NOT Too Much Information

It was a phone call with a design question. It was a deeply detailed conversation about an ottoman, and it was going to take some time. She had very pertinent questions about design considerations and materials. And unexpectedly, she detoured directly into a personal conversation.

She talked about her transition in life, her new home, and how she didn’t have very much money to spend, but she loved spending it on well-made and beautiful furniture. And most exciting of all, she was about to become a single mom to a 12 year old girl from another state who would need a bed.

I couldn’t resist asking how that incredible choice evolved for her, and she was pleased to share it with me. I could tell she was excited, but her quiet tone suggested she fully understood the enormity of her new life and the fears that come from not knowing. Would they like each other? Would they be close? Would she like being a mom, and would her daughter like being her daughter?

Her new daughter likes to play soccer. That, and her age, is what she knows.

Her new daughter’s room is small. She has never had her own room and often shared a bed. We talked about how to choose a bed that was feminine (but not too little girly) and something that would grow with her. We looked at beds that would be mindful of a budget but still feel like an indulgence for her daughter. She ended up finding the perfect piece on her own, and I was blown away at its perfection for her. The Webster Twin Bed in METALLIC GOLD.

WEBSTER

Indulgent.

Maybe also royal, athletic, simple, extravagant, or even girly.

Our relationships with our customers are at the heart of our business, and our furniture often joins someone during a meaningful time in their lives. This new mom-to-be talked through all of the most poignant considerations for her daughter’s bed with me. I felt grateful for our conversation and have no doubt that her thoughtfulness will be at the heart of her new success as a mom.

Advertisements

You have not reached a recording…

It happens every so often, probably once a week. Even so, it catches me a little by surprise every time and (honestly) amuses me.

It’s the response to my telephone greeting.

”Are you a computer?” or “Is this a person?” or “Hello? Is this a recording?”

My true favorite? “Are you a human?”

At Shop From Home, both sides of the brain get a workout. We need to simultaneously be able to compute an entire room’s worth of furniture dimensions and create that space to reflect the customer’s personality and vibe. We take the time with each person to empathize and problem-solve, but we also run reports in our heads to make sure we are meeting their needs while preserving the health of the business. Because we are autonomous in our roles, we must be knowledgeable in the black and white fundamentals of our company (numbers, numbers, numbers). And, at the same time, we are only great in our roles if we can connect personally, be creative, and communicate through descriptive but concise language.

Efficiency is a necessary trait, but so is inventiveness and the ability to meaningfully engage.

When you reach us at Shop From Home, you won’t get a computer, but you will get a human machine.

Are you the next icon?

During the last few months here at our Central Campus, the new 2015 collection arrived piece by piece. At Shop From Home, we are in the unique position to interact with our customers and also have full access to all of the behind-the-scenes buzz in the company. We get to explore the photography sets, see the evolving prototypes in the “Lab”, and contribute input regarding product development.

This all comes together back in our Central Lab every autumn. Picture a high-ceilinged immaculate warehouse space divided into open rooms, some with experimental paint colors & display pedestals, and some with staged wood flooring. Each space contains vignettes with designs from our new collection, and we get to inspect, measure, and use the furniture so we can help our customers “explore” the collection in our phone conversations once it’s unveiled in late December.

Every year, without fail, there is that one piece that stands alone. It’s the one we’ve watched grow through the steps it takes to create a new design. We’ve seen the collaborative efforts between the designer, the maker, and the research team. Back in the lab, there it sits…a beautiful and complete piece.

And every year I wonder to myself, “Are you the next icon?” Are you the chair that, 30 years from now, design students will reference or interior designers will insist be the one thing that stays in a whole house remodel or collectors will exclaim, “You’ll never believe what I found today! A Paris chair circa 2015!” We all know those pieces. They are the Arne Jacobsen Egg Chairs and the Marcel Breuer Wassily Chairs of the furniture world. They are instantly recognizable and are equal parts furniture and sculpture.

