Post delivery and service automation opportunities
by David McMahon
business model, automation is needed to accomplish more with less time
so your precious human talent can focus on what they do best.
At the time of this writing, home furnishings retailers are voicing
their concerns about a slowdown in customer traffic for the first time
since they were forced to shut down during the initial stages of the
This slowdown was delayed but inevitable. Even before COVID, there were
signs that the furniture industry was due for a challenging period as
described in a previous installment in this series, “Planning for
Uncertainty in 2019.” That article can be found
In uncertain times, it is more important than ever to use technology to
accomplish more with less. In the March/April edition of Furniture
World, ways were presented to automate pre-sales and open sales
communications. This time, additional examples of how retailers are
using automation in post-delivery, service, re-engagement, and other
areas of operations will be described.
The purpose of automation is to improve how employees use their time and
to create better and more consistent customer experiences. The result of
continuous improvement in both of these areas is higher sales and better
Delivery and pick-up follow-up: Most furniture
operations’ delivery teams present customers with a tablet so they
can sign off on delivered goods. At that time, photos are usually
taken of the customer’s merchandise set up in their room.
Functionality can be designed into automated systems to send
customers a delivery receipt, as well as links to those images
automatically. The result is a better customer experience by
Customers receive information of value.
They get an emailed record of who to contact should they need
service or have questions about additional purchases.
Salespeople look professional because the messages are
The business builds a better brand experience. Relevant info
is sent that is not considered spam.
Trigger: The date of delivery and other information is synced from the
delivery system / tablet.
Auto-Action(s): A predefined email is sent once the delivery is complete.
Salesperson delivery and pick-up information automation: In addition to emailing customers relevant information
post-delivery, salespeople benefit from being alerted when and how
successfully deliveries were made. Instead of having to go into a
system to get this information, they can be automatically notified,
prompting them to review images taken in the customer’s room.
Salespeople are reminded to follow up with customers to make
additional suggestions, setting the stage for future sales. If there
Is a design or service challenge, resolution can be sought quickly.
Trigger: Delivery complete.
Auto-Action(s): Task opened for the salesperson to review pictures and make
personal contact as necessary.
Next purchase/next project phase automation:
Today’s close can be tomorrow’s next sale. Customers commonly
furnish rooms over time and purchase goods from more than one
retailer. They will, however, buy more from businesses that provide
the best overall experience. That’s why every salesperson needs to
earn the right to ask a customer what additional purchases they
might consider. When next purchase information is given, it should
be entered into a CRM system that automatically sends salespeople
follow-up reminders at appropriate times with suggestions for their
customers’ next purchases. Relevant messages can simultaneously be
sent to customers giving this information via automated “drip
Trigger: Information on a customer’s next purchase given with an
Auto-Action(s): Task auto-entered so email follow-up reminders can be sent
automatically. Suggested items are emailed to customers for next
purchases at appropriate times.
Related item ideas automation: This differs from a
next purchase reminder in that a related item idea report can be
triggered following a purchase. See examples in the related item
Trigger: Purchase of a certain item.
Auto-Action(s): Emails sent at predetermined time intervals highlighting related
ideas based on prior purchase.
Related Item Report
||Related Item Not Purchased Yet
||Ottoman or Coffee Table
|Any item from a popular name brand vendor
||Any other items from a popular name brand vendor
When next purchase information is given, it should be entered
into a CRM system that automatically sends salespeople follow-up
reminders at appropriate times with suggestions for next
In the September/October 2021 issue, we looked at the significant
disparity in how well furniture retailers resolve service issues. See
“Organize Your Service Experience”
Let’s continue this analysis by looking at how service automation can
help to advance improvement in three areas:
Product issue resolution automation: Post-sale
product issues can be automated by providing customers with a URL or
QR code that links to a website page where issue resolution can be
initiated. This will result in faster resolution, fewer problems and
a better overall customer experience:
The linked-to form creates an open service ticket in the CRM.
All service team members are notified automatically.
The customer receives an immediate auto message that their
issue is being looked after.
Communication is continued until resolution. The ball does
not get dropped!
The customer receives auto updates every step of the way.
Upon resolution, the customer receives an automatic survey to
gauge their level of satisfaction with the solution.
Trigger: Customer or any company representative completes a digital
service request form.
Auto-Action(s): Open service ticket is created, customer notified, service team
notified, customer’s CRM account is referenced so everyone stays in
the loop until resolution.
Accident claim resolution automation: Selling
accident protection adds value and contributes to higher profit
margins. Retailers should make it as easy as possible for customers
to file protection claims. This maintains customer loyalty and
provides the best possible claim resolution experience. Accident
claim processing can be automated in a similar way to product issue
resolution. Customers are presented with a URL or QR code that links
to a website where accident claim resolution can be initiated.
