Customer Engagement at the DPHA

Axor Starck

On Saturday, I finished up a two-day presentation / workshop gig at the DPHA conference, the annual conference for the Decorative Plumbing and Hardware Association.

Decorative plumbing and hardware includes luxury hardware for bathrooms and kitchens: high-end faucets, shower heads, sinks, bathtubs, lighting, mirrors, tile, etc.

The DPHA is made up of three primary groups:

1) The hardware manufacturers (like Hansgrohe, Rohl, Kohler and others)
2) The independent reps, who sell the manufacturers’ product lines to…
3) The dealers & showrooms, who sell to architects, builders and the end consumer, the homeowners

Everyone from the DPHA was extremely nice and generous.

Everyone from the Broadmoor, the beautiful, luxury resort where the conference was held was amazing.

Just one example of the Broadmoor’s outstanding service:
My good friend Al Pittampalli was also speaking. Al is a nutrition expert and he is testing a unique new diet to control the pH of his bloodstream. As a result, he needed lots of avocados and lemon. The Broadmoor concierge brought up 12 perfectly ripe avocados within minutes of Al calling. I can’t usually find 12 perfectly ripe avocados at Fairway Market or Whole Foods.

My presentation outlined how customer engagement is the new marketing and covered the three components that make up customer engagement:

Company Culture
Having spent two days last week inside Zappos, I confidently said that customer engagement is only as good as the company culture behind it. Every employee must be respected, empowered and inspired to make each customer interaction a delight.

Customer Experience
Stores like Stew Leonard’s, IKEA and Apple provide unique and remarkable customer experiences. In preparation for the conference, I had toured a few high end showrooms. While they were very clean and professional, they weren’t extremely remarkable. During my presentation, I proposed some promotions that could increase the ‘story’ factor for the showrooms:

“Halloween Light Night” promotion
Stay open two hours later than usual. Hire a local author to read ghost stories to the kids while you take customers on a tour of the lighting section of your showroom with all of the other store lights off, creating a dark, Halloween atmosphere but showing off your best product in the conditions they would actually be used in.

“Come Shower With Us” promotion
Sounds like something dreamed up by Hugh Hefner, right? That’s exactly why people would talk about it. Setup portable locker rooms and let customers pick out which shower heads they want to test. This would also give showrooms an opportunity to demo new product lines of high-end soaps and bathrobes that many are exploring.

At the very least, it would be a story that spreads and as we know, stories that spread, win.

Carpe Defect
As I explained in an older post, Carpe Defect (Seize the Defect) is a term I came up with for taking a bad customer experience and making a customer for life. This blog and many books focus on providing amazing customer service, but we’re all human and mistakes happen. Customers generally understand that and don’t expect perfection, but it is in HOW companies deal with those errors that determine which story gets told.

A big mistake isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It is an opportunity to make a customer for life. Instead of just making the customer whole and fixing the problem, you need to go over and above so that the customer has a positive story to tell.

Social Media
As instructed by the DPHA executive committee, I only briefly touched on social media near the end but attendees seemed very interested. Many had open ears and open minds and wanted to better understand how social media and customer engagement can help their industry in what is currently a difficult market for luxury goods.

I would like to thank the DPHA for having me and thank the Broadmoor for outstanding customer service.

Most of all, I would like to thank those attendees who asked questions about how to improve their corporate culture, their customer experience and Carpe Defect. You can’t control the luxury spending trends but you can control how you make the customer feel.

[NB: As requested, I will be posting my slides from the presentation on SlideShare soon.]

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