How do you deal with customers who are shopping around?

Customers are always told to get several quotes for any big job, but for KBB retailers that can often mean wasting significant time working on quotes or designs that you know are probably going nowhere. So how do you deal with it? To find out, kbbreview spoke to Nathan Damarell from KF Kitchens, and Nick Warrington from Stuart J Warrington & Co.

Do you think telling consumers to shop around is the right advice?

Nick Warrington: I can see the sense of it, particularly with something like a car, where it’s very easy to identify the model and specification and therefore compare prices pretty accurately. For us, however, a lot of people may not have bought a kitchen for years or never at all. So they’re starting from a much lower level and they often want some confidence that the price and specification is right. For some people, that means shopping around as part of the learning exercise to get to the point where they can make an educated decision.

Nathan Damarell: There’s no doubt people need to look around. If we consider ourselves competent members of the industry, we would suggest that those who don’t could be the ones who get caught up in the sales tactics of bigger players. If people aren’t looking around, they’re more likely to make an incorrect purchase and that doesn’t do our industry any favours at all.

However, we’re not advising customers to shop around necessarily to get the best price, but rather the best overall experience. They’re buying a project, not a product, so their purchase of a kitchen is multifaceted. The advice I would be giving them is that they need to visit multiple places and identify their competence, products, integrity, experience, AND price.

Is it about how far down the process they go with each showroom? Is that when it becomes time-wasting?

Nick Warrington: The issue for me is identifying where they are on that journey, and I think it’s valid for people to narrow their options down. At that point, I think they should recognise that there is time and money involved in preparing a design and quote and therefore they need to be selective about who they’re asking to move forward with.

I like to hear from a customer that they’re not using a scattergun approach and getting quotes from six different places. I can understand pricing up and designing against one or two others, but six is wasting a lot of people’s time. That tells me they’re not far enough down the line of the decision making process to know what they actually want.

Do you change your approach if you know someone is shopping around?

Nick Warrington: Some people wear it like a badge of honour that they’re going out and getting six quotes and seem to think it’s some kind of incentive for you to sharpen your pencil and give them a better deal. I try to be consistent in saying we price our jobs the same way every time, in a way that is fair for both parties. We don’t do the magic sales technique here.

We give you a price, and other than changing specification, design details or scope, I’m not going to knock £5,000 off the price for you. It’s very easy for them to think they’re pressuring you into something, and for a small retailer, it can be easy to feel that you need to follow that. But you just need to stay true to the way you want to run your business.

Nathan Damarell: That’s totally right. As soon as you give them the idea that your price is negotiable, the customer is naturally going to say, ‘well, we’ve got other quotes’, so therefore they’re trying to get everyone to fight to the bottom. So as a retailer, if you’re strong enough to say we’ll charge a fair price and it won’t change, all of a sudden the narrative changes, and it’s not about price. Ultimately, people want experience, integrity, and competence, and by addressing it this way, you’re demonstrating that.

What do you do if a customer brings out plans drawn up by another retailer?

Nick Warrington: I probably draw a distinction between nationals and other independents. If it’s from a national, I’ll probably feel like my conscience is clear, and I’ll just wade in and do whatever I can. If it’s another independent, and it’s obvious someone has done a lot of work on it, then, I want to know ‘why are you here then?’ If it’s a price thing, then I’m happy to wave them goodbye, because they’re not our customers.

But on the other hand, we also get customers who come in with plans and say ‘I’ve been to this national, I’ve got this plan, it’s okay, but I’m not blown away by it, would you do anything differently?’ So then, they’re asking me to use it as a starting point for how I would ordinarily talk to customers anyway in terms of what they’re looking for and what they want to achieve with the project.

Nathan Damarell: A big part of this is about experience because the less experienced you are, the more the customer drives the narrative. For us, every client who walks into our showroom will be taken through our process. We tell them what to expect from us and we know then if what we offer is not what they want. I will tell people at the start that we’re not in a bun fight to the bottom. So, if they come to me and say, ‘we don’t want anything else apart from this plan from someone else, but we want it less expensive,’ then it’s not the done thing as far as I’m concerned. I don’t want to do business that way.

You can listen to the full discussion on episode seven of season eight of The kbbreview Podcast below.

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