The Bed Expert: Customer expectations

Vic Smith, owner of independent beds retailer Vic Smith Beds, talks about how to manage customer expectations.

This topic could be slightly controversial – but hey, let’s go for it! Managing customer expectations.  Customers – can’t live with them, and yet we can’t live without them. We should know how their mindset works, after all, at some point, we are customers ourselves. And let’s face it – their recommendations of you and your business are one of the best forms of advertising out there. But it’s hard out there, everything is increasing in cost and supplies can sometimes be hard to get hold of, but yet the end user wants it yesterday, and for even less. 

Your job is to think of all the pitfalls and shut them down from the beginning. For example, if you know a lead time is not realistic, don’t pretend it is in order to get the sale – all that does is get the customer’s back up, and they won’t trust you. This puts the sale on the back foot and they will be looking for further issues.

Pricing – it’s always a sticking point. When it comes to beds, in my retail world, customers can’t always seem to see the value of a bed. It tends to be more of a considered purchase than a sofa or a car, yet people are more reluctant to spend on a bed. We have in store signage showing the maths of what your sleep will cost as people’s perceptions of what a mattress should cost is way off at times. But don’t shy away from direct response answers and statements.

As an example, if a customer wants to spend £200 but is looking at a £400 bed, say ‘we don’t do a chainsaw service, we can’t cut a bit off’. If you want to spend £200, then that’s fine – spend £200. But be realistic – you’re not getting a £400 bed. If you have a £1,000 – that’s a lot of money, but not for a car. £400 is not a lot of money for a bed, and in the industry, we prefer you to buy the £200 bed because we will see you in a years’ time for the £400 bed, which by then will have gone up. So how much do you really want to spend?

People’s expectations of a bed have increased – we all know the magic figure of how long a mattress should last – but again, controversially, this figure in my opinion is outdated. This was based on a mattress only being used to sleep for the average 7/8 hours a night. Now, the family lifestyle has changed – we all go to separate rooms to stream our favourite programme, with the addition of lockdowns, increased heating bills, our customer’s beds have become the office, cinema and more. 

You need to manage your customer’s expectations of what that product will do. Yes, it’s hard work – but trust me, your life will be easier in the long run. Ask the important questions as part of your sales pitch. Remember, in order for you to be seen as the expert in your field – your customer has to feel confident that you are being honest and knowledgeable with them. It cuts down on the issues that can arrive afterwards – for example selling a bed for a teenager?

Remind mum or dad about the fixed position of the gaming set up or the phone charging point – sounds basic, but our customers are lazy people – they expect you to be the expert, because if there is an issue – they will blame you – you should have known! Same as you are meant to know the customer’s house was converted making access difficult! 

Again, back to our regular sales meetings – it’s an ideal time to discuss the types of customers you’ve had in and what you can do to improve or what can be done to turn things around? We can’t all have a crystal ball, but foresight goes a long way.

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