The 2015 Speech Industry Implementation Awards: Grand Home Furnishings

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Customer: Grand Home Furnishings

Vendor: Splice Software

Product: Dialog Suite

Like all retailers, Grand Home Furnishings is constantly on the lookout for ways to enhance the customer experience. And in the spring of 2014, it found one: The chain, which has 17 stores and two outlets in Virginia, Tennessee, and West Virginia, launched an outbound Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system to support a new VIP program, which proved to be a rousing success.

For the retailer, a lot has changed since its founding as Grand Piano Co. in 1911, but one item has remained constant: an emphasis on customer service. For instance, Grand Home Furnishings provides every customer who walks into a store with a free Coke, giving out more than 1 million bottles of soda annually.

Yet the furniture company had done little with automated voice response systems. "Many years ago, we tried a few IVR promotions, but the results were underwhelming and the No Call list laws further dampened our interest in the technology," says Steve Davis, vice president of marketing at Grand Home Furnishings.

In early 2014, Three Keys, a reseller focused on the retail industry, contacted the furniture company with an idea: using personalized IVR messages for VIP customers. The reseller had partnered with Splice Software, whose Dialog Suite is a popular software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution among retailers. The system works with various touch points: through the phone to customers' land-line systems or cell connections; audio links in email or text messages; and embedded video with personalized voice-overs on Web sites or in emails.

Grand Home Furnishings had already been playing around with the idea of forming a VIP customer group and running special promotions for it, and so Splice's program was a natural fit. The solution consists of four modules: the Splice Dialog Controller, a real-time data management system; the Splice Dialog Builder, an audio concatenation tool using real human speech; the Splice Dialog Director, a campaign management and distribution tool; and the Splice Tablet Program, a tool for in-store consent collection and customer record updating.

Vendor personnel made script recommendations and the firm's portal became the collection point for customer information. Since the model was SaaS-based, limited capital was needed; the cost to implement the system was several hundred dollars per store.

In June 2014, Grand Home Furnishings ran a special Father's Day promotion, designed to generate traffic, increase sales, and improve engagement; the program offered VIPs a 21-piece grill set if they visited a store.

Prior to the launch, the Splice Outbound IVR delivered personalized messages to customers notifying them about the gift. The personalized messages specified the event details. In addition, kiosks with tablets were placed in stores, so salespeople could help customers sign themselves up as VIPs.

The program was a hit. "Sales in the two stores doubled that weekend," noted Davis.

With that success, the furniture supplier decided to roll out the program in other stores in the fall, which meant getting more employees up to speed on the software. Splice conducted the training program, holding webinars to explain the program to store managers, who needed to understand customer permissions and preferences.

The selection of high-quality gifts—"we have given our VIPs Italian crystal glasses and pearl necklaces," Davis notes—has helped the program keep up the momentum.

But the retailer has experienced a few hiccups. Once they're in the store, customers expect to walk out with the gift, and they are typically disappointed with rain checks or other types of make-goods. "No matter what type of algorithm you use, sometimes you run out of gifts," Davis concedes. In fact, one store doubled the usual amount but still came up short.

Overkill is another concern. Grand Home Furnishings does not want to dilute the promotion's effectiveness, so the company runs them only once per quarter.

But overall, the program has been quite successful. Customer satisfaction is up: VIPs thank store managers for inviting them to the event. The store staff embraced the events. Most importantly, sales are up: an 85 percent increase in year-over-year sales on promotion weekends. And costs are in check: The retailer spends 4 percent of its revenue on marketing. "Whenever you have a new project, there is a degree of uncertainty about how it will fare," Davis says. "In this case, the program met or exceeded all of our expectations."


After implementing the Splice Software Inc. solution, Grand Home Furnishings has seen:

  • an 88 percent reach rate on cleaned contact list;
  • a 92 percent engagement rate with personalized messages;
  • a more engaged employee base; and
  • an 85 percent increase in sales.

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