Selling and Serving the High Maintenance Customer
June 28th, 2019

Floor Focus Article

June 5, 2019

Sandy Smith

Selling and Serving the High Maintenance Customer

Unless you have been living on another planet for the last few years, you know that today’s customers have changed. In my educational seminars, I frequently ask members of my audience to give me a general profile of their customers. Regardless of the industry- manufacturing, health care, retail, financial services, sales and marketing or the US government-the following profile emerges. Today’s customers:

  • Are more knowledgeable and informed because of their immediate access to the internet.
  • Have more choices and are more selective.
  • Possess high expectations and are more demanding.
  • Have evolved from passive temperament to being assertive.

In summary, today’s customers can be demanding and high maintenance.

There are many reasons why customers have become more demanding. But perhaps the most prominent influence is the level of service they routinely receive from market leaders like Amazon, Zappos, Southwest Airlines, Netflix, Ritz Carlton and Apple. According to customer service guru Chip Bell, today’s customer expectations have skyrocketed. Bell notes in his best-selling book Wired and Dangerous, that “when the UPS or Fed Ex delivery person walks to our front door with a sense of urgency, we expect our mail carrier to do likewise. When the Disney associate treats us as a special guest, we assume every frontline service person will be as friendly.”

I sometime ask members of my audience, “Who is your competitor?” They immediately begin naming competitors in their industry. Today there is a new reality to this question. Your competition is anyone your customer compares you to.

Whatever You Call Them…

Airlines call them passengers, hotels call them guests, hospitals call them patients, attorneys call them clients, and retail establishments call them customers. Regardless of what you call them, those people who buy your products or services are the lifeblood of your business and are your reason for being. You cannot fail to meet their demands and expectations and continue to be successful. In almost every case, they have other options.

A couple of years ago, a hospital CEO asked me to speak to the medical staff on the topic of How and Why Customers Have Changed? After I was introduced, I began my talk during an early morning physician meeting. In my opening comments I mentioned the word “customer” twice when a surgeon in the back of the room raised his hand and said, “We don’t work at Walmart.”

The room erupted in applause and laughter. After my presentation, the surgeon approached me to talk. Ultimately I said, “Doctor, I’ll bet that eventually you will change the way you think about your customers.”

“What makes you think so?” he said.

“Your CFO will explain it to you.”

Fortunately, he laughed. After all, he was one of my customers.

Two Types of Service

In today’s competitive and complex business climate there are two types of service expectation: help me and fix it. Customers expect help to find out about and get what they want or need. If the process does not go smoothly for any reason, they expect assistance making it right. For example, a travel agent might help a passenger book air travel to a certain location. But if that passenger arrives at the airport prepared to board the plane and learns that flight has been cancelled and has not been rebooked, he or she will demand courteous, prompt, efficient service to fix the problem. This expectation will hold true even if the passenger is not in the most congenial frame of mind.

In most cases when customers exhibit an angry outburst, that is not their immediate emotional response. Before that they have become frustrated or afraid and may have anticipated a worst-case outcome. As trying as such instances are for customer service personnel, and that may include anyone in the company that is confronted by an angry customer, these are the opportunities to win over customers for life with a calm approach and a desire to serve. And so much rides on such occasions, it must be done well.

Colin Shaw, Founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy and best-selling author compiled a list of relevant statistics, including these:

  • 96% of unhappy customers don’t complain; however 91% of those will simply leave and never come back – 1st Financial Training services.
  • A dissatisfied customer will tell between 9-15 people about their experience. Around 13% of dissatisfied customers tell more than 20 people. – White House Office of Consumer Affairs.
  • 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated – McKinsey.


The Value of Prompt, Accurate Information

I find that one thing that frustrates most high maintenance customers is to be left hanging without information. Recently I asked a client who is a hospital administrator what part of his operation generates the most complaints. Without hesitation he said that most complaints result from long wait times in the emergency department. “Our patients leave without ever being seen.”

