By Bridgette M. Redman
When it comes to leadership, Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery of Scottsdale knows what it takes to stand out — a genuine concern for its associates and its customers.
While it has practiced this in showrooms around the country for years, 2020 gave Ferguson an opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to doing the right thing. When the lockdown hit Scottsdale, it immediately closed and, within days, set up work-at-home stations. The company also tried to keep as many employees as possible, says Michelle Lee, showroom manager.
“It really meant a lot for us to try to keep going,” Lee says. “We felt it was a matter of our associates’ safety to stay closed during that portion of time and to work from home, which is difficult when you’re in a showroom world.”
When it came time to reopen, she says a lot of money was spent trying to make the showroom safe for associates, whether it was screen guards or whatever else was necessary.
Reaching out on a digital platform
Ferguson recognizes that many of its customers do not yet feel safe in returning. It has worked hard to make sure that their concerns are met and that they can be serviced remotely. Ferguson has created what it calls its Omni Channel experience, an online platform that provides a virtual showroom.
Lee says that was in the works when the pandemic hit, but the company sped things up and was able to launch it within weeks.
“We didn’t want to start laying off people, so we did everything we could to create an online platform,” Lee says.
“(Customers) could see a showroom and walk through it with a consultant. We interact with the customers on a level of how they want to interact with us.”
Customers now have three options — in-person consultations; visits to the virtual showroom with online appointments; or logging onto build.com, which lets customers get ideas, build their own project online and interact with staff with the project that they built virtually.
“We live in a digital world, and Ferguson understands the importance of needing to offer both,” Lee says.
“Therefore, if a customer prefers to touch and feel the product and have a face-to-face interaction, we welcome that, along with customers who prefer to conduct business virtually. We can do both.”
She says there were a couple of months where things were uncertain. Now the market has picked up and Ferguson is once again busy.
“I’m super proud of our associates in terms of how they were able to pivot from not working face to face and pretty much learn a new way of business within days,” Lee said.
Ferguson makes people’s dreams come true
Ferguson is one of the largest distributors in its industry, and Lee says it reached that point by cultivating a family who care for each other, their work, their performance and their customers.
They pride themselves on being in the business of making people’s dreams come true.
“We always start with getting a good idea of customers’ design aesthetics, understanding customers’ desire of form and function and, of course, understanding the customer’s budget and combining all that together,” Lee says.
She says Ferguson benefits from having distribution centers across the country, which allows it to get products faster than its competitors. While Ferguson is known for its plumbing, it also sells appliances and lighting. The consultants are knowledgeable in all three categories.
“We offer entry to super premium products in all categories,” Lee says. “When a customer thinks plumbing/appliance/lighting, whether small or large project, I want them to think of Ferguson.”
They make sure they invest in their associates, so they can best serve their customers. They try to make sure that their design community has the latest information and technology by offering continuing education courses. Ferguson also offers vendor training weekly.
“We at Ferguson truly value feedback and training our associates to be the best that they can be,” Lee says. “We understand the importance of having knowledgeable associates. We value personal development and leadership, and we offer a variety of self-paced, self-development tools to our associates.”
Lee adds that Ferguson cares about its customers and associates, but it takes pride in making a difference nationwide. It has a sustainability program called “Ferguson Cares” that builds partnerships with nonprofits around five areas: hunger, housing, disaster relief, clean water and skilled trade.
Locally, it has volunteered at the Ronald McDonald House (pre-COVID-19), donated time and material to Habitat for Humanity, and took part in local charitable events. Most recently, Ferguson sponsored a Facings of America event that supports dog and cat adoptions through the Arizona Animal Welfare League.
A 15-year Ferguson employee, Lee says most of the associates have a long history with the company, making them experts on meeting the needs of their customers.
“Our mission is to provide expert advice to our customers so that we are looked at as a trusted partner along with delivering the best customer service in the industry,” Lee says.