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Why Every Store Should Have A Customer Driven UP System

Furniture World Magazine


Plus a list of rules to effectively run one.

For a store to legitimately claim that it is customer-driven, it absolutely must have a customer-driven UPs system. This is true for any type of operation, from low-end credit houses to exclusive, high-end house call stores. A customer-driven UPs system is the first and potentially most important step to providing each and every one of your customers an equal and specified level of service.

There are three issues about the UPs system that I will address in this article:

  • Whether or not a store needs an UPs system.
  • The focus of UPs systems and ways to make them customer driven.
  • The importance of documenting the rules.

There are two categories of stores when it comes to the UPs system; those that have one and those that don't. Those that have an UPs system typically use it to prevent three or four sales people from fighting over one customer at the same time. These are more often middle to lower end operations or stores with large selling staffs. On the other end of the spectrum are stores that choose not to use an UPs system. These tend to be higher end or small operations (with few sales people) or stores in which the sales people have worked together for so long that they have their own unspoken UPs system. In this environment, sales people simply attempt to do what they perceive to be fair on any given day.

Owners that choose not to have an UPs system generally believe that they do not have the type of store that gangs up on customers. The problem with this situation is that instead of being ganged up on, customers are often completely neglected. After having been in many stores like this, my experience is that I'm not in the store for very long before I see customers walking around unattended. The owner generally finds himself asking two or three salespeople if browsing customers have been approached... and, if not, would someone please take care of them? Without an UPs system, there is no way to tell who should have had the responsibility to approach those customers. As this situation illustrates, it is just as necessary to have an UPs system in a high end/small store environment as it is in a medium or low end/large store environment.

The bottom line is that the necessity of having an UPs system has little to do with the type of store. It, in fact, can and should be an important element in all types of stores because an UPs system simply ensures that one person is responsible for each customer who enters your store.

The second issue is the question of who should benefit from the UPs system: is the system there to serve your customers or is it there to serve your salespeople? Most stores I visit view the UPs system as a tool to ensure that sales people divide customer opportunities equally between themselves. In a customer-driven store, the purpose of an UPs system is not to ensure that each salesperson gets her fair share of customer opportunities (although she will), but rather to ensure that each customer who enters the store receives an equal and specified level of service. The rules around the UPs system I have outlined in the boxes above are the specific rules that put the entire focus of the system on the customer.

For an UPs system to be entirely effective it has to be clearly defined. It also has to handle virtually every customer related situation that might present itself at the front door (for example: What is a real up? Who should take care of which customers? How do we handle personal trade customers? What happens when a customer comes into the store and asks for somebody when she is not there?). It should also be documented and distributed to every salesperson.

Many of the stores that I go into have an UPs system but the rules are verbally transferred from one salesperson to the next. Over time these rules become more confused because of differing interpretations. Eventually the results look far from what the owner intended when he first implemented the system. Other rules are developed on the fly to resolve certain situations as they arise. Unfortunately these often good rules are rarely documented. It is simply announced that "from now on we'll do it this way because somebody lost a customer yesterday". By writing down and disseminating the rules among all of the salespeople you encourage everyone to learn and live by them, discourage salespeople from making up or changing rules to fit the circumstances, and have a reference in case disputes arise. These are key to the success of an UPs system.

All of this boils down to three simply stated facts. If you want to have a customer-driven store:

  • You should have an UPs system, no matter what type of store you're running.
  • It should be customer-driven, not salesperson driven.
  • It needs to be documented in the form of a set of rules that everybody understands and the rules should be distributed to everybody on the staff.

Over the years, I have developed a very successful customer-driven UPs system. All of my clients use it and it has withstood the test of time. When implemented it will ensure that someone in the store is responsible for each customer that walks in, each customer receives an equal and specified level of service, and it covers every situation your sales people are likely to encounter. The rules of this system are listed below.

These rules are very clear. They take the emphasis off the sales person's need to divide the pie, and place the emphasis on the customer's need for a high level of service. All told, your customers will be happier, and, once they get used to the new system, so will your salespeople because they will no longer need to fight for every sales opportunity.


  • Should have an UPs system, no matter what type of store youĂ­re running.
  • Must be customer, not salesperson driven.
  • Needs to be documented in the form of a set of rules that is distributed to everybody on the staff.
  • The first person in the store is first UP. It is a great incentive to get into the store early.

  • Each customer entering the store will be greeted only by whoever is in the first UP position - Other sales people who believe that they own certain customers are forced to wait to see if those customers in fact ask for them.

  • A customer will not be qualified or questioned as to whether he/she has been in the store before and whom he/she worked with at that time. - Ensures that customers are not systematically referred back to the last sales person they dealt with when they may not have asked

  • If a customer asks for a specific sales person (by name or description) the asked-for salesperson will be paged. The greeting sales person remains first UP- This is called a personal trade. for that last sales person.

  • If a customer asks for a specific sales person who is absent or otherwise unavailable, the greeting salesperson will assist the customer and the entire sale will be split 50/50- Salespeople should have a financial incentive to work with clients even at 50%.

  • After working a personal-trade customer: The sales person returns to his or her previous position on the UP list; or If passed, returns to second UP. This way the salesperson does not lose an UP for a personal trade customer. When returning to the list we never move someone from the first UP position.

  • If the sales person who is first UP is unavailable to greet a customer who enters the store and has not informed the salesperson who is next UP as to his or her location, the first UP salesperson will be repositioned to last UP. - If someone is up and misses their sales opportunity he/she goes to the bottom of the list. It is each salesperson's responsibility to know when he/she is UP and to be prepared for it.

  • A sales person will never approach a customer who is working with another sales person or attempt to draw attention to himself (especially if the customer has worked with that salesperson in the past) - This can happen accidentally from time to time. The sales manager, therefore, needs to watch for trends with particular sales people and, if someone seems to do it repeatedly, he/she the manager needs to respond.

  • If during a sale a customer asks or inquires about another salesperson, the customer will be given the option of working with that person. If the customer accepts the offer to work with the second sales person, the first salesperson will page that salesperson and return to the second position on the UPS list. - It is important that customers be given the option of working with either individual rather than being turned over immediately and automatically to the first salesperson.

Ted Shepherd is the founder and CEO of Shepherd Management Group. The company specializes in changing the selling culture of furniture stores from merchandise-driven to customer-driven using an intensive hands-on process of consulting, training, and mentoring. For more information on the topics in this article contact tshepherd@furninfo.com.