Form opens an accident claim ticket.
The ticket is auto transmitted to the protection company with
all important information.
The customer receives an immediate auto message that their
claim is being looked after.
The protection company notifies the retailer when the service
is complete, and the open service ticket is closed.
Upon resolution, the customer receives an automatically
generated survey to record their level of satisfaction with
Customer testimonials regarding the accident protection
experience are requested.
Internal work order automation: Internal work order
automation: Work orders may be initiated for facility maintenance or
be merchandise related. Either way, a similar ticketing process can
be followed. The benefits of implementing automated processes to
handle internal work orders is improved organization, tracking,
productivity and accountability. It also provides data for quicker
turnaround of credit requests.
"Data can be used by a CRM
of your choice to trigger desired actions. In the end, automation saves
time and money, produces more leads, enhances customer experiences and
generates additional revenue.”
Re-engagement automation uses data to automatically send predefined,
personal, and relevant messages. This type of data-driven communication
results in much improved customer read and response rates, plus it
lowers customer opt-outs and spam reporting. If you want to achieve
better customer engagement, use the data in your CRM to trigger messages
of value. Here are a few examples:
Three-month follow-up and product review automation: Product reviews are fairly common today in most industries—with
the notable exception of furniture retailing. Automation can make
implementation of sales follow-up easier. Three months after
merchandise has been delivered to customers, send auto emails
detailing their orders. Ask them to rate product, services and give
feedback. This will provide useful analytics and keep your customers
close by building relationships.
Trigger: Three months after the date of delivery.
Auto-Action(s): Predesigned email auto sent with product information containing
the common 5-star review rating and optional comments.
Birthday month: Birthdays present an excellent
opportunity to send relevant automated messages to customers. This
information can easily be captured via web or register-to-win forms.
Include an option field with a drop-down for birthday month.
Trigger: Birthday field is filled out.
Auto-Action(s): Happy birthday email is automatically sent from the salesperson.
Open-to-buy with finance company automation: If you
have access to customer open-to-buy information from consumer
finance partners, integrate it into your CRM so customers can be
alerted periodically about their balances and possibly sent buying
Trigger: Open-to-buy field amount.
Auto-Action(s): Predefined monthly email sent with open-to-buy amount.
Survey automation: Surveys are a simple way to
generate feedback from existing customers. This information can be
used to create sales campaigns. For example, send a survey to past
customers who haven’t recently purchased a mattress from your store.
It might be titled, “How did you sleep last night? Take this survey
to help you sleep better.” Survey responses are automatically
recorded and, depending on the answer, customers are sent a
predefined email offer such as a link to click on to schedule a
sleep profile appointment along with a $50 credit.
Trigger: Survey completed and responses recorded.
Auto-Action(s): Certain responses auto- trigger customized follow-up messages.
Your organization may benefit from automated workflows with anyone you
communicate with on a continual basis. Here are a few examples:
Realtor referral program automation: Many furniture
retailers have tried these programs with varying degrees of success.
Those who achieve the best results tend to reinforce relationships
through constant, automated communication. Messages can be sent to
realtors weekly to remind them how many points they have available
to pass on to clients for merchandise credit. When a realtor’s
client uses the points and makes a purchase, another message can be
sent automatically to let the realtor know that their customer has
used their gift. This increases value to the realtor, the
end-customer, and the retailer.
Vendors open order communication: Open orders have
ballooned due to supply chain challenges. This requires more
follow-up with vendors. Where EDI is not available or used, order
follow-up automation is the next best thing. This can save time for
retailers who use their CRM to streamline processes. Here is an
example of how it works. Purchase orders for customers that are past
the expected arrival date, as well as non-acknowledged orders, are
queried in the database. POs where follow-up is required are
automatically merged with an email template. The vendor is auto
contacted requesting updates. All communications are auto-tracked so
that appropriate retail team members see if vendors reply to
requests for information.
Candidates: Finding new talent is still the most
common challenge faced by retailers. This was true before, during,
and will be true after the pandemic. For this reason, retailers
should treat candidate leads like new customer leads. Organizations
can use various avenues to encourage new applications, such as
email, social media website career pages, and in-store QR code links
to applications. All of these avenues should include a link to a
digital questionnaire with the ability to upload a resume. Once
submitted, candidates become part of the CRM. Automation ensures
that thank-you messages are sent out, hiring managers are notified,
appointments are made with a calendar program, follow-ups are
scheduled and a searchable catalog of past applications is
Workflow communication automation is only limited by your creativity and
willingness to improve your business. Data can be used by a CRM of your
choice to trigger desired actions. In the end, automation saves time and
money, produces more sales leads, enhances customer experiences and
generates additional revenue. In today’s world, this should be a part of
any business model, especially during times of uncertainty. Now is the
time to do things better than your competition. Now is the time to gain