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Retail Furniture & Mattress Stores – How To Structure A Comfort Guarantee

Originally this article was going to be named “Should You Offer A Comfort Guarantee?”  But after interviewing the top ten mattress dealers I know, they all laughed at the question. In their minds any dealer who sells mattresses should offer a comfort guarantee. While they acknowledged the importance of the comfort guarantee they warned that a comfort guarantee that is improperly structured will be a source of unnecessary returns. These top owners and managers also warned that improper use of the comfort guarantee by sales associates to shortcut the sales process could lead to high return rates.  If you don’t have a comfort guarantee, this article is for you. If you are experiencing high return rates, this article is definitely for you.

Length of Guarantee- The longer the comfort guarantee is the better. Comfort guarantees can be as short as sixty days or as long as 120 days or longer.

Minimum- Most customers will need time to adjust to their new mattress set since they are now getting the proper support. Their body spent years adjusting to the improper support that an old bed was giving them. Most customers will need up to thirty days to fully adjust to their new bed. Your comfort guarantee should specify that the customer must keep the bed for at least thirty days.

Reselection- Some retailers give the choice of money back or re-selection. A good comfort guarantee should be structured as a reselection only. If a customer will not buy from you because your comfort guarantee is a reselection only, you did not lose a customer. You lost a problem. Better to lose it before you deliver it than waste your delivery cost as well as the loss of the full value of the merchandise. All of our experts insisted that a well structured comfort guarantee must be a reselection only. As they say, some times the “Best Buy” is “Good Bye”.

Share The Pain- Here is where we saw some differences of opinion. Some dealers insist the customer should share in the cost. Returned beds have to be sold as used beds because most manufacturers’ warranties only cover defects. The exception being Tempur-Pedic. They take back comfort returns within 90 days but charge a $200 to $320 shipping fee. Many retailers will charge up to a 25% restocking charge, allowing the remainder of the purchase price to be applied to the new reselected product.  Other dealers do not charge a restocking fee at all, allowing a 100% of the purchase price to be applied to the new reselected product. They feel this gives them a competitive advantage over the dealers who charge a restocking fee. Interestingly enough the dealers who charge the restocking fee feel that the objection that xyz dealer down the street does not have a restocking charge is easily handled by reassuring the customer that we are going to take our time and make sure we get it right the first time around.

Protect It- Any comfort guarantee should include that the customer MUST purchase a mattress protector. This protects the delivery guys when handling the return and also makes the returned mattress more saleable as a “comfort” exchange in your clearance center.

Get This- Retailers who elect to resale comfort returned mattresses must get a used bedding license in order to legally sell them. A good rule of thumb is that a return rate on comfort returns should never be more than two to five percent. When returns are consistently higher, chances are salespeople are using the comfort guarantee as a crutch instead of thoroughly qualifying the customer’s needs. If that is the case, the salespeople need more sales training to let the sale unfold naturally by seeking the customer’s feedback and moving them to beds that meet their wants and needs.

Where- The best place to liquidate the comfort guarantee beds is in a clearance center separate from the sales floor. Many retailers use a section of their warehouse so as not to confuse the customer who is shopping for a new mattress with a used mattress right next to it.

The Purpose- One purpose of the comfort guarantee is to give your customer peace of mind to buy from the store. There are many other reasons they should buy from a given store. Another purpose of the comfort guarantee is to reduce the risk to the customer. Risk reduction goes a long way with a purchase nobody wants to make and only buys every 14.7 years. Nobody can be an expert that buys that infrequently. It plays directly to the psychology of the sale. When properly used the comfort guarantee will increase your store’s closing percentage. The comfort guarantee should be introduced to the customer early in the sales process along with your other guarantees or reasons to do business with your store. It can be a great tool to build confidence in the store and the salesperson.

Expectations- Salespeople who manage their customer’s expectations regarding the initial comfort of the mattress are rewarded with more loyal customers and fewer headache phone calls. All of our experts almost word for word encourage their salespeople to let the customer know that there is a period of seven to thirty days before their bodies adjust to the new found support that their new sleep set is giving them.

Never- Never use the comfort guarantee to close the sale. If your salespeople use the comfort guarantee to close the sale your store will have a high return rate. Never use the comfort guarantee to speed up the sale. Allow the customer time to work between sets. Explore their health issues with them. Develop a complete understanding of how they will use the sleep set. The more thorough your salespeople are with their selling process the lower your return rate will be.

Action Step- Please post how you use the comfort guarantee and pass on any tips that would help another store more effectively use this tool. Please feel free to post any questions you may have. I answer them all. For more ideas or to share successes please call me at 419-560-3169.  Also, please visit Gerry Morris’ blog at http://sellmorebeds.wordpress.com/2011/06/22/welcome-to-sell-more-beds-com/. Gerry can help any store sell more beds. Gerry, thank you for rewriting my article.

