Speaking Up

Customer Experience
Customer Experience

 Bob Johnson, Chief Customer Officer, Century Furniture Family owned Century Furniture has been manufacturing high-end furniture for 60 years. Over the past few years, however, Johnson has helped steer the company away from its traditional roots to a more customer-centric operating model. Here he discusses how he has worked to incorporate a customer-focused mind-set across the enterprise.


Century is a traditional manufacturing company that is evolving to become customer centric. Describe how you're achieving that.


We are a traditional furniture manufacturer. We've been in the business for 60 years. We have always had good customer service and thought we were doing a good job, but realized we needed to improve. As our business has shifted, there are fewer furniture retailers so we are focusing more on designers. More retailers are going out of business so we're trying to focus on design accounts.... One of our initiatives is an attempt to change the DNA in our company so we're not just a customer service department, but every employee at Century needs to recognize that they are in customer service. We have had good success through recognition, promotion, and training...we're starting to move the needle so everybody recognizes that something they do is affected down the line.


Can you describe the process involved in shifting a traditional culture to think in this new way?


Changing the DNA has been a positive. One of our other initiatives is to survey and talk to our customers.... The most important thing is to have support from the very top. Our president is very supportive and placed us as a top priority.

Having that high level of support and then feeding that into the organization has helped. We're also getting the entire organization to recognize that we're selling an experience.


Your company is focused on the entire customer experience. In what ways are you trying to improve service?


When you have bought our upholstery, we did not build it until we received the order-a customized process. Now we have changed our casegoods to the same process, where you can get any item in 60 different finishes. It's a whole different manufacturing model. It's more in line with the designers. We're continuing product training internally, and for our customers we want as much information into our showrooms and into the designers' hands.