January 2009

Sleep Tight: Mattress Firm Guarantees It

Author: Frank Dunne, Jr. | Photographer: photography by anne

When writing a business profile—under a tight deadline, as usual—evil inclination may tempt the writer to take the path of least resistance: Just get the basic facts and a few pithy comments from the owner, dash off what amounts to a thousand words of ad copy and be done with it. The temptation is most dangerous when the subject of the story is a product, service, or business sector that…well…puts the writer to sleep.

Okay, that was a really bad pun, but the subject of this article is Mattress Firm, and getting a good night’s sleep is their business. Besides, it was a much more fun-to-write lead than something like: Mattress Firm is the nation’s premier bedding retailer and offers a broad selection of traditional and specialty mattresses from Simmons, Sealy, Tempur-Pedic, and Select Comfort.

See? It’s starting to sound like an ad. So we’re going to change course and come back to the “adspeak” later, because if you have a chance to speak to Mattress Firm CEO, Gary Fazio, and his son, Adam, president of Mattress Firm’s Hilton Head/Savannah franchise, you’ll see a much more interesting case study on what makes a business succeed and what sets it apart from the also-rans.

The elder Fazio’s business philosophy and approach to the retail bedding industry give some good insight into leading a successful company and, more specifically, what makes the Houston-based company and its over 500 stores tick. In a 2006 interview with Smart Business, he summed it up with three important qualities: Never be satisfied; do the math; and develop a thick skin. To that you can add that it starts with knowing what business you’re in.

If you’re thinking, “What the heck is this guy talking about? Who wouldn’t know what business they’re in?” let’s take a look at this magazine as a quick “for instance.” What is the publisher selling? A stack of bound pages filled with words? No. What you hold in your hands is Hilton Head Island/Bluffton: a great place to live and a great place to visit. As a reader, you benefit from the knowledge of what to do, where to go, and other things that strengthen your bond with the community. The advertisers benefit from the exposure to readers.

Similarly, ask either Mr. Fazio if he is a mattress salesman and he will quickly correct you. Mattress Firm is actually in the “quality of life” business. That is, successful ventures regard their business not in terms of the product sold in the store, but in terms of the benefit derived by the customer. Bringing that home to Mattress Firm, if you walk into the Bluffton store nobody is going to ask, “What kind of mattress would you like today?” Rather, they are there to help you find solutions to improve the quality of your life.

“These days, sleep is such a premium and more people are realizing that quality of sleep can have a direct effect on quality of life,” said Gary. “It’s hard enough to get in your eight hours, and too often the hours that you do get are not good quality, restorative sleep. I think it’s something people have always known,” he continued, referring to the connection between adequate sleep and quality of life. After all, it doesn’t take a scientist or a doctor to figure out that you can have a pretty lousy day when you don’t get enough proper rest. But Gary notes that there is more scientific research than ever that proves the connection. For example, the National Sleep Foundation reports that 70 percent of American adults exhibit at least one sleep disorder symptom or another.

He also points to advances in the design and technology of bedding components. “Conforming materials have done the most to transform this industry, and even inner springs have improved and give better back support than they used to.” It all adds up to greater comfort, reduced tossing and turning, and a better night’s sleep is the result.

People are more informed and aware, and they’re coming to retailers like Mattress Firm to find natural solutions to a better night’s sleep. In fact, specialty stores are taking an ever-increasing share of the $13 billion U.S. mattress retail business. All of these facts set the table nicely for a business model based on improving quality of life through a better night’s sleep.

Mattress Firm articulates its mission thusly: “Our job is the well being of our customers. We help them sleep better, wake up fresher, more alert with more energy. We improve their lives one night at a time.”

It’s one thing to make such a claim. It’s quite another to back it up. Mattress Firm makes every effort to remain true to its stated mission, beginning with a highly trained, professional sales team. “Our ‘sleep specialists’ are trained by the manufacturers to be experts on support and durability,” said Adam. “We leave the job of being a comfort expert up to you, the customer.”

Mattress Firm sleep specialists must undergo one week of initial sales training at Mattress Firm’s Sleep University in Houston and return periodically throughout their careers with the company for continued education and training. Being a sleep specialist at Mattress Firm is no hourly job, and you won’t find a “Help Wanted” sign on the door for seasonal employment during the holidays. “We hire professional people who want to get on a career track,” said Adam. “Most are college graduates.”

Consequently, when you visit Mattress Firm, you’re not going to bounce up and down on a mattress or two and then endure a hard sell. Sleep specialists are trained to ask questions to learn about your sleep habits and difficulties, if any, then guide you through a process designed to determine the most suitable mattress. Using a color-coded system—yellow means firm, orange means plush, red means pillow top, and green means contoured—customers get a feel for the different mattress types while the sleep specialist provides guidance and answers questions.

“Our after-the-sale satisfaction levels are very high,” said Gary. “People don’t expect to be so impressed with the purchase of a mattress, but when they realize what a difference it makes in their lives, they wonder why they didn’t do this sooner.”

But Mattress Firm doesn’t let the satisfaction stop at the customer’s great night’s sleep. They stand behind the product with guarantees and service after the sale. For example, if you are not totally satisfied with a purchase, the 90-Day Comfort Guarantee allows you to switch out your mattress for another model within 90 days of the original purchase. Or, if you find the same mattress for a lower price at a competing retailer, a 110 percent Low Price Guarantee will pay you the difference plus 10 percent.

Once you’ve made your purchase, Mattress Firm rolls out the red carpet delivery service. They’ll deliver your new mattress at a time that is convenient for you, set it up, and remove the old mattress set. This is done in a highly professional manner with measures taken to protect your home from dust, dirt, and damage in the process. You’ll even find a thank-you note and mints on your pillow.

Mattress Firm is located at 1172 Fording Island Road, Bluffton, SC 29910. For information, call (843) 837-FIRM (3476), or visit mattressfirm.com on the Web.

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