Stay tuned. We were able to see our new Paris Chair in the Lab this fall, and you can see it sometime in 2015. It will be worth your wait, and it might just be the next icon.

Fall Challenge

So. I don’t work out. I grew up a dancer, but once it became obvious I was too short to dance for the New York City Ballet, I settled in and focused on the other form of exercise I love. Sitting.

Fortunately for my health, I work with very active and supportive exercise enthusiasts. We have a fitness center at our Central Campus that offers complimentary classes, yoga & Pilates instructors, a personal trainer, and a full workout facility.

This fall, I signed up for the Fall Fitness Challenge. I needed a personal goal structure to get back into a gym routine after working from home during the remodel here this summer. I expected it to be an individual activity, but we were quickly assigned to teams.

Flashback: I grew up a dancer for a reason. I wasn’t what you would call an asset to any athletic based “team”.

I suspect that there may be a few moments here and there when my new teammates will wonder how it’s possible for someone in a fitness challenge to earn so few points. After all, you can earn points by getting enough sleep at night. But even though I don’t know my teammates very well, here is something I do KNOW. I know they will be kind. I know they will be supportive in the face of frustration. I know they understand that not everyone’s personal challenge includes a 6 minute mile (for some of us, it’s drinking enough water) and still include me in their own personal successes.

Maybe I’ll have a breakthrough and commit to a regular Pilates class moving forward! That’s what a dancer would do.

Highlight(ers)

backpack

This is the perfect time of year to highlight one of the aspects of Room & Board that means the most to me. Each Room & Board location is partnered with a local non-profit chosen specifically by a team of people who work here. We support the non-profit through volunteerism, fundraising events, supply drives, and direct donation from Room & Board.

Thanks to the initiative of Design Associate, Margeaux, this fall our Central Campus collected school supplies for the students living in CommonBond housing (our charitable partner). As a mom, I’ve spent many hours hunting down affordable school supplies. Like all parents, I am vividly aware how the costs amass quickly. Most years, I have been fortunate enough to afford supplies for my own children and then some extras for donation.

For a family who is struggling financially, it is easy to spend two weeks worth of the food budget on supplies for two students. That is not an acceptable choice. I’m thankful to have the time and budget this year (and work with a company who prioritizes community) to help contribute supplies for families so no choice had to be made. It’s not solving every problem, but it was an opportunity to support other moms, dads, and caregivers…about 50+ of them when we all pitched in!

Good luck, students. You should be proud of the work you do in school each day, and I’m glad we were able to help!

Elevating Expectations

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.

Thank You Notes

This morning, I heard a story on NPR that discussed the fine print in mortgage documents, and the guest said something along the lines of, “We live in a culture where, if you complain, you will get results. But, complain nicely if you want the person at the other end of the line to do something for you.”

Well, obviously that makes sense.  Be nice. Because our Shop From Home department answers the phone calls that come directly to the 800 number as well as many that are routed to us from the stores, we take our fair share of concerns from customers or potential customers. That’s normal.

Something better than normal, and always endearing, is the daily thank you notes we receive from customers. Think about that for a moment; someone – no, a LOT of someones – took the time to write an email to thank their furniture company! Often, it’s when something went wrong, and we made it right.

“Wow! What great customer service. You have exceeded my expectations with efficiency of order, delivery, delivery persons, and your immediate contact and follow up with me.”

“I wouldn’t have ordered from your company if it weren’t for your expert advice and guidance! Also, the delivery men were fabulous too. Thank you. Thank you.”

“You guys are the best.  THANK YOU!”

“You have no idea how your response above made my day. THANK YOU VERY MUCH!!  You have truly demonstrated what a fabulous company Room & Board is.”

Our team, as well as all of the others here it takes to make a successful experience happen, flows through our work with relentless attention to detail. The result is that the customer receives what we truly intend: furniture they adore to help complete their home and the understanding that we value them. And it’s wonderful to hear we got it right.