Stop Outsourcing Your Core Competencies

Core Competencies

March 2017—

Own your service and customer relationships

As we ease into 2017’s second quarter, I want to give you something important to think about and, more importantly, consider your own retail business and how you can improve it. In my retail business, Gardner’s Mattress & More, we have a company culture based on several important core competencies that every team member understands and believes in.

Every store has a different set of core competencies. In my store they are:

  • Our ability to best assess your sleep needs and match them to our world-class sleep systems. We do this by using our world-famous sleep assessment process.
  • Our Dream Room, where you can “try before you buy” the mattress that you wish to purchase. By the way, we close 100 percent of those that use our Dream Room.
  • Our One-Year Comfort Guarantee that comes with the use of our Dream Room.
  • Our delivery process that includes literally rolling out the red carpet on your door step, foot protection, vacuuming under the bed and leaving a gift behind on every purchase regardless of purchase price. And we insist that our crew show up clean, well-spoken and presentable in company uniforms.
  • Our post-sale follow up process includes a phone call from our sales manager to ensure we fulfilled on our promise of helping you wake up happy and pain free.

Notice how different these are from the types of competencies many retailers typically use, including:

  • Best price
  • Locally owned
  • Best service
  • In business since…
  • Non-commissioned staff
  • Largest selection of this brand or that brand

No combination of the above equals core competency for your store. For our retail business, our core competencies all center around SERVICE. Our service and the depth and complexity of our services are what make us special and give our customers a story to tell.

We have very few reviews that say “Great service!” and that is because the story we give our customers to tell is so much more and can’t be summed up with just two words.

Our customer feedback forms drive this home and help our customers crystallize their thoughts about their experience with us. That, in turn, might help them think more about us when their friends and family are looking for a new mattress. Maybe they’ll refer them to our stores.

Here are just a few of the questions we ask our customers on our feedback form:

  1. Tell us what you thought of (salesperson’s name). How did they do helping you select the right mattress?
  2. What did you think of our process to best assess your sleep needs and suggest the proper mattress?
  3. One last question, (customer’s first name). How was your overall experience at Gardner’s and would you refer others to Gardner’s Mattress & More?

The key here to first understand is that your store’s core competencies can only be yours provided you are the only store that can do them or if your competition won’t copy them or say something similar.

Are you having another company handle what should be your core competencies? Here’s my warning for you about outsourcing your core competencies and why doing so is dangerous to the long-term success of your business.

First, let’s address the biggest reason why online mattress companies exist today: We as an industry outsourced the customer experience.

The industry as a whole decided the way forward was to set up a culture of deception with private-label merchandise, followed up with empty promise price guarantees (because you can’t price compare private-label merchandise), sprinkle in a few weasel clause warranty exclusions and the pressure to buy a mattress on the first visit, and this vacuum of an unpleasant experience birthed what we now know as the entire online mattress industry.

If you want proof this exists, Google your competitor’s reviews, or maybe even yours. Almost all negative reviews I’ve found point back to the fact the store outsourced their service.

Maybe it’s negative reviews about deliveries by a third-party company. If you compare basic delivery to what we do, if outsourced it’s nearly impossible to be done exactly as we do it, at least not affordably. What story are you currently giving your customers to tell about delivery and what COULD they tell about your delivery service.

Other negative reviews I see relate to product failure. Guess what? Your customers did business with you, not your supplier. If you’re aligned with vendors that make garbage product and use weasel clauses to keep bad product in the home, get new vendors. Period.

If you’ve ever had to say “I wish I could do something, but…” you need to check yourself. My good friend Doug Stewart says that the word “but” stands for behold the ultimate truth. So, when you say “I wish I could do something, but…” what your customer really hears is “The factory is crap that made my stuff and the person who sold me this believes it, too, and won’t do anything about it. They have my money and I’m stuck!” Is that what you want your customers saying about you?

Own your service, own the customer relationship. Stop outsourcing and dropping at the time you can be a hero to your customer. Do the right thing. Take care of them and figure out the merchandise later. It will pay you back tenfold. The reality is if you aren’t doing this and have these types of reviews online, it’s hurting you more than you know.

Most importantly, stop outsourcing, rather ignoring, the moments in which you can cement a long-term customer relationship. Take the time to make the follow-up phone call or send an email. Write a thank you card and ask your customers how they are enjoying the new mattress or sofa or whatever it is you sold them.

If you’re too afraid of doing this for fear of hearing complaints maybe it’s time to reflect upon the quality of goods you sell and how you sell them. Maybe you use customers to make sales and not, as it should be, the other way around. The way it needs to be for long-term success. Remember: a sale is made to create a life-long customer and friend.

Don’t forget there are these places called Sam’s Club and Costco. There are department stores and warehouse-type outlets that sell only to make sales., and direct to consumer websites do the same.

It’s your choice, will you continue to outsource your core competencies or will you commit to unique service points that truly set your business apart above all others?

About the Author

Jeff Giagnocavo
Jeff Giagnocavo is owner of Gardner’s Mattress and More in Lancaster, Pa., a multi-unit destination boutique mattress store. He also co-wrote the book Mega Mattress Margins and Retail is Dead and created the industry’s only turn-key, done-for-you, sales-and-marketing machine called Automated Mattress Profits that creates, captures and converts prospects into paying customers.