I thought that it was not just the waiting, but having to do so without information. Like, how long might the wait be? Is our patient at risk? Could our patient die in this waiting room? Through the years I have learned that when people don’t get information, they make it up and usually adopt the worst-case scenarios.

Finding the Right Accommodations

It is widely recognized that women influence most consumer spending in the US economy.

Paco Underhill is the author of the international best seller Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping. His research team conducted a study on factors that determine how long a woman will spend in a store shopping. The results from most to least time were as follows:

  • With a female companion: they talk, advise, compare and spend more time and money than if they shop alone
  • With children: she’s distracted by herding the kids and keeping them entertained and rushes her shopping.
  • Alone: she makes efficient use of her time and completes her shopping expeditiously.
  • With a man: he is obviously bored and antsy and may at any moment may go sit in the car and listen to the radio. She hurries or gives up and makes plans to return later.

A few months ago I saw this research scenario play out in real time when I was consulting with a large tile distributor who had nine separate showroom locations. The showroom manager and staff explained that on Saturday couples would visit their showrooms, often with children. In most cases they were remodeling their kitchen or bathroom.

Showroom staff members told me that in most cases the woman was focused and detail oriented and asked relevant questions. The man, on the other hand, was restless and pacing. Eventually the woman would turn to the showroom designer and say “I will come back at another time.”

The showroom staff and I met in a small conference room to brainstorm on solving this problem. The solution was to create a comfortable area for men and children, including comfortable chairs, business and sports magazines, and a flat screen TV with a convenient remote control. Next to the seating area was a play area for children. The result was dramatic. The showrooms became busy most of the time and sales increased.

In his Forbes post, Today’s Customers Demand Customer Service On Their Terms, Shep Hyken, sums up the situation, “Today, customer demand is about meeting and exceeding customers’ expectations, in other words, their demand for customer service and experience. You must meet customers on their terms, when and where they want.”

Sandy Smith is a keynote speaker, seminar leader, facilitator, and executive coach. He helps organizations thrive on change, improve communication, and keep customers happy. He enables managers and employees to create productive environments that facilitate rapid, profound and lasting changes in individuals and teams. Sandy is also the author of a popular booklet dealing with change entitled “The Journey.”


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Designing With Health in Mind
June 13th, 2019

Keep an eye out for #KBTribeChat posts between 2-3pm EST on Wednesday afternoons. Like and re-tweet them with the Hashtag #WhyTile.
Discussion Questions:
1. In the design process, what details do you focus on when designing with health and safety in mind? Please share solutions you like!
Healthy material choices not only affect indoor air quality but it’s important to know how they affect the environment and if they are made from renewal resources.
2. Are your clients asking for sustainable (healthy for the earth) and healthy products and design choices? Do these healthy building materials and design choices cost more?
3. How can technology help us address health and safety concerns in the kitchen? What about in bathrooms?
4. What features can help the end user make healthy choices in the kitchen?
5. What features can offer healthful benefits in the bathroom?
6. Do you take ergonomic principles into consideration when designing kitchens or bathrooms? Does this include the reasoning behind cabinet pull-outs and other cabinet features? What about appliance considerations?
7. In what ways can we plan for client safety in the kitchen and bath spaces we design? Please share important tips for designing spaces that work for all stages of life.
The reduction of clutter in our homes has not only been shown to reduce stress but simplification is a current design trend. How does this apply to designing healthy kitchens and bathrooms?
8. What are your go to design tips for reducing clutter in kitchens?
9. What are your go to design tips for reducing clutter in bathrooms?
Join the conversation at using the hashtag #Kbtribechat

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Ceramic Tile is Environmentally-Friendly
June 6th, 2019

Many ceramic tile options are made from recycled materials. Plus, once installed, tile can be reused generation after generation. There’s no question: combining incredible durability and responsible manufacturer usage of recycled content, tile is one of the most eco-friendly flooring options available


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‘Qualified Labor’ playlist Video

CTDA Technical Committee Update
May 14th, 2019

by Frank Donahue, CTDA Technical Committee Chairman, Best Tile


1.  Work continues by the ANSI A-108 committee to establish guidelines for the application of large format gauged porcelain tile to exteriors using a direct bond method.

