COVID-19

How Hunter Douglas is adapting to a world of on-demand everything.

Podium is one of those things that you don’t know you need until you have it, and then once you have it, you can't live without it.

Hunter Douglas is a worldwide leader in manufacturing architectural products and window coverings. Their global federation consists of more than 100 businesses. We caught up with two of them, Ambiance Design Windows and Portland Window Coverings, and asked how they’ve each become the top-rated providers of window treatments in their respective areas. 

“About two years ago, we decided to bail completely on print advertising,” Dan Hawley, Co-owner at Ambiance Design Windows told us. “We put all of our marketing dollars into Google campaigns… we really focused on reviews because I saw the value there.” 

But shifting marketing dollars to Google and focusing on reviews didn’t lead to overnight success. At first, they were getting just two or three reviews per month. Within three days of a sale, Dan’s team would send a review invite via email, but most of those emails weren’t even getting opened.  

Dan knew that if their ratings weren’t better than the competition, it wouldn’t matter how much he spent on advertising. Reviews are how homeowners decide where to buy. He was determined to become the top-rated provider of window treatments in the Blue Bell, Pennsylvania area. But he knew that sending review invites through email wasn’t going to get him there. He needed a better approach.

In September of that year, Dan heard about Podium and decided to try it. “Podium helped cohesively pull everything together for us in one tool that was simple to use, easy to access, and readily available on multiple platforms,” he told us, “which drove our reviews up 500% month over month.”

If texting works for reviews, then what else can it unlock?

Podium was working. Ambiance Design was quickly becoming the top-rated provider of window treatments in the Blue Bell area. That’s when Dan started to think bigger. He thought of all the other ways they could use Podium—for scheduling, appointment reminders, calendar requests, and more. What he didn’t expect was how Podium would change how they attract and convert leads into paying customers. 

Dan heard about Podium Webchat and added it to the Ambiance Design website. Instead of having to fill out the contact form and wait, visitors could now click the chat icon and ask a question with one click. Better yet, the conversation would move automatically to a text message, which meant the visitor could leave the website without ending the conversation.

“I’ve even been using it to chat between my staff members,” Dan told us. When he has a question regarding a customer, he just chats his team directly in Podium. Then, he assigns the conversation to the right staff member. That staff member then has all the context they need without having to restart the conversation. 

 

“We’re encouraging our dealers to adopt Podium’s messaging tools. The days of email communications have gone by the wayside. If you don’t make a meaningful connection with customers within five minutes, they’ll go to a competitor.  Podium creates a frictionless buying experience starting with Google search and ending with an effortless way to pay.”
– Jamie Ziegler, Director of Product Management, Hunter Douglas

 

Around the same time that Ambiance Design was unlocking the power of text messaging, another Hunter Douglas dealer across the country was figuring out the same thing. “It’s funny because initially I was like, I just need reviews so I get good rankings,” Joel Masters, Owner at Portland Window Coverings told us. “What I didn’t realize was how much Podium would become a part of our everyday life as a communication tool.” When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Joel quickly realized that texting was the answer.

Adapting to a global pandemic.

Like most local businesses, Portland Window Coverings was heavily impacted by COVID-19. Social distancing affected every part of the customer journey: attracting new leads, providing consultations, installing window coverings, and collecting payments. With their showroom closed, they had to rely on their website to capture new leads and convert them into paying customers—and they had to do it without in-person contact. 

Podium Webchat gave visitors to the Portland Window Coverings website an easy way to reach out and ask questions. They weren’t going into the showroom, but in some ways this was even better. A single employee could now help multiple customers at the same time. “Through the whole COVID process, Webchat is what made a big difference in our business,” Joel told us. 

Giving customers a face-to-face experience—from anywhere.

While Webchat solved the problem of connecting remotely with potential customers, it was still hard to finalize sales. With a product like window treatments, the customer wants to be able to see the product before they buy, and Joel’s team needs to see where in the customer’s home they’re wanting the window coverings installed—both of which were a challenge given the practice of social distancing. 

Joel and his team started to use Podium Videochat to solve this problem. Videochat allowed them to quickly turn a text conversation into a video chat by sending a secure text link. While Videochat has been helpful during the pandemic, Joel says he plans to continue using it when things normalize. “Videochat is awesome and we will continue to utilize that,” he told us. “I think we’re going to settle back into more of a mix of in-person and video contact.”

Collecting secure, contactless payments.

None of this matters unless prospects become paying customers. That’s why Joel and his team have also started using Podium to collect payments via text. “We want to swipe that card when we can,” he told us, “but a lot of times we have a quote and they want to think about it.” Whether the customer is practicing social distancing or not, they often aren’t ready to pay until they’ve gone home to think it over for a while. When you’re considering spending several thousand dollars, you want to be sure you’re making the right decision.

Now, when the customer is ready to pay, Joel’s team quickly sends a secure link via text instead of reading credit card numbers over the phone or sending an invoice through the mail. The customer opens the text, clicks the link, and can even pay using Apple Pay or Google Pay. “I didn’t think I could be more happy with Podium until we started using their Payments tool,” Joel told us. “Podium is one of those things that you don’t know you need until you have it, and then once you have it, you can’t live without it.”

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