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Managing Expectations—Preparing Your Customers to Visit Your Tile Showroom

By Kate Tyndall

July 14, 2020

Sometimes, just showing up is not enough.

In fact, when it comes to buying tile for a renovation project, a visit to the tile showroom should not be the first thing on a homeowner’s agenda.

The owners of high-end Studio Tile & Stone in Melbourne, FL, found that over the years they were having to do a fair of amount of education when potential clients came through the door.

“People would come in without any idea of what they were looking for, or what they even liked,” says Lisa Bogo, company co-owner with husband Anthony. “Sometimes people would come in prematurely, like they wanted a backsplash, but hadn’t yet chosen their flooring or cabinets, or they hadn’t done the demolition yet [in a remodel] but they wanted to talk about flooring.”

“We wanted something on the website that could be downloaded.”

So she created a tip sheet for customers that they can download from the company’s website. Theres also a blog posting on the website that explains the process. “It saves time on the clients’ end and on our end,” she says.

In a nutshell, here is what Bogo designed for customers planning a visit to Studio Tile & Stone:

  • Collect photographs of rooms that inspire you;
  • Photograph the existing space;
  • Obtain rough measurements of the existing space;
  • Collect material samples;
  • Provide blueprints and plans;
  • Think about your likes and dislikes;
  • Provide a budget and time frame

The tip sheet has helped Studio Tile & Stone manage and streamline the whole tile buying experience for both staff and customers. She believes other tile showrooms could benefit from creating their own and posting it on their websites.

Bogo says customers often find that collecting this material can help them flesh out the project in their mind, and think about it with clarity. Drilling down on what they like and dislike can provide Bogo and her design staff they clues they need to help their customers find the perfect flooring or countertop material, even if the customer wasn’t able to articulate that for themselves.

Here’s how the process actually goes.

Homework First

“Clients get excited about the fun part, so I get them to collect images,” Bogo says. If a client hasn’t already collected some images, she will often send them to Houzz. “ I tell them, ‘Go to town, have some fun, pull together a board, and share it with me.’ Then I see what they love, and we start focusing on the common denominators.”

Once Bogo has the client’s inspiration photos, she or a project manager will go out to the client’s home, photograph the space and collect rough measurements.

Then comes the showroom visit.

“I ask them to bring any fabrics that influence the design, any flooring or cabinets samples. Most folks don’t have blueprints or plans, but if they do, then we ask that they bring them.”

Drilling Down on the Details

During the showroom visit, Bogo works diligently to suss out peoples’ likes and dislikes. That can involve lots of discussion. For example, one of the more popular flooring materials is pebbles and rocks. They come rounded or shaved, though she says many people don’t realize that. But experience has taught her that people have very precise tactile preferences. “And we have to get spouses on common grounds,” she says with a laugh.

One willful client with a mind of her own wanted to see samples that Bogo didn’t think would work, but Bogo kept her opinion to herself and ordered them. “I wanted her to see what she was asking for.” When the client saw that her original choice wouldn’t give her the function she needed, she became open to more possibilities that in the end gave her home both the look she wanted and the function she needed, Bogo says.

When it comes to budget, she says: “I can ballpark removal and typical prep, setting materials and average tile costs, so I can pretty much give folks a ballpark figure for a project.” If that figure is a lot more than the customer thinks, then Bogo can guide them elsewhere rather than get them in a place where they get really frustrated.

She sees her job as guiding clients aesthetically, according to their expressed needs, desires and budget, preparing them for the actual project, and managing expectations.
By following her tip list and accruing information, getting to know the client, and not allowing clients to put the cart before the horse, Studio Tile & Stone has ended up with a process that delivers a satisfying experience and outcome for their clients.

Her advice may help other tile showroom owners do the same.