Wishing You Success,

Pete Primeau

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Comments (17)

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  1. Pete Primeau says:

    Good article Pete. Thanks. I have been considering doing it in our store but wasn’t sure how. Is there usually a price cut off. Or guarantee only on mattresses over say…$599? I like the way you explained not to use it to close the sale.

    Larry P. Thibodeaux
    WCC Furniture
    300 Ridge Road, Lafayette
    Ridge Row Shopping Center
    http://www.wccfurniture.com
    337-993-3303

  2. Pete Primeau says:

    Pete,
    This article is great! Great stuff !!

    See you in High Point !

    Thanks, Rick

  3. Pete Primeau says:

    Pete,
    The comfort guarantee should be simple and easy for the customer to understand. Some guarantees are too complicated. We also disinfect the mattress returns.

    Your follow up article should be How to keep mattress selling simple.

    Good stuff once again!

    Jonathan DiPrinzio

    Vice President-Sales

    John V. Schultz Furniture and Mattresses

    7200 Peach St.Suite 300

    Erie Pa., 16509-4754

    jdiprinzio@johnv.com

  4. Pete Primeau says:

    Pete,
    I’ll bet you received plenty of opinions on this one.Offering one can be essential to doing business, especially if there are competitors offering one.

    Personally, I believe it’s best when everyone has “skin in the game.” Therefor, it’s quite ok to charge a fee to the consumer because you want them to really give it a try.
    At the same time, what is the sales person’s monetary motivation for getting it right the first time? Generally, the customer pays whatever fee is involved and many times will even step up & order a better quality set. In this case, the sales person probably makes even more money. (Not much of a deterrent is it?) It may be radical thinking,
    but perhaps a simple $5 holdback in commission will be enough of an incentive to get it right. Under this scenario, instead of paying $100 in commission, $95 is paid.
    Once the customer is past the comfort guarantee time period, the sales person then receives the $5. If the customer exchanges, the $5 is not paid. (just a thought!)

    Believe it or not, some states allow mattresses that have been in a consumer’s home for 30 days or less, to be sold as clearance. (without being yellow tagged) New York.
    Other states will not allow the sale of a mattress that has been in the customer’s home for even 1 day as clearance. (Must be yellow tagged) New Jersey.

    Taking back a mattress that has been in the customer’s home should be quarantined from other new mattresses, less they be found to have bed bugs.
    In fact, there should be a log created with a regular schedule of delivery trucks that have been fumigated for bed bugs.

    Kind regards,

    Ira Fishman
    631-983-7620

  5. Pete Primeau says:

    Pete,

    Admirable work for your customers & RSAs.

    jec

  6. Alan Barnett says:

    My viewpoint is more jaded. Please follow this scenario. The customer is somewhat unpleased with their matress. They don’t let the store know, because they will have to pay some type of restocking fee, if it is withing the guarantee timeframe. They purposely wait until day #121. Now, they call the store and express total dismay with the mattress, and claim there is something wrong with it. Yes, an inspector will go out and see what the problem is. That said, if a customer complains enough, it is very likely the store will cave in and the customer will get a new mattress, and in the process, will have sidestepped paying the re-selection fee. I wonder, if this is a practice more common than we think??

    • Pete Primeau says:

      Alan,
      I hope not. If management doesn’t follow their own rules the store will ultimately suffer along with all the employees that depend on it for their livlihood. I believe your concern was partially driving Jonathan’s comment. Any store policy should be simple and it needs to be cosistently applied to insure fairness. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      Pete

  7. Brian Harris says:

    Great stuff Pete! I’m going to direct some of my dealers to your article.

  8. Comfort returns are no doubt necessary. In my experience there are a few things that need to happen at the retail level every time to ensure your customer purchases the correct bed the 1st time.

    1. Comfort and support are two totally different things: Comfort is relative so take the time to consider the customers individual comfort needs.
    2. Give proper expectations: your customer needs to know that a new mattress is a lot like a nice new pair of leather shoes. They will be supportive, they will be comfortable and they will last you a long time but remember; until the shoe breaks in and your foot gets use to the shoe you might get a few blisters…. New mattresses are the same way. Requiring the customer to sleep on the bed for at least 30 nights is paramount. Letting them know that it may take some patience through the transition is even more important.
    3. Make sure they understand all the policies of the comfort return: Having a customer mad at you because you did not take the time to explain the policy is the worst thing in the world. They feel taken advantage of and you look like a jerk. Make sure they understand.

    Great article Pete!

  9. Latex mattresses are supreme in that they give the user a memory foam encounter – in that they shape to your body’s curvature, and each and every aspect of the body is in touch with with the materials, taking pressure away from tender or sore points – but they even go substantially additional by giving someone a very cool sleeping encounter. Memory foam causes some individuals to get too hot for the reason that it leaves someone with no way for their body heat to escape. The latex mattress is substantially better in that there is space to breathe, or better stated there is minute holes distributed throughout the whole mattress that leave a way for body heat to escape. Add towards the truth that a latex mattress can be a normal product and not produced from petrochemicals.

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