Showroom Stresses Customer Experience

by Ashley Lapin Olian

CROWN POINT, IN When designing WaterPlace, the new kitchen, bath and lighting showroom in Crown Point, IN, Doug Van Der Weide knew he had to give clients a one-of-a-kind experience. As such, the whole showroom is designed to be ‘experienced’ by guests, with a fully functional kitchen where cooking classes are taught, and working showers, tubs and a bidet toilet that guests are encouraged to try.

In fact, the whole philosophy behind the showroom is meant to create a comfortable, memorable interaction for the “guests,” the word the firm uses for customers.

“We at WaterPlace would rather refer to our customers as guests, and our manufacturers and reps as partners…because our customers are our ‘guests’ in our home, and we are in ‘partnerships’ with our vendors,” says Van Der Weide, who, in addition to designing the showroom, is also in charge of training and development.

He continues, “One of the main design elements of WaterPlace is based on our guests’ experiences. We realize that lasting memories always come from an experience that had a lasting emotional attachment to a material, product or person. We want our guests to have that kind of experience when they visit any of our showrooms, so that is the premise behind the design.”

The approximately 9,800-sq.-ft. space is one of three WaterPlace showrooms owned by Leeps Supply, with the other two locations in New Buffalo, MI, and Valparaiso, IN. The Crown Point location was chosen for its proximity to metro areas such as Chicago and Indianapolis, as well as its ease of access from the nearby I-65 highway. Van Der Weide also mentions that Crown Point is a “booming, vibrant area” in and of itself.

The showroom recently held two grand opening events. A private VIP event was held for the trade, including architects, designers and builders, and a few weeks later, there was a public grand opening. Television personality Ty Pennington was the guest for both nights.

The showroom carries a wide array of products, including those from Delta Faucet, Häfele, Invisia, Bertch, JSG Oceana, Native Trails, Ronbow, Kichler, TOTO, Fairmont Design, Panasonic, American Standard, Hansgrohe and many more.

Education is a very important aspect of the company’s business plan. On the professional side, WaterPlace intends to provide various CEU courses so architects, builders and designers don’t have to travel to a big metropolitan area to get them.

For consumers, Van Der Weide and showroom manager Mary Zarnecki strategically planned and designed the displays to be educational for all visitors.

“Each guest is treated individually and each fixture is explained individually,” notes Van Der Weide. “Every construction project is thoroughly explored to discover the perfect match of style, design, color, price and functionality. Our staff goes to great lengths to explain the many options and educate guests about the function of each product so they can make an informed decision.”

WaterPlace has many working displays that aid in this educational effort, including a fully functional kitchen for cooking classes; a shower setup for aging in place with double rain heads, Invisia grab bars, a light/defogging shaving mirror to provide extra light, a frameless roller shower door and a Bluetooth waterproof audio system; a working rough with 14 working faucets; J-boxes for hanging lights in specific spots to avoid cluttering the room with lighting clouds; an “Experience Lighting” area with light and furniture catalogs for visitors to sit and look through and a “Kelvin Display” that has several boxes showcasing different light temperatures, and an “Experience Room.”

The “Experience Room” is intended to allow guests to create their own memories from trying out bathroom products themselves. Guests are even invited to put on a bathing suit and take a shower with four different body sprays, and steam with aromatherapy, chromatherapy and audio therapy. They can try a TOTO bidet toilet, and a BainUltra air tub with geyser and aroma cloud that releases essential oils into the air to create a relaxed and fragrant experience.

Van Der Weide concludes: “If [what we are doing] is working, people will [leave] saying, ‘What an experience we’ve had!’”

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