This guideline has major potential to open building exteriors as an additional surface for the use of porcelain tiles.


2.  Discussion continues with regard to the variety of training available in the marketplace for contractors that install large format gauged porcelain tile with the goal of ensuring that training is sufficient, and it aligns with the qualified labor language in specifications or installation instructions.  Not all training is the same but should meet a minimum criterion that will ensure a proper installation.


3.  The TCNA Handbook committee is working with Scott Conwell from the IMI to propose an outreach to the architectural and design community that promotes knowledge of the TCNA Handbook.

A great deal of work has been accomplished by the TCNA Handbook committee to create and perfect a usable body of knowledge and the next step is ensuring wide dissemination of this information.


4. I encourage our CTDA members to get involved on the CTDA Technical committee and to attend our industry technical meetings.  CTDA members have an important role to play in the education of the consumer and installer of ceramic tile, porcelain and stone products.  It is critical that the CTDA membership provide 2-way communications to the industry committees on issues from the field as well as to the installation community on matters addressed by the industry.


Top 10 Uses for Cement Tiles in Restaurants
July 13th, 2015

If you’re looking for something special for your restaurant’s walls and flooring that can stand up to high traffic while also being resistant to water, food and drink spills, and environmental damage, take a look at beautiful cement tile. Reminiscent of century-old Encaustic Tiles, cement tiles have been handcrafted by artisans for decades. The designs and colors create a beautiful and durable surface that is more aesthetically appealing than basic cement or drywall, and more durable and eco-friendly than wood or laminate flooring.

At Rustico Tile and Stone, our tiles are made from mineral pigmented Portland cement, are completely customizable, and are perfect for restaurant floors, walls, bars, bathrooms, backsplashes, and even outdoors. Want to learn more? Below are some of our top uses for cement tiles in restaurants!

1. Open up a room. Much like well-placed mirrors give the illusion of space, decorative cement tiles create the illusion of openness in small areas of a restaurant. Try placing our beautiful tile on angled walls and backsplashes to give the perception of more space. You’ll add instant height to the room along with an aesthetically pleasing décor.


2. Create beautiful backsplashes. With cement tile you can create a striking pattern that is unique to your restaurant’s personality. Try a Mayan-inspired mosaic, a deeply vibrant color mix, or maybe a monochromatic tile scheme. Transform boring walls into beautiful artwork with a design that’s all your own!

cement tile backsplash (1)

3. Generate a mood. Every color and shape creates a specific feeling. If you’re going for modern style with clean lines in an upscale coffee shop or bar, try installing neutral tiles in a geometric pattern. For a European feel at a bistro or Mediterranean restaurant, add some hexagonal tiles with a more antiquated color story. For a fancy and polished look, try a Japanese wave pattern or even combine pristine white and light tan for a polished finish.

4. Make it yours. Customize your own tile. Pick a design. Pick your colors and voila – it’s customized. Experiment with different colors and shapes to create the ambiance you want for your restaurant. Cement tiles come in almost every color in the spectrum, in different kinds of patterns, and in all types of shapes. You’re sure to find the right one for you!

5. Craft a focal point. When you install a gorgeous mosaic pattern or a richly colorful tile, it can become a beautiful focal point in your restaurant. Rather than hanging a picture on the wall, why not think about adding tile instead? Or create a striking fireplace element by outlining it in customizable tiles that nobody else will be able to replicate. Try decorating a niche with tiles on the interior side to create an artistic space.

