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The Official Baldrige Blog

The Rules Have Changed; the Outcome Is the Same

Image of mattress store sale saying the rules have changed and the outcome is the same.
Credit: Iakov Filimonov/Shutterstock, Ivelin Radkov/Shutterstock

In 2015, I blogged about buying a mattress and likened it to buying a used car. I also said that I bought mattresses less often than I buy cars (gladly), neither being an enjoyable experience for me. Well, with a new bedroom set, my wife and I recently had the experience of buying a new mattress and box spring. To get to the bottom line, I'll share this: the game has changed, but not the outcome. Let me explain.

(By the way, in 2015, I got my wife's stamp of approval for the blog because she complained that my recent blogs had not displayed my story-telling style. They were too serious. She said the same again recently.)

Store 1

We shopped at two mattress stores, which was all I could manage. We went into the first store and tried several mattresses. (The salesperson always starts at the top of the line.) We finally got to one we liked for both comfort and price range. Of course, it was on sale. The new rules started with a price several hundred dollars below the "regular price." The regular price was below the list price. The new game, however, is that the sale price is no longer half of the list price (which it was the last time we bought a mattress); it is higher (in both stores we visited). I said we were just starting to look and wanted to get an idea of prices. The salesperson immediately told me about a special sale they had for one organization last week and said he thought he could get me that price. When I said that was more than I had expected to pay, he responded with my favorite line of the day, "What will it take to get you this mattress today?" I responded with, "What is your best price?" He responded, "That's not the way it works." We left the store.

Store 2

The second store has a scientific, computerized bed-matching system. After entering several factors into the computer in response to questions like, Do you generally sleep on your side or back?, we rested on the data-gathering bed on our sides and backs for two minutes each, and the computer spit out our best match (which only the salesperson got to see). Naturally, the best match was the top-of-the-line mattress. After working our way down, we came to a mattress similar to the one in the prior store where we liked the feel and the price range. It was on sale, of course. Before starting to negotiate, the salesperson told us her manager could offer us a better price, and she checked with the manager. Another $200 came off the price. I said that was more than I was willing to spend. She threw in free delivery. Still too much!

The salesperson told us it was a long shot, but sometimes the district manager will take a little more off. She called; it was a long call, with her calculator coming out and being used. She finally came back and told us the best the district manager could offer was another $500 off, to about half the sale price. Based on past experience, we were in the right area. I hesitated; she said this really was the best she could offer. I said OK, and then she said she had to call the district manager back to get a special code for this price. Uh-oh! As she called, I said (not quietly) to my wife that we might be leaving if they renege. They honored the offer. We signed and left.

I felt slimed. I had to get home and shower.

Could a Mattress Store Be a Baldrige Role Model?

All the questions I raised in my previous mattress-purchasing blog remain valid. However, times have changed and customers expect more! When I wrote the initial blog, here are the questions from the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence (2015-2016 version) I posed for mattress retailers' consideration:

"How do you listen to potential customers to obtain actionable information? How do you build customer relationships? How do you manage customer relationships to manage and enhance your brand image, retain customers, and exceed their expectations? How do you determine customer requirements for product offerings and services?"

Now, I have several more questions to add, from the 2021-2022 Criteria:

  • How do you interact with and observe customers to obtain actionable information? How do you seek immediate and actionable feedback from customers on the quality of customer support and interactions?
  • How do your customer experience processes ensure fair treatment for different customers, customer groups, and market segments?
  • How do you determine customer satisfaction, dissatisfaction, and engagement? How do your measurements capture actionable information?
  • How do you use voice-of the-customer data and information? How do you use the data and information to build a more customer-focused culture and support operational decision making?

And while we are on the topic, have you ever gotten a customer survey from a mattress retailer? I have not. 

Last, and most important, my wife approved this blog!

2021-2022 Baldrige Excellence Framework Business/Nonprofit feature image

Baldrige Excellence Framework

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Available versions: Business/Nonprofit, Education, and Health Care

About the author

Harry Hertz “The Baldrige Cheermudgeon”

I am Harry Hertz, the Baldrige Cheermudgeon, and Director Emeritus of the Baldrige Program. I joined the Program in 1992 after a decade in management in the analytical chemistry and chemical sciences laboratories at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the home of the Baldrige Program. I started my career at NIST (NBS) as a bench analytical chemist.

My favorite aspects of the Baldrige Program are: (1) the opportunity to interact with leading thinkers from all sectors of the U.S. economy who serve as volunteers in the Baldrige Program, who participate in the Baldrige Executive Fellows Program, and who represent Award applicants at the forefront of the continuous journey to performance excellence, and (2) the intellectual challenge of synthesizing ideas from leading thinkers and from personal research into Insights on the Road to Performance Excellence and other blogs that tackle challenges at the “leading edge of validated leadership and performance practice,” and contribute to the continuous revision of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Framework.

Outside of work I spend my time with family (including three beautiful granddaughters), exercising, baking bread, traveling, educating tomorrow’s leaders, and participating on various boards and board committees.

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Liked it, and could add some ethical and culture issues with many contradictions to the world of online purchasing

This made me laugh, Harry! Good job!

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