Santos kitchen showrooms reopen their doors with greater enthusiasm than before

12 / 06 / 2020

Last April, amidst lockdown due to the COVID-19 health crisis, we spoke with several Santos kitchen showrooms to learn how they continued working given the circumstances. Since the process of easing restrictions began, the establishments have reopened their doors and we would like to find out what their new daily routine is like, what safety measures they have adopted, what they’ve learned from this experience and what their prospects for the future are. To this end, we are giving the floor again to five studios across the country to help us better understand how the distribution network of Santos kitchens is moving towards the so-called new normal through their stories: Estudio 7 (Granada), Jordi Murcia Taller (Barcelona), Santiago Interiores (Santiago de Compostela), Santos Vaguada (Madrid) and Traç (Barcelona).

An unprecedented situation overcome with flying colours

Ainhoa Murcia de la Casa, designer at Jordi Murcia Taller
Ainhoa Murcia de la Casa, designer at Jordi Murcia Taller

For weeks, the Santos kitchen showrooms have had to deal with all kinds of difficulties and unforeseen circumstances, both personally and professionally. Aside from the consequences of mandatory lockdown or the problems balancing telework and family life, one of the major setbacks was the closure of the establishments, making it impossible to maintain face-to-face contact with customers. This was further compounded by a temporary stoppage of works and installations, which further accentuated uncertainty in an already unprecedented, complex and trying situation.

Now that the dust has more or less settled, the showrooms look back and begin to grasp the enormity of everything that has happened. The general feeling is that of having faced a challenge that has put their limits to the test, which they have overcome through professionalism and teamwork. As Jordi Murcia Taller state, ‘We had to remain constant and do our best to show that working from home made no difference’.

Indeed, right from the outset, the studios showed an amazing capacity to reorganise themselves and adopt new procedures, tools and technologies that would allow them to continue offering their services remotely, but not at the expense of maintaining smooth communications internally and externally. Santos Vaguada even applied techniques that helped them overcome the absence of body language in communications with customers, with the aim of getting the most complete information possible to carry out projects.

The experience was tough, but the showrooms agree that something positive came from it. A triumph that—to a great extent—was due to the keys shared by Traç, ‘We were able to react and make decisions very quickly. We are very proud of what we did and the outcome only serves to confirm that we made the right decisions’.

Regaining normalcy step by step

Luis Yañez Mora, manager of Estudio 7
Luis Yañez Mora, manager of Estudio 7

The Santos kitchen showrooms were eager to reopen their doors to the public, and this much-awaited moment finally came when the process of easing restrictions began, which meant the gradual lifting of the restrictive measures imposed as a result of the state of emergency. This has allowed them to return to their jobs at the studios, resume projects that had been halted, and most of all, re-establish face-to-face contact with their customers. As for the rest, their routines have not substantially changed in these early stages.

At Santos Vaguada, the entire team have gone back to work, and they work as confidently and enthusiastically as always, ‘In general, we haven’t been finding it overly difficult to resume our activities.’ The experience of Santiago Interiores falls along the same lines, ‘We opened the showroom with only the sales representatives and fitters but, as we already worked with the Projects and Logistics departments remotely, it wasn’t hard to adjust at all. With regard to the customers, we were already used to scheduling appointments, so this has not meant any changes for us, aside from setting up a common planner to stay within the limit on the number of customers allowed at a time.’

Traç has reopened with the Sales Team and a fitter, while the Technical Department continues to work from home, which is why their daily routine is somewhat similar to that under lockdown, ‘We already scheduled appointments before, so it wasn’t hard for us to adopt this measure.’ What they have noticed, however, is greater compassion in their relationships with customers and collaborators alike, ‘People take a more personal interest in each other’s situation. That’s now the first thing they ask, and we hope that this doesn’t get lost over time.’

Estudio 7 acknowledge that ‘scheduled appointments help us organise ourselves better, avoid crowds and provide better service. We already used to send design plans to customers by email, and we would stay in touch with them through instant messaging apps, so our habits haven’t really changed, aside from the safety measures.’ Jordi Murcia Taller agree with these insights, ‘The overall acceptance of scheduled appointments has been a pleasant surprise for us, as well as how we have internalised the safety measures that we have to adopt in each of the departments. Now that we see the light at the end of the tunnel, we aren’t going to rush things. We have organised ourselves in order to provide in-person service at both the showroom and the works and telework as efficiently as possible, all the while putting everyone’s safety first.’

Safety above all else

Sonsoles Cabana Murias, manager of Santiago Interiores
Sonsoles Cabana Murias, manager of Santiago Interiores

To deal with the early stages of the easing of restrictions, the Santos kitchen showrooms have implemented strict protocols aimed at ensuring the safety of both visitors and workers alike, in accordance with the guidelines provided by the competent authorities. Following these recommendations, the showrooms only receive visits with scheduled appointments, stay within the limit on the number of customers allowed at a time, keep their distance and avoid physical contact. Furthermore, they provide visitors with personal protective equipment—face masks, gloves and shoe covers—, as well as hand sanitisers for proper hand hygiene. Some studios have even taken things to the next level by installing protective screens in customer service areas or technical offices.