6. Take it outside. Exterior design is just as important as interior design, and cement tiles are perfect for outdoor eating and waiting areas. The tiles can be sealed which gives them UV protection, water-resistance, and scratch-resistance, and are much more beautiful than concrete.

7. Match your tiles to your menu. Create a unified theme by matching your tiles to your menus! Geometric patterns and sleek, sharp lines speak to Modernism. Rustic terra cotta tiles invite a cultured, world-traveled diner. Spanish-style cement tiles compliment Mexican food restaurants, adding an authentic feel to the space. Bright colors of Moroccan tile designs accentuate the ambiance of many ethnic food restaurants.

cement tile restaurant floor

8. Build a sexy bathroom. Continue the visual story of your restaurant into its bathrooms by installing matching tile on the walls or floors. Your customers can wash up in a luxurious environment with a crimson colored tile, or step into a beautiful resort-like setting with light blues and greens.

9. Create an otherworldly experience. Take your guests back in time or instantly transport them to the other side of the globe with thoughtfully installed tile. Victorian designs can bring a long forgotten era back to life, while Moroccan designs can create a Spanish or Bohemian flare that offers customers a glimpse of another place and culture.

10. Inspire your design. The right tile design and color palette can add the perfect finishing touch to your overall restaurant style. You can pick the color and shape that matches your furniture and color scheme, or you can even use the tile as a basis for your overall design and go from there.

While cuisine may be the primary reason for guests to visit an establishment, it is the subtle design elements that entice them to continue their restaurant dining experiences. At Rustico Tile and Stone, our eco-friendly and sealable cement tiles are a unique way for restaurant owners to communicate visually with their customers.

Portland cement tiles and UV protecting/water-resistant sealers are available for purchase at Rustico Tile & Stone in Austin, TX.

Rustico Tile and Stone is the leading distributor of authentic Mexican tile and stone products for consumers around the world, with a customer base encompassing national floor retail stores, architects, designers, builders, and residential and commercial buyers. For more information about product offerings, price and shipping details, or general inquiries, visit Rustico Tile and Stone is offering generous price discounts throughout the summer in celebration of its 10th year anniversary in business.

Facebook Updates for Businesses
April 15th, 2015

This year, Facebook grew to a mind-boggling 3 billion views per day, and 53% of these views came from posts that were shared by users. But as the platform constantly adjusts to this growth, it can be difficult to keep up with the changes and updates.

Facebook’s developer conference took place recently and included several big announcements. These announcements included future improvements to existing applications and exciting new features inside of Facebook. Do you know about all of them?

Facebook Messenger is a text feature used inside of Facebook or as a separate application, and is available on mobile devices. Messenger will be updated with the following:
* Payments can now be sent and accepted through Messenger.
* This application can now be embedded on any website and used as a chat feature.
* Individuals can contact a business through Messenger and the experience will be the same as contacting a friend through the application.
* Customers can track interactions with business such as delivery date, package location or customer service updates.
* Interactions through Messenger will result in the company’s posts listing higher up in the customer’s Facebook feed.
* Greater amounts of data will be available for the company if a customer contacts them through Messenger (for example, past orders, age, gender, FB preferences…)

Currently, video posts are the best way to communicate with fans on Facebook. These posts receive the most views, shares and feedback rates along with the highest preference from Facebook’s algorithms to place higher on the feed of individual fans. The changes to Facebook Video include:
* Facebook videos can now be embedded on websites, whether they belong to the
* Any videos can be embedded by anyone – whether they own the video or not.
* Videos on Facebook now have a size limit of 1.5Gb.
* Videos can be scheduled to go live at specific times and be taken down at specific future dates.
* Video data is still accessible when taken off of live feed (accessible by owner).
* Video can be restricted to certain groups (divided by age, gender, location…).
* A Call-to-Action can be added to the end of a video that will pull the user to any page, even one not connected to Facebook.
* Uploads can now be resumed if cut off during the upload process.
* Bulk uploading is now available even if all videos will not be published simultaneously.
* Live feeds can be published on Facebook feeds.

