Shining Light on the Industry
Ed Robinette, Morris Home Furnishings: The biggest challenge is finding good, qualified salespeople. We had a couple of people who left and opened their own businesses, and we were lucky enough to have them for a very long time. That’s been a difficult thing to do. In fact, I’ve put myself back on the sales floor quite a bit to help.
We do have some really good people, but they’re spread more thinly, and it’s difficult to find new good people, and to train them. We’re continuing to use every method we can think of, but the best way to get good people is by networking through other employees, and finding them that way. We have several hundred employees, and all of them know several hundred people. We’ve also found people in other jobs in the company who felt they were not sales associate material, but they really are. We’ve actually developed a couple of very good people that way. It’s working out pretty well.
We have a sales floor with furniture specialists, electronics specialists and bedding specialists. So the other thing we’re doing is to let people know in all areas that they have an opportunity—if they want to step up and become part of other areas, they can. If you’re selling furniture, but [you] really do like electronics and want to be able to sell both, if you can demonstrate your ability to do it and you come to all the trainings and learn it, then we’ll allow you to sell that also. That’s allowed us to have people who can work both areas and as backup when we need them.
Jeff Clemens, Electronics Sales Manager, Grand Appliance and TV, Zion, Ill.: The biggest challenge we face as an organization has been and continues to be dealing with growth. We’ve been fortunate to have increased sales steadily over the past several years, and 2012 was no different. In 2012, we’ve opened two new stores and enjoyed double-digit sales growth. This has challenged us in a number of ways, but in sum it has significantly impacted our ability to maintain the high-touch, customer-focused approach our customers have come to expect from us.
To overcome these challenges, we made major investments in human resources and technology. With regard to human resources, we’ve hired more than 25 employees in sales, delivery and customer service to deal with more deliveries, inventory and store traffic, and to allow for better communication with customers before, during and after the sale. In addition, we’ve empowered employees at virtually every level to make important decisions quickly, rather than forcing a customer to go through multiple levels in order to get information, advice or solutions.
With regard to technology, we’ve launched a completely new, much more functional and informative website for our customers. In addition, we implemented new logistical technologies to make the process of receiving, pulling and delivering merchandise as efficient and transparent as possible. For example, our new truck-routing solution allows our salespeople and customer service personnel to monitor our trucks in real time, and get instant notifications of delivery status to keep our customers informed of their delivery status, and also to proactively deal with any issues that might occur during a day’s deliveries.