All this is rounded off with comprehensive cleaning and disinfection processes at the establishments, as explained by Santiago Interiores, ‘We clean twice a day using a sanitising product that cleans and protects surfaces. We also disinfect two times daily—once after cleaning and another after the customer’s visit. We disinfect all areas or surfaces that were used during their stay.’

The showrooms are aware that many of these measures can be uncomfortable or impersonal by limiting the opportunities for communication, freedom of movement or human contact—all closely associated with deeply ingrained customs such as greeting each other and saying goodbye. However, as Santiago Interiores are quick to assure us, they are likewise aware that ‘we find ourselves facing a new reality and, if we want to protect ourselves, we have to be scrupulously careful.’ Santos Vaguada are also very clear on this, ‘The safety of both customers and workers alike is our utmost priority, and our goal is not to let physical distancing become social disconnection. If these measures have given rise to some difficulties, this has been because some people have not quite grasped that we have to abide by them for everyone’s safety. We should regain normalcy as soon as possible, but always following the instructions given by experts.’

Jordi Murcia Taller’s team have been able to confirm that, generally speaking, the general public understands, accepts and appreciates these protocols, ‘It is heart-warming to see the positive response from our customers, and how they appreciate the personalised and responsible service we provide them with.’ To this end, the Santos showrooms will maintain all hygiene and safety measures for as long as the health authorities deem them necessary, and even some of them on a permanent basis, such as cleaning and disinfecting the display and meeting areas. Traç go one step further, and hope that using hand sanitisers or face masks become the norm, following in the footsteps of some Asian countries, ‘It would be a big step towards a healthier society that is more respectful towards the people around us.’

A very positive response from customers

Jordi Soler, partner and director of the Sales Department of Traç
Jordi Soler, partner and director of the Sales Department of Traç

Although—as Jordi Murcia Taller remind us—the Santos kitchen showrooms never stopped receiving and creating projects, the reopening of the establishments have given rise to a significant increase in activity. In fact, all of them are satisfied with the positive response from their customers, who have always shown interest, trust and empathy.

‘We are very pleased with the influx of customers’, Santiago Interiores explain. ‘We started new projects and even closed deals under lockdown, but upon reopening the showroom, these definitely increased.’ This is a feeling that Estudio 7 share, ‘It’s been amazing. It’s clear that customers like coming in to get a first-hand look at the products and receive service in person. The influx of projects is greater than what it was pre-lockdown, and what’s really striking is that most of it is requested remotely. We’ve got a ton of work coming in, but we’re able to deal with it by devoting many hours to it.’

Santos Vaguada have also felt that customers ‘were chomping at the bit to come into the studio and take a tour of the showroom’, which is something that Traç find quite normal as they believe that ‘planning a project remotely is not the same as doing it in person, seeing and touching the products for yourself.’ For this studio, things are looking up, ‘For the first two weeks, we prioritised visits for the customers whose projects had already begun before lockdown, to resume them and make headway. Beginning the third week, we started attending to customers who scheduled an appointment, which has led to an increase in the number of projects. We hope to be back on track in a couple of weeks, and we’re afraid that there won’t be any holidays this summer.’

The studios also agree that many of the new projects coming in are for renovations—possibly due to the fact that under lockdown, many people realised and became aware of the importance of having a comfortable, welcoming and well-equipped home.

An exciting future

Isabel Calleja, managing director of Santos Vaguada
Isabel Calleja, managing director of Santos Vaguada

‘We must acknowledge that there’s always something to be learned, and we have learned a lot.’ This is how Jordi Murcia Taller summarise their impressions after a few months marked by changes and adjusting to a new reality.

The state of emergency brought with it a time for reflection and adjustment, to grasp that what is urgent is not always the most important, and to focus on matters that should be dealt with, but for which there was never a good time. From the promotion of scheduled appointments as the key to more direct and personalised service, through to the improvement of remote services, including the adopting of new technologies to collect and process information, or the strengthening of communications through websites and social media.

As Santos Vaguada state, ‘Something positive comes from all tough experiences.’ The Santos kitchen showrooms have taken note of the factors that have helped them overcome truly difficult moments with flying colours, and they are firm in their resolve to fine-tune them to face the future. A future they face with more enthusiasm than before to continue growing, improving and sharing their passion for what they do: transforming the dreams of their customers into reality.

We at Santos, would like to thank Luis Yañez Mora (Estudio 7), Ainhoa Murcia de la Casa (Jordi Murcia Taller), Sonsoles Cabana Murias (Santiago Interiores), Isabel Calleja (Santos Vaguada) and Jordi Soler (Traç) for their participation in this article.

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