Facebook is constantly changing. Keeping up with all of these modifications can be a tough job, but hopefully the items listed above will help!

Special thanks to Creating Your Space for this informative guest blog. Shannon Vogel of Creating Your Space is a tile industry staple and has presented well received webinars for CTDA and sessions at TSP. Visit their website for more information about marketing and social media in the tile industry:

Visit CTDA at Coverings
April 29th, 2014


The Coverings Trade Show is open! Visit CTDA at booth 9061 to register for Total Solutions Plus 2014, sign up for a committee, order Online Education Sessions and more! We look forward to seeing  you!

Coverings Education Session Spotlight
March 4th, 2014

Coverings 2014 Session Spotlight:  Maintaining and Protecting Your Online Reputation
Tuesday, April 29 | 1:45 PM – 2:45 PM | Las Vegas Convention Center

Speaker:  Lisbeth Calandrino, Fabulous Floors Magazine

The reputation of your business is no longer solely in your hands. Internet sites such as Angie’s List, as well as social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, can make or break a business’ reputation. Despite this, many businesses rarely monitor their online comments or try to influence what customers say about them. They seem unaware of the power of online referrals or negative comments. Businesses need to know where customers are posting comments and how to influence the messages about their business. Join this session to gain an understanding about today’s customers and how they influence new business for your company.

Don’t miss this session – register for Coverings 2014 today for free!

Marketing Your Blog: Search Engine Optimization is Essential to Success
December 6th, 2012

By Kathleen Furore

Last July, Conestoga Tile,,  launched a blog with one goal in mind: to educate its audience about all things tile. The challenge for this Hanover, Pa.-headquartered wholesale distributor was to engage homeowners, tile dealers, contractors, architects and designers alike—a diverse mix of consumers, all of them potential Conestoga clients.

“Because we have a wide audience, many of our blogs are on topics that everyone would be interested in and can benefit from. For example recent posts have been about understanding shade variation in tile, care and maintenance of tile and stone, effects of lighting on floors and walls and curbless showers. We try to post two blogs per week or eight each month,” Steve Vogel, the company’s executive vice president, explains. “Other blogs we post are supplier highlights and new product introductions. Recently, we started a blog series introducing people to the design consultants that work in our showroom. We will highlight one design consultant every month for the next year.”

To get the blog going, the company ran a few weeks of blog entries before announcing it to the tile world. “We wanted to have some content so visitors could get a good feel for what our blog was going to be on their first visit. Then we announced the blog through an email blast to our customers as well as through our monthly newsletter,” Vogel recalls. “The first month we had 63 visitors. Since then we have had a total of 700 different visitors, and many of them have returned each week to read more blogs.”

Vogel credits Facebook and Twitter promotions and the “From the Blog” feature in Conestoga’s monthly newsletter with the blog’s steady growth. “The writing is done is such a way that search engine words and phrases are used,” he adds. “The blog’s sole purpose is to create Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and drive people to our website. We review Google Analytics and see that people are finding us through Google searches and then moving on to our website. That’s what we want.”

Avoiding the Pitfalls

Vogel and the bloggers at Conestoga Tile have taken the necessary steps toward blog success. Many small business, however, don’t market their blogs in ways that beckon new visitors.

“It’s easy to build a blog, but hard to build a successful blog with significant traffic,” says Randy Fishkin, CEO of SEOMoz (, a Seattle-based developer of SEO software. “Blogging rarely takes off after the first few posts. It’s months, sometimes years of effort and dozens to hundreds of posts before the ROI from a blog can be seen. Because it’s such an intense effort with a long payoff, most businesses don’t invest or don’t invest properly, which means the few who do it well and get it right earn massively outsized rewards.”

Inadequate investment of time and resources is just one mistake newbie bloggers make, adds Susan Gunelius, President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc. (, and author of “Blogging All-in-One for Dummies” and other books about marketing, blogging, and social media.

