Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Behind the Review host and Yelp’s Small Business Expert, Emily Washcovick, shares a look at this week’s episode of the podcast.
Yelp reviewer Rae M. knew the closet space in her home needed a serious makeover. And she’s not alone—according to the National Association of Productivity and Organizational Professionals, 46% of Americans say closet clutter is the biggest pain point in their home organization plans.
So to right all of her organizational wrongs, Rae enlisted the help of Closet America. In her review, Rae sang the company’s praises with a detailed and thorough summary of her experience, which provided excellent detail about the company’s pricing, timeline, and the little extras.
“I can’t describe how much I truly love my closets. 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,” wrote Rae. “If you’re on the fence about upgrading your closets, take it from me. It’s so worth it. Once you go Closet America, you won’t go back.”
Owner Skip LaBella opened Closet America with a fishing buddy who had some experience in contracting and remodeling. Skip’s skill set came from the corporate world, which is becoming more and more common in the small business world: He’s using his greater knowledge of business elements like branding and communication to help make Closet America a success with customers.
“What we sell is organization. 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,” said Skip. “And it’s the way that we want to work ourselves. It’s the way that we want to feel when we interact with one another.”
If you’re in the organization business, Skip said, that namesake concept needs to be a core value for every employee in the company. Everything at Closet America is organized and neat—from the designers to the onsite work trucks. Every installer is an employee of the company, not a subcontractor, even though the latter is common practice in the industry because hiring subcontractors can mean less overhead and cost. Taking this extra step—and expense–gives Skip confidence that his brand image shines as intended throughout every step of the installation process, which pays off in happy customers.
“We care about the tools they show up with. 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. Back to organization, beauty, and joy, right?,” Skip said. “Beauty in the organized installer as well. We hire them and put them through quite a training process. And that’s because we have a way of doing things and we have a process for everything we do.”
This attention to detail did not go unnoticed by Rae, a self-admitted germaphobe, who appreciated the care and effort the installers took in her home.
“They came in on time. They got to work. They answered any questions that I had. They know what they’re doing, and they exude it to you, the customer. It’s appreciated,” she said.
Rae was also grateful for the thorough communication from Closet America. Designing and installing 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 his clients throughout the entire process.
“Every customer is in our CRM, and we live by that. Every touch point with the customer is entered into the system so that the next person that has an interaction can see what’s taken place up to this point. That starts with the initial phone call as a prospect, when the homeowner calls us to say, ‘Hey, I’m considering doing closets.’”
It not only allows consistent communication with the customer, but it also allows the Closet America team to monitor how often they communicate. Too many phone calls with unnecessary updates might be overwhelming.
“This is probably not the most important thing in their lives right now. 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 overcommunicate,” said Skip.
Effective communication with customers doesn’t end with the completion of the now beautifully organized closets either. Every review the company gets online receives a reply, 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. Responding to reviews also shows other potential customers what type of customer service and care you offer. You should reply promptly and professionally to every review—both positive and critical.
Skip said about negative reviews: “From the heart, I hate them and I love them because one day you feel loved and the other day you feel hated and you’ve disappointed, and that is a killer, right? Now intellectually, we actually get a lot more out of negative reviews than we get from positive reviews because it makes us better. Not a single review on Closet America goes without notice here in our company.”
Rae appreciates feedback and responses to her reviews, even when they are positive ones. “That means a lot because at least it means that they’re reading it. And they’re thinking, well, this is pretty nice. They took the time out to do this.”
Being organized and running a small business both require consistency and attention to detail. Know what you stand for, and keep processes in place to maintain those core values, like Skip does at Closet America. 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.
Listen to the episode below to hear directly from Skip and Rae, and subscribe to Behind the Review for more from new business owners and reviewers every Thursday.