Volume 46, Issue 1 - January/February 2007

SECRET SHOPPER
Shelter Goes Undercover

In a Small World—
Patience Can Pay

Let’s face it, a lot of times the treatment a secret-shopper receives is largely based on appearing as an every day homeowner or do-it-yourselfer. Servicing the average do-it-yourselfer can be a time-consuming and sometimes painful experience for a salesperson, because they often require a “short-course” on every product. Salespeople don’t always have time to educate just to make a single sale, when by the time it’s said and done, they could have written half-a-dozen builder orders.

On the flip-side of this customer-service equation, it is still in a salesperson’s best interest to provide everyone with a good experience. While builders and contractors serve as primary customers and essentially pay a better part of every salesperson’s paycheck, every single person who walks through their door potentially represents thousands of dollars in future orders. When a builder sends his or her client, or potential client, to a certain dealer or distributor, they want them well treated. And when these referrals visit a dealer, they may or may not identify themselves as such. For this reason, every face could be worth a million.

First Impressions are Often Only Impressions
Based on curb appeal, my first impression of Lansing Building Products was quite good. Nestled in the heart of an industrial area of Richmond, Va., this company had quite a bit of landscaping and an attractive sign out front. 
The parking lot was large, clean and had plenty of spaces available. It was very open, probably because it joined a loading dock area with several warehouse doors – all of which were open. You could see busy yard workers moving in and out of the warehouse, coming to and from the showroom and loading trucks.

When I reached for the door, I immediately noticed a sign taped to the glass reading: “Please notice, our new hours are from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thank You.” These hours are obviously more suitable for contractors and other professionals than homeowners and do-it-yourselfers.

Aside from a few pieces of left-over tape (probably from previous warnings) the door and window glass was all very clean. It was nearing four o’clock, Friday afternoon, and I fully expected to be knocked over by a herd of employees fisting paychecks, but here there were three salespeople, each busy at work, and I was the only customer in the showroom. 

None of them made eye contact with me when I came through the door. In fact, none of them even acknowledged that the door had opened and closed. One was on the phone and the other two looked like they were busy writing up orders.

Don’t Bother – 
I’ll Just Make Myself at Home

The showroom wasn’t very big, but it was quite clean and well organized with mostly door, window and siding displays. The counter was a center-island stocked with plenty of product literature — all neatly arranged and facing you as you come through the door. The floor was astonishingly clean, taking into account how many warehouse workers and contractors must dash across it on a daily basis. 

I made my way over to the siding section and just looked around. They had everything from Alcoa, Mastic, Wolverine and Heartland vinyl to James Hardie fiber cement and Nailite hand-split shake replicas. One corner of this area had been cut off and turned into a small platform, displaying decking products, railings and trim. They had Azek trim boards, Oasis decking by Alcoa and Windjammer, their own brand of vinyl railing. All of the siding displays were at or just below eye level, making it possible to feel the textures and get a sense of quality and sturdiness.

After a couple of minutes, no one had attacked me like I was on a car lot, so I made my way around the entire showroom, attempting to draw attention or make eye contact with someone, but to no avail. In the meantime, I discovered a window section with display units mounted in diagonally arranged rows and an attractive area just off the showroom that looked more like a living space. It had chairs, end tables and even a plasma TV tuned to a country video station.

It was beginning to look like those big orders were getting in the way of good customer service, when I was making a conscious effort to stand right in front of them at the counter, thumbing through product literature, and a brash voice called out, “Yes sir?” 

At Last! Victory!
He pointed to a wall across the room and said, “Well, that’s it. That’s what we carry.” Then he gave me a brief, blank stare, before he interjected: “Well, what kind of siding are you looking for?” and started walking in the direction of the display wall.

When we approached the wall, it seemed like I might get the short course — very short course in fact — as he explained the various types then proceeded to just stand there looking at them. As it turns out, he was just a patient man who wasn’t in any sort of hurry – quite the opposite of what I had expected. He explained the various types of siding they offered, all of the features to consider, all the various brands and their strong points – each (of course) followed by an awkward moment of silence.

He was one of the most helpful salespeople I’ve encountered to date. He stayed with me and went as far as ensuring that I left with a display board – not a sample, but an actual display — insisting that I borrow it to view alongside my existing siding, so I assured him I would have it back by start of business Monday.

He stopped me just short of leaving to give me his business card, so I thanked him for educating me and was sure to put it in a safe place. Because, after all, I will be purchasing siding … someday. 

SECRET SHOPPER REPORT CARD
Lansing Building Products
FACILITY TYPE: Building Products Company
LOCATION: Richmond, VA.

SUBJECT      GRADE
Store was Easy to Find     B
Parking Lot was Clean A
Windows were Clean    B
Greeted Upon Entering   F
Store Aisles were Clear of Debris  A
Neatness of Displays  A
Employee Politeness  B
Employee Appearance B
Employee Product Knowledge  B
Store Experience Satisfaction  B
Overall Grade  B


MARKING CODE
A Excellent B Above Average C Average 
D Below Average F Unsatisfactory


Shelter
© Copyright 2007 Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.