“Once the blog has been launched, the biggest mistakes small businesses make are publishing content that is too self-promotional, not bothering to update the blog, and operating in a silo,” Gunelius says. “If you build it, they won’t come—you need to build relationships with your target audience on the sites where they already spend time before they’ll trust you enough to come to your blog.”

Trafiic-building Tips

Understanding Search Engine Optimization and doing all you can to make your blog’s content SEO-friendly is essential to marketing any small business blog.

“SEO is the practice of improving and promoting a web site in order to increase the number of visitors the site receives from search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo!” Fishkin explains. “Search engines are unique in that they provided targeted traffic—people looking for what you offer. Search engines are the roadways that make this happen. They are a massive opportunity for traffic, yet many bloggers ignore them, mostly because they don’t understand exactly how to tap into them.”

With that in mind, Fishkin and Gunelius offer the following marketing tips that can help boost traffic to your blog:

*Use Twitter, Facebook and Google+ to Share Posts & Find Connections. Register a personal account and a brand account at Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn. Use photos and compelling descriptions to make each profile as useful and credible as possible. Research shows profiles with more information have a significant correlation with more successful accounts. Connect with users with whom you share a personal or professional relationship, and start following industry luminaries, influencers and connectors. Services like FollowerWonk and FindPeopleonPlus can also help, Fishkin says.

*Install Analytics and Pay Attention to Results. Fishkin recommends installing the free Google Analytics (, which lets bloggers see where visits originate, which sources drive quality traffic and what others might be saying when they link over.

*Add Graphics, Photos and Illustrations (with link-back licensing). Uploading and hosting images, or using a service like Flickr to embed your images with licensing requirements on that site, creates another traffic source via Image Search. Letting others use the images legally in a way that benefits you is also a plus. Fishkin suggests posting a notice under your blog’s images saying re-using them is fine as long as the user links back to your post.

*Conduct Keyword Research While Writing Your Posts. A big part of showing up in search engines is targeting the terms and phrases prospective visitors are typing into a search engine. Google’s free AdWords Keyword Tool can help. Enter words or phrases related to your product or service, and you’ll see related keywords.

*Guest Blog (and Accept the Guest Posts of Others). Guest blogging can spread your brand to people who have never seen your work. It also can be useful in earning early links and references back to your site, which will drive direct traffic and help your search engine rankings.

*Post Frequently. The more great content you publish, the more chances exist for people to find, talk about, and share your content. As Gunelius notes, “Google gives some preference to ‘fresh’ content, so a frequently updated site that’s not breaking any Google rules and is building incoming links to demonstrate its authority should rank higher in search results than a stagnant site.”
*Write Posts That Are Long Enough to Rank in Keyword Searches. While the best blog posts are relatively short, don’t make them too short to be ranked in search results. Gunelius says a good rule of thumb is to write posts that are at least 300 words, which gives you the opportunity to use your primary keyword twice without seeming like you’re keyword stuffing.
*Use Keywords in Blog Post Titles and Body. Whenever possible, include your target keyword or keyword phrase in the title of your blog post. Also try to use keywords in the body of your post as early as possible, particularly in the first paragraph.

*Write a Good Meta Description with Keywords. Search engines use meta descriptions to describe the web pages that appear in their results. A meta description should include your keywords as well as details about the content on the page the link will take visitors to. When search engine results list your blog post, prospective visitors will see the meta description, so it should be compelling enough to convince people to click the link that leads to the post.

*Link Internally and Externally. Try to link keyword phrases to your other relevant blog posts and pages. Make sure you don’t add too many links or your post could be flagged as spam. The accepted link to text ratio estimated by search engine optimization experts is one link for every 125 words, Gunelius notes. Linking to external blogs and websites later in your post is another way to show your blog is connected with high-quality websites.

For more tips about marketing your blog to boost traffic, visit and

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