Are Showrooms Becoming Obsolete?

During a recent morning meeting we were discussing the growing number of online shoppers and the difference between online and in-store shopping.  The golden phrase that kept lighting up the conversational scoreboard like a pinball machine was “customer service.”  As Design Associates, customer engagement is our number one priority.  All other tasks fall off the radar when there’s a customer in need — many a floor plan has been abandoned, and a showroom left  a bit unkept to attend to a customer. But to harp on the value of customer service — a broad, nebulous term — is meaningless unless we unpack the way people shop for furniture and how our particular brand of service can inform and transform that experience.

Whether they are shopping via our showroom, Shop from Home or the web — we’re available to guide their selections, make delivery arrangements, and follow-up after purchase.  We have built a website that gives many customers the confidence to make purchases without our assistance.  But the kinds of services vary by degree depending upon the channel used. When clients work with a design associate — either in the showroom or at Shop from Home — they get a very tailored experience.  We can give them detailed information about our products and help them uncover their needs — which often evolve as we go through the process.  There are so many factors to consider: the look and feel of the material, the construction of the piece, the size, scale and functionality, cohesion with other furnishings, not to mention determining whether the piece will even fit in the door.

In the showroom clients have the advantage of seeing and feeling the products for themselves. One of my colleagues compared the process to buying a car: you take it for a test drive first!  I can’t tell you how many times I have had someone come in thinking they wanted one thing, only to discover that the color is different in person, or the sit isn’t comfortable for them, or the scale isn’t right for the room.  Often customers come to the showroom expecting a quick transaction, and leave 3 hours later with only a portfolio.  Even if a client does all her homework before coming in, DA’s can be invaluable liaisons — helping her navigate the process.  We provide product expertise, design and floor planning services and narrow the selection in relevant ways, but we also build lasting relationships with our customers that make for seamless buying experiences.  It can be a lengthy endeavor, but given the financial investment and the sheer amount of variables, it’s worth taking the time to get it right!

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