Contacting a company is intimidating. Based on past encounters, or the storied experiences of others, we don’t expect thoughtful assistance when we call a company. We expect pushback or apathy, but reassurance and satisfaction are things we only hope for.
Room & Board is different. Our Shop From Home team uses a diverse skill set to solve problems via phone or email for the vast majority of the day. Whether it is space planning, accessorizing an almost finished room, finding a delivery route that will fit a customer’s schedule, or arranging for our service team to go to a customer’s home to repair a piece of furniture, we are almost always facilitating solutions for our customers.
And there is never a script.
What that means for our customers is that we have the freedom to listen, person to person, to their concerns. We have the education to understand what tools are at our disposal to help them. We have the autonomy to do the right thing for both our customer and our business. And at the end of the day, we have the peace of mind that comes from actively preserving our relationships with our customers.
With the freedom to approach every conversation as an opportunity to make a connection and solve an issue, each customer quickly feels reassured…especially if they initially had reservations about contacting us. We are decidedly unintimidating.
One of the great pleasures of my job is the autonomy I’m afforded to use my judgment when solving problems, managing orders and working with clients. I love that I actually get to use my brain! But truthfully this kind of independence wouldn’t be nearly as gratifying if it didn’t function within a robust constellation of support. Each successful customer experience is composed of countless conversations along multiple channels. From design associates to leadership, inventory associates to visual associates to service technicians – many different people have a hand in every single order. The trick is making all that cooperation feel seamless to the customer.
In my next few posts, I’m going to draw the curtain on these interactions to reveal the myriad ways Room & Board-ers from a variety of roles and locations come together behind the scenes to make things happen!
“The cyclists go on the third floor. Let’s put the golfers outside on the deck. Oh, and let the same gender dance group be over in the corner on the fourth floor – they need space for their rumba.” Not exactly words you think you’d hear in a home furnishings store.
Our store location in Washington DC began as a car dealership in the early 1900s. The original building had three floors with a showroom on the first and garages on the second and third floors. When Room & Board renovated the building, we added a fourth floor with an outdoor deck and sweeping views of the city. Because of the layout, it makes a great event space and we often host evenings with like-minded organizations – usually nonprofits.
On this particular evening Room & Board is hosting Team DC, an association of approximately 30 local LGTB community sports teams. Each team has set up an area within our third and fourth floors to try and sign up new players to their respective sports teams. With 500+ in attendance for the evening, it’s a lot of chaotic fun. Imagine it as freshman sign up week at college. Kind of.
Most events here are smaller and a little more subdued, but by acting as a host Room & Board has provided space for many worthwhile Washington DC organizations. We’ve hosted many events: a thank you event for an organization of accountants that offer free tax help to the poor during tax time, a celebration of heritage month for Asian/ Pacific Islanders, a fundraiser for a local women’s organization aimed at combating domestic violence, even a local group working to provide innovative theatrical programming around a musical core of opera, cabaret, poetry and song. So while it’s not exactly what you might expect from a home furnishings showroom, at Room & Board we’re more than just being a good retailer, we’re about being a good community partner as well.
We all have our favorite customers who simply brighten our day whenever they show up. Today my favorite customer came in to show her friend the choices she made for her new apartment. It is a new apartment complex going up in our neighborhood that won’t be ready until September 1st. I have seen her and helped her many times and enjoy every encounter.
This is a downsizing situation, so there are lots of considerations and she is reinventing her style. She has chosen the Reese, Chloe and Quinn in View eggplant. Her new bed will be the Avery in the Sunbrella pink to brighten her days. She has always been contemporary but hasn’t used as much color.
Room & Board has a great partnership with Bridging in Minneapolis. Bridging is a non-profit that allows people to choose donated furniture because they can’t afford it otherwise. We can pick up donated furniture that is still in good condition when we do deliveries for our customers and take the donation to Bridging. With my favorite customer, we will pick up the things she no longer has a place for. This benefits her and Bridging at the same time.
She came in to the store first thing this morning and her lovely spirit has made my day!
When I work with people in the store, I assume they think I’m just focused on selling them furniture. And while I do enjoy finding the right items for the customer’s needs, it’s often the connection with the customer that I remember most.
It may be finding out that my client has just moved from Seattle (a place I lived for a while back in the ‘90s) and being able to reminisce about the old “hood” and how things have changed. It may be learning that my client is working through the difficult journey of divorce and helping them create a calm, welcoming new home. Or it could be something as simple as witnessing the playful banter between a mother and son while picking out his first post-college furniture and remembering fondly my own relationship with my mother whom I lost several years ago.
With Room & Board we say we have a passion for helping you find the right furniture and accessories for your home. We also see you, our customer, as a person and enjoy the connection that comes from that.
Recently, I’ve been reflecting on the little stuff. There are so many “big” things we deal with on a daily basis, whether a multi-layered project or a room full of furnishings, that I think it is always worthwhile to remember that small details can have a large impact as well. One of the “little” things that makes a huge difference in our showrooms is the fact that we always have fresh flowers and real plants in our room settings. Our Visual Associate has partnered with a Design Associate to make weekly trips to a local flower market, which means that we occasionally get to see really unique flowers like the ones in the picture above. There are, of course, other flowers that are more standard. Right now I can think of a low vase with roses near the front of the store and two settings with orchids, too.
Not only are our flowers and plants real, but the fruit is, too. It is always amusing to see how many customers touch these display items and are surprised to find that they are not props. No bowls with fake fruit here! Those are real apples, real oranges, real lemons. We do have to keep a close eye on these fresh items to make sure they are presentable, but it is worth it. Having real items in our showroom helps to create a unique and engaging customer experience. These small touches may not seem like they are very significant, but they form an integral part of how we present our brand to the public and how we welcome customers into our showrooms.
In a few short months, the New York market will no longer be one singular brick and mortar storefront, but will, in fact, split into two Room & Board locations: Room & Board Chelsea, our new flagship store; and Room & Board Gallery, a new kind of hybrid retail/gallery space, which will showcase Room & Board’s American-made craftsmanship.
As we prepare for this transition, we are manning up, quite literally. In June, we welcomed three new Design Associates into the fold, and this week, six more began their training with us. Having been a part of the interviewing team, it is not only rewarding to see these new Design Associates take up their new roles, but it is also inspiring, and very refreshing, to be a part of their enthusiasm as we delve into our company’s Guiding Principles together. For me it ensures that, even as we grow and expand as a company, the core values from which we sprang will always keep us connected.