The times they certainly are a-changin’ and so too are BrandSource members, who are turning to digital platforms to assist their customers during the coronavirus outbreak.
A prime example is family-owned Pattersons Home Appliances. While its five East Tennessee showrooms are closed to the public due to the pandemic, the stores remain staffed and their products and replacement parts are still available for curbside drop-off.
Pattersons knew it had to get with the times quickly as the COVID crisis rapidly developed. When the company discontinued in-home deliveries and decided to shut their physical locations a few days later, it was worrisome for the third-generation business.
As Vice President Mark Patterson noted, “All of us in this industry are in the same predicament: How do you keep employees working, customers served and taken care of, and product delivered while trying to keep your team and your customers safe?”
“I think as business owners,” he continued, “we have a certain responsibility to our communities to help force people to be responsible in this fight.”
Enter “virtual” service via FaceTime and Skype. For Patterson, offering customers the opportunity to video chat with the company’s sales team, outlet store and a dedicated service technician is the best way to keep his staff safe and employed.
The service tech in particular has been very busy, providing courtesy diagnostics over the phone and walking customers through do-it-yourself repairs to limit the number of in-home visits. “Obviously this can be a challenge when it comes to refrigeration,” Patterson said, “but we try to help our customers the best we can during this time and are focusing more on customer service than profitability.”
Pattersons was already ahead of the digital curve, having added Podium’s live chat feature to its website last year. The company also equipped its sales team with iPads so customers could examine the outlet store’s scratch-and-dent inventory using FaceTime while visiting other Pattersons showrooms.
Despite an older, less tech savvy customer base, the dealer is working to transition shoppers from traditional phone calls to the more impactful video chats. Nevertheless, some customers still prefer to talk over the phone or would rather wait until the stores reopen, Patterson said.
The retailer is trumpeting its service message through its regular radio ads and a banner on its website, and also appears in a local newspaper listing of open businesses and their services. “The biggest thing we are trying to promote is that our doors are locked but we are still here to help,” Patterson said. “I think it’s very important to still serve our local communities to the best of our abilities.”
Fortunately, between all the avenues of communication — website, ads, live chat, video and old-fashioned phone calls — Pattersons Home Appliances is staying afloat. Patterson also gives credit to the AVB Marketing team for the recent host of website enhancements it pushed through, and to YSN for relaying important information and news.
“Knowing and understanding what everyone else is doing is very critical,” he added. “Not because you’re paranoid but because you care.”