount. The goal is to exceed customers’ expectations and work toward our goal of becoming the most recommended flooring retailer in North America.
MO: What are some trends in the flooring industry that you’re excited about?
Keith: I think the biggest trend that we are seeing is the consumers desire to have our sales professional be able to discuss overall home décor trends from color palettes to flooring trends. The expectation is no longer to come into one of our stores and just purchase flooring or tile, they’re purchasing home fashion and decor. Color matters to the consumer. This is why as an organization we go to great lengths via our training to ensure that Flooring America’s members have access to the latest interior design trends.
In our case our members know to work with the consumers to allow the carpet or hard surface to become the “anchor” and “foundation color” and our sales professionals are encouraged to work with the customer to add color elements through walls, accessories, furnishings, etc. The business today is more about home fashion and we are ensuring that our members have access to the latest tools to improve the customer experience.
Another trend that we are seeing today is in the variety of flooring products available from the softness of carpets and the species of flooring to the sizes of tile.
MO: What are some strategies that helped contribute to your growing membership over the last two years?
Keith: I truly believe that taking a forward-thinking approach to the way in which our members differentiate themselves to their customers in the market has contributed to our membership growing over the last two years.
We have spent the last two years developing a strong blueprint for the brand, with our innovative digital marketing strategy that empowers our independent retail members with best-in-class technology to build stronger relationships with customers on a local level, while simultaneously creating enormous awareness for the Flooring America brand nationally.
The three major elements of the program include:
• FAST (Flooring America Social Tools): a turnkey, local social media management, monitoring and customer engagement platform that syndicates relevant content from Flooring America and Flooring Canada member stores to consumers.
• CASH (Customer Assessment Sales Helper): a sales professional tool to help qualify customers and guide sales professionals to match customers with the right product. CASH integrates with Flooring America’s CRM system to enhance customer satisfaction. It delivers real-time messaging, a budget builder and finance application.
• My Floor Story: a recommendation and review app available for consumers to rate their experience at FA/FC stores and to share with others across their social channels. The app is available through the Apple store and Android marketplace.
To date we have seen tremendous success of the FAST and CASH programs, with over 500 published customer reviews and testimonials posted in less than three months. Additionally, this spring, Flooring America will be launching our Where Friends Send Friends Mobile Marketing tour, a 10-city tour to obtain real customer feedback and testimonials for use in future television and online marketing campaigns.
People trust friends and online reviews from consumers. These recommendations are more important than what we have to say about ourselves. This represents a huge opportunity for Flooring America’s retailers to leverage the voice of their local community while leveling the playing field against the big box behemoths in the industry by capitalizing on the recommendations and referrals of friends.
MO: Can you talk about the process and significance of forming strategic partnerships to help Flooring America’s independent retailers get in front of new customers?
Keith: The world is getting smaller by the day. As a business, we would be remiss to go at it alone when you can partner with other businesses that which you are well aligned. Flooring America recently forged a partnership with Stanley Steemer. Together, we see several million customers a year. This is a tremendous opportunity since there are so many synergies between our businesses that allow us to leverage each other’s brand equity in the marketplace while driving sales to each other’s businesses. We have already witnessed success from the partnership in the pilot program we ran where Flooring America stores were receiving great commercial leads from Stanley Steemer within the first week of our partnership. On the flip side, Flooring America members have provided steady leads as well. The opportunity is tremendous for us both to grow and be exposed to new customers.
MO: What advice would you give to a potential customer who would love to have new flooring in their home or business but are intimidated by the process and cost of a large project?
Keith: The first step a consumer should take before making any purchase and to go online and do research. By taking this step and doing homework in advance, consumers can eliminate feeling intimated by the process of embarking on a large renovation project. Second, It’s important for consumers to not be fooled by gimmicks and think that they can get the best deal from one of the big box stores in town. More often then not, the small independent retailers can offer you the same deal or beat a price. is critical that consumers look at reviews and customer testimonials for the stores they are considering purchasing from. Flooring is most likely the third largest consumer purchase made after their home and their car. Protect your investment by going with a reputable, local company like Flooring America. Lastly, when possible, consumers should consider buying local all the time. When a consumer buys from the independent retailer, they are choosing to keep the dollars in their communities. Most small business owners sponsor the town’s sports teams, girl/boy scout troops and local charities.
MO: If I could grant you one business related wish right now, what would you as for?
Keith: It’s no secret that small businesses suffered the most throughout the latest recession. We have started to SEE positive growth within the housing sector over the past several months. My wish is that we continue to see positive growth in the housing sector, home values continue to rise and consumers start making home improvements they have postponed over the last five years.