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16 August 2011

FREEDOM OF CHOICE?

Do you want to see a grown man cry? Have him select a color from more that 3 selections…he will drop to his knees in tears. I’m beginning to think that choice is highly over rated.

The scariest words in the English language most be…”would you like fries with that? Shoestring or country, crosscut or curly, salted or unsalted and god forbid if you should ask for their selection of dipping sauce. And what about coffee? What happen to a plain old cup of Joe? I mean…what the hell is a half-caff, non-fat, sugar-free vanilla latte and while I’m at it, what happen to just a medium cup? Choice is everywhere and there seems to be no escape…we have too many buttons, options, selections and app’s.

The kitchen industry has not been spared from this curse, but it seems that we as an industry have embraced choice with gusto. On the cabinet side of the house we have more variety of wood species to choose from than ever before…what happen to oak, pine, maple and walnut? Now we can offer Wenge, Rosewood, Zebra and Pear as well as exotic veneers and technical veneers…all in different cuts and finishes. And colors…there was a time you had 4 or 5 standard color selections and some companies may have even offered up to 20, but today with computer color matching, there are over 2000 variations to choose from. And what about features and accessories? Drawer options, waste options, cutlery dividers, pan storage, tall storage options, lighting options, interior and exterior. And when we look at the appliance side of the house the mountain of choice is even higher…convection oven, micro-convection oven, steam-convection and just plain radiant heat. And the choices of refrigerators would make your head explode…24”, 30” 36” and 48”, available in single and double door, side by side French doors and ice options that would dazzle any Barman worth his salt. Not to stop there, what about our choices in cook-tops? Gas, electric and induction as well as combinations of all three. And the selection of dishwashers available with sensors, onboard computers and wi-fi connected and with enough technology on board for a manned mission to the moon.

What brought this all to head was a presentation I was giving for a new kitchen. We were going over each detail, what wood, what finish, what handle, what accessories and features, what lighting and at one point…the client threw up his hands and shouted “enough!” and said, “Kevin…why are you asking me all these question…you’re the expert…what am I paying you for?” It was a clear cut case of “sensory-overload…too many selections, too many options and too many choices.

Henry David Thoreau once said “simplify, simplify!”…I say just “Simplify! (period)”. I truly believe that we have so over complicated the process that our clients are paralyzed with fear. We need to take greater control of the process. In another presentation, while we were going over every detail in the kitchen…how many drawers, hinged left or right, which side of the sink would they like the dishwasher on, what knob or pull, I looked up at the client with her eyes half rolled up inside her eyelid and when she noticed me looking at her, she sat up-right, gathered herself together and said to me…”Kevin…it’s going to look like this…right?”…pointing to the display and she said…”fine…how much do you need to get started?
Keep your sales approach simple…nothing complicated. Your showroom and displays should educate your client to the benefits and value of your product or service as well as create an atmosphere of trust and dependability, Keep your options to a minimum…how many cabinet and appliance lines to you really need to show, what are the 3 or 4 finishes that make up most of your business? What counter-top material do you always specify? You will find, if you go back over your projects for the last year or two…you will see a pattern of design elements, appliances and finishes.

So take control, lead your client, and don’t drown them in details, but simplify their lives and you will see your jobs close faster and that your clients will be happier. I think that DEVO, the iconic 80’s band, said it best…”What we want is Freedom from choice”.

2 comments:

  1. Your comments on choice brought to mind my time in Japan. I did not have a strong grasp of the language. I could place my order well enough, but when the person started asking questions I was lost. Alas, the Japanese retail worker has been well-trained in the art of selling add-on services, most especially the po-i-n-to-ca-do (pointcard). I am sure I answered in tears a few times "I don't want your pointcard, I don't know how to use it, I won't know how to redeem it, and I won't be here long enough to collect."

    Well, enough of this. Its time for tea. Hmm, black, green or herbal?

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  2. Kevin,

    I would love to exchange links with you. I have a new website dedicated to house design. You can see what it is all about at www.house-design-coffee.com . I don't deal with kitchens, and probably won't for a long time, but I liked your comments on proximity. You are definitely someone I want to deal with.

    I propose to add you to my blogroll (see my Friends section) and, should the occasion arise where I can work a link into a regular page I will do so. I can be reached at homesower@yahoo.com.

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