In response to COVID-19, like many companies, our retail flooring franchise business has had to pivot our business model in order to meet CDC guidelines and help alleviate unnecessary strains on our customers and contractors.
To do that, in part, we decided to launch a virtual estimates feature on March 23. Virtual estimates are an innovation that we had been looking into for some time, and while we know the people at each of our locations absolutely prefer to interact with their customers in person, given the recent development of COVID-19, we concluded this was the right time to roll out virtual estimates as a way to continue serving our customers and also supplement our business for the duration of the pandemic.
A big part of it has involved leading customers to our website. In order to get a virtual estimate for a customer’s flooring (or other) project, all the customer has to do is submit a virtual estimate request by simply clicking the “Get Virtual Estimate” button placed prominently on our website, or by calling their local store via the locations page, also on our website.
One of our customer service representatives will then call the customer to schedule their video estimate call. When the time comes for their estimate, the local Footprints Floors owner will contact them via their video call service of choice (FaceTime, Google Duo, or Skype). From there, the Footprints Floors owner will walk them through the virtual estimate process. The process usually only requires taking a few measurements and identifying applicable materials. The calls usually take about 30 minutes, and sometimes less. Once the video call is completed, the store owner will email the client an estimate for their project.
Due to the relatively simple and user-friendly process involved, and the fact that we can take advantage of video call services that have already been widely adopted, setting up virtual estimates hasn’t presented any large challenges for us. We have found that most of our customers are very well-equipped to handle virtual estimates today. The only tools required are a measuring tape and a smartphone, tablet or computer with a webcam. We had a customer early on who participated in the call with a short sewing tape (which ended up working), but otherwise, customers have had the necessary tools.
We have now successfully completed well over 400 virtual estimates since launching in March. So far, our customers have really enjoyed the flexibility and ease of the process. We are so glad to be able to continue servicing our local communities while also respecting their space.
We have also found that customers value having virtual estimates as another option, especially as social distancing has become the new normal of how people do business.
An unforeseen benefit has been how convenient it is for professional remodelers to get an accurate quote without having to host a lengthy in-home estimate. They are a customer group who simply want the number without all the additional time of a traditional estimate.
Since we implemented the free virtual estimates strategy, we’ve seen a 50% increase in year-over-year sales. Between April and May, our sales grew by a record-breaking 164%. Meeting the customers’ needs is working.
It is always at the forefront of our thinking, as a company, to protect and provide as much as we can for our owners, as well as our customers. Developing virtual estimates is just one of many ways we have worked to adapt to the unprecedented circumstances our business has found itself in due to COVID-19.
This column was updated Aug. 3.