When it comes to buying a sofa, I would say myself and my partner are the sales person’s dream. We are buying our first house and we have an endless list of things to do, including fully furnishing the place as we currently have very little furniture to our name. We don’t know what we want so we are happy to be sold to, and we probably would get sucked into that 5-year insurance plan that always gets snuck in at the end of the sale. We have a pretty realistic budget in mind but with the prospect of 4 years of interest-free payments, that budget could just grow. We aren’t looking for particularly dazzling customer service, we just want to be treated with respect and have our questions answered so that we know the investment we are making is worthwhile, not a big ask, right? So, you would think that with this in mind, walking into a shop to buy our first sofa, we would get on OK.
Our recent experiences looking for a sofa at both DFS and SCS could not have been more different. They were the perfect examples of good CX and poor CX… I will leave you on tenterhooks as to which was which for a moment longer!
The DFS brand is “All about great people working together. People who are well-trained to provide the best customer service - delivering a retail experience built on inspirational designs that now include exclusive ranges such as Country Living, House Beautiful and French Connection.” Their brand is primarily the service they provide, followed by their exclusive product ranges.
SCS’ vision is to be “Britain’s best value sofa and carpet retailer, making it easy for our customers to love their home. It’s clear, focused, and ambitious, which we like to think represents us well.” They are aiming to occupy the ‘value’ space in the market, alongside keeping things simple for their customers.
The first port of call on our sofa quest was SCS. We approached the Stockport store feeling eager and excited; we were proper grown-ups buying a big piece of furniture for a house that we will soon OWN… eek! As we walked in, the big ‘sale’ and ‘offers’ signs in the window stood out from a mile off making us realise we had definitely come to the right place, despite the dampening feel of the shabby car park round the back, which, if we didn’t know better, would feel like that of a shop that has been closed down for years.
We walked through the door and the excitement soon turned into feeling completely and utterly overwhelmed. In front of us was a massive space that somehow felt small as so many sofas and other pieces of furniture were crammed close together. We had no idea where to start but found ourselves weaving through the sofas as we set off around the store, clearly looking confused and a little lost. As we wandered round, the amount of sales and offers signs made the place have a cheap feel to it, making the store feel even more overwhelming.
The shop was quiet and at the time of our visit had more staff in there than customers, however, after being in there for nearly 10 minutes, we received no recognition, no offers of help, not even a ‘hello’. This left us with 2 choices: approach someone and ask for help or take the easy option and leave to go into one of the other furniture stores within walking distance on that same industrial estate. We decided to take the easy option and left. Just like that, they had missed out on a potential sale, simply because they didn’t say ‘hello’.
It could appear pedantic, but with so many options at our fingertips, we decided that as paying customers, we shouldn’t have to work to get what should be a basic level of service. The experience turned our excitement into worry in a matter of minutes, and we couldn’t help but feel that the lack of recognition came down to our age and the idea that we couldn’t possibly be serious buyers.
Next up, we went into DFS, now with less excitement, more a slight feeling of dread that finding ourselves a good sofa was going to be an a challenge.
However, when we stepped through the doors, the feeling was completely different to that we had experienced in SCS. We walked into a big open space which somehow still had a calming, homey feel as the store layout allowed us to actually imagine what the sofas could be like in our home. Within 30 seconds we were acknowledged but left to it for a little while to gather our thoughts and have a wander around.
Within a couple of minutes, someone came over and asked us the ‘usual’ sales questions, establishing what we were looking for, how much help we needed and ensured they informed us that their delivery times were long at the moment (a 4 month wait!). We were able to ask our, what felt like silly, questions and get the advice we were looking for. There were many things we were naïve to in the sofa buying process, but we were not made to feel inadequate, quite the opposite! I am no fool to recognise the sales techniques being thrown at us- “so, I know this sofa is a little above budget, but imagine yourselves cosied up in front of the TV on this one!” – but this didn’t matter to us, because we felt like we were being given enough information to make an informed decision.
We left full of ideas and our self-consciousness from SCS was replaced by a feeling of relief that our only problem in all of this would be finding something that we both agreed on!
We haven’t got ourselves our dream sofa yet, but after visiting a couple of different industrial parks, we have never stepped foot in SCS again. They had one chance at offering a good CX and blew it! We have returned to DFS though and narrowed down our decision including one from there.
When referring to the brand, the DFS experience was certainly aligned. The people there knew their stuff and were able to answer the questions we had, and the customer service went above what I would expect. From a design point of view, it matched up too, the sofas there were nicely laid out in a setting that enabled us to picture ourselves with the sofas in our own home, so certainly ‘inspiring’. I can’t comment on the colleague experience from their point of view, but I got a sense that the colleagues there were empowered to adapt their approach depending on the customer and seemed happy to be in their roles which made our experience much more enjoyable.
Arguably, SCS may well be “Britain’s best value sofa and carpet retailer” but the in-store experience did not make me want to seek that value. Their poor CX had a direct impact on my perceptions of their brand as they seemed to forget that without frontline colleagues who want to deliver a positive experience, the brand is nothing.