Customized service a key selling point 

By MARTHA WILSON 
Mon, Sep 19 – 4:54 AM

There are a number of important ways entrepreneurs can differentiate themselves from their competitors, says Eric Crowell, director of the Saint Mary’s University Business Development Centre.

“As the person whose vision is moving the business forward, you want to really pay attention to what separates you from everyone else in your category. That’s a strong selling point,” he says.

“What can you offer that other companies aren’t offering? It may be your responsiveness to your customers and your fast turnaround on their orders; it may be that you have an unusually broad selection of products. It may be world-class customer service or unparalleled credentials. It may be your company’s ability to provide customized service.”

Customization, he says, is becoming an increasingly available option in a number of fields, and it’s an advantage that customers appreciate.

That’s been true at Amazing Space Interiors, a Halifax interior design firm that offers custom-built furniture. According to Amazing Space partner Lynzie Smith, the finished pieces are high-end but not out of reach for people who are intent on creating something unique.

“We work with Perri Fine Furniture, based in Toronto,” Smith explains. “All of their pieces are bench-made, from the frame construction to the hand-tufting. They use kiln-dried frames with high-carbon springs. So you can be sure that you are getting a very well made piece of furniture.”

The company also offers custom bedding and the types of products that clients are used to having made to order, such as blinds and curtains. These products give people a way to make their homes reflect their own ideas, Smith says. “If someone has a design idea, we can help them get it on paper.”

She says kitchens and bathrooms seem to be the areas that people most want to customize. Working on the project is a multi-stage process, with a number of consultations between the firm and the customer.

Smith and her partner, Carla MacLellan, stay abreast of trends in the interior design world. For example, next month they will be heading to the High Point furniture show in North Carolina, the industry’s all-important week-long showcase, to source new products.

Aside from offering custom projects, they are trying to increase the options available to homeowners in Nova Scotia. Amazing Space carries products such as an Oeko Tex-rated upholstery line from Maxwell Fabrics, which has passed rigorous European standards tests for textiles, along with other eco-friendly options.

“In some industries and fields, clients actually need to connect with sources for customized products,” Crowell says. “In other fields, customization is going to be just a plus that adds value to your offering. Wherever your clients fall on that spectrum, though, it’s smart for entrepreneurial companies to be looking at whether they want to boost their offerings in that regard. Your customers will notice.”

Since interior design involves the customer’s home, a key to a successful project is creating something that is an authentic reflection of the customer’s personality. “Coming home should be something that is enjoyable,” says Lynzie Smith. “We want to make that happen for our clients.”

Thriving in Tough Times is a series developed by the Saint Mary’s University Business Development Centre in Halifax.