Yelp reviewer Rae M. was spring cleaning when she realized her closets were bursting at the seams. Clothing, shoes, accessories—it was all too much to organize on her own. So she decided to enlist the help of Closet America, a closet installation business based in Maryland.
“I can’t describe how much I truly love my closets,” Rae wrote in her review. “It was driving me crazy to have all of my clothes and storage containers all around my house in preparation for this installation. But it was well worth the process. Now I will say this company isn’t the cheapest, but you get what you pay for. And I’m oh so glad I trusted the process.”
In the organization business, process is everything. Owner Skip LaBella, who started Closet America with a business partner, uses his knowledge of branding and communication to make Closet America a success. “What we sell is organization,” he said. “We like to say: organization, beauty, and joy. It’s what we do and how we do it. And that’s really important because it’s what we deliver everyday to homeowners that trust us to do business with them.”
Everything at Closet America reflects its core value of organization, from the 3D closet designs to the onsite installers. “We care about the tools [our employees] show up with,” Skip said. “We care about the vehicle that they’re in. We care about what they’re wearing. We care about what they look like, sound like.”
In order to control the process each time, Skip chose to hire Closet America’s installers as full-time employees, instead of subcontractors—the industry norm, since it requires less overhead. But by hiring employees, the company can train installers in Closet America’s values, provide them with clean uniforms, and streamline their process down to the first customer call. “What we train is that if you follow the process, there are predictable and repeatable results,” Skip said. “And if you deviate from the process, anything can happen. So follow the process.”
The company’s top-to-bottom commitment to organization paid off with glowing results for Rae, who appreciated the care and effort the installers took in her home: “They know what they’re doing, and they exude it to you, the customer,” she said. “It’s appreciated. They know what you want before you can even really say it.”
Being able to anticipate a client’s needs like this starts with effective customer service. Closet America’s designers don’t come into a home and make assumptions; instead, they listen to customers, ask questions, and then offer solutions they might not have explored yet. “You have to be someone that takes pleasure in serving other people and solving their problems,” Skip said. “And the first step to that is listening to what they say their problems are.”
The next step is following up with clear and consistent communication. Creating custom closet systems can be a lengthy process—from the initial consultation to designing, manufacturing, and installing the shelves and drawers. Skip works with a customer relationship management (CRM) system to maintain that communication with clients throughout the entire process.
The CRM also allows the Closet America team to monitor how often they communicate, since receiving too many messages can be a turn-off for customers. “This is probably not the most important thing in their lives right now,” Skip said. “Certainly we know it’s important, and we want to give it that proper respect for them, but they have other things going on, so we don’t want to over communicate.”
The process doesn’t stop with a purchase, however. Closet America’s team replies to every review they receive online, and that effort matters: Over 75% of consumers expect businesses to respond to reviews within a week, and 20% of consumers expect to receive a response within one day.
For Rae, responses to her reviews acknowledge the work and time she put in. “That means a lot because at least it means that they’re reading it,” she said. “And they’re thinking, well, ‘This is pretty nice. They took the time out to do this.’”
Just like maintaining a clean closet, running a small business requires consistency and attention to detail. Remember these takeaways to help your own small business:
- Your brand is more than just a logo. Your employees are your brand, so invest in their training and their customer service skills, even if they are not frontline employees.
- Hiring and organizational decisions should be made with the brand in mind. Sometimes the more expensive hiring option is the best one for your brand, and it will pay back in revenue generated from repeat or referral clients.
- Set a communication schedule with your customers, and stick to it. Communication with clients is especially important when your service has multiple phases and runs over an extended period of time. Consider using technology to keep communications channels open.
- Respond to all reviews, even the good ones. Reviewers don’t review to get responses, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t acknowledge every single review.
Photos from Closet America on Yelp; editorial contributions by Emily Moon and Holly Hanchey
These lessons come from an episode of Behind the Review, Yelp & Entrepreneur Media’s weekly podcast. Listen below to hear more from Skip and Rae, or visit the episode page to read more, subscribe to the show, and explore other episodes.
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