Over its 147 years, manufacturer Kohler has seen a thing or two. This is why the team behind the world-class plumbing and furniture company was confident that, with the right mix of perseverance, ingenuity, and resilience, it could see off this crisis just like it has seen off others.

Like most non-essential stores, Kohler’s retail arm Ann Sacks was forced to close its showrooms under COVID-19 imposed restrictions. And yet, the retailer — as well as Kohler’s design, manufacturing, and distribution arms — have weathered the pandemic storm. Not only have they seamlessly transitioned to remote work, they have deftly reimagined their offerings to suit changing customer needs. And, while doing all this, they’ve managed to give back to frontline workers at the heart of the crisis.

As Ann Sacks slowly prepares to reopen, the company is in good shape. So, how did they do it?


Remote work made easy

When the crisis broke out, businesses that had already begun the process of digital transformation were in a better position than most — and Kohler was lucky enough to be one of them.

In 2019, Ann Sacks’s sales associates started using Salesforce to help them deliver personalized customer service. Pre-pandemic, associates would use their tablets to access customer data in-store. Because they were already working on the cloud rather than relying on on-premises records, the move to home offices was easy — they had no VPN or connectivity issues to contend with.

Working from home, Ann Sacks’s staff and other Kohler team members can collaborate in real time and keep in touch with customers across a variety of channels. The company makes it easy for customers and prospects to book digital appointments via the website. 


When life gives you lemons …

With total visibility of all leads in the pipeline, the Kohler team can generate accurate, real-time forecasts that let them plan for an uncertain future and adjust their marketing to rapidly changing demands.

In the past few months, Kohler has catered to its customers’ new concerns with offerings like touchless kitchen faucets with voice-reading capabilities — as well as touchless bidets and self-cleaning toilets. And to help customers stay connected in isolation, Kohler has launched the popular Kohler@Home Instagram Live series, where the team hosts weekly conversations with leading design voices like Bobby Berk of Queer Eye fame.

It’s been easy for Kohler to meet changing needs with a single source of truth for every interaction, area of interest, existing quote, and previous and upcoming order that relates to each customer. Using this data, the Kohler team has been able to provide appropriate and tailored suggestions for the individuals in their community — many of whom are looking to remodel their homes as they shelter in place. With a clear view of all leads and quotes to follow up, the sales team is making sure no opportunities fall through the cracks at this critical moment.


Sharing the love

Using software that aligns associates, designers, distributors, and retailers, Kohler’s people have been able to collaborate on a variety of powerful initiatives to support frontline workers in the pandemic.

The teams have channelled their expertise and resources into designing, manufacturing, and donating 200,000 face shields for healthcare workers around the world. They have also sourced and donated 100,000 items of personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks, goggles, and disinfectant, and delivered plumbing and power essentials to help run COVID-19 field hospitals. In addition, they offer support to their community of customers by sharing online resources like immune-boosting nutrition tips and guidance on maintaining financial, emotional, and physical health in a crisis.

Using Salesforce’s Marketing Cloud, Kohler’s people have been able to share these initiatives with customers and influencers such as designers, architects, and builders — while keeping them up to date with tailored product and service offerings.


Gearing up for the future

As Ann Sacks stores reopen, the safety of employees and customers is its first priority. With community health front of mind, they’re starting slow, offering customers touchless curb-side sample pickups to minimize the risks of face-to-face contact.

As showrooms in select locations begin to reopen, Ann Sacks helps to protect its customers by implementing appointment-only, one-person visits, during which they enforce strict social distancing protocols. They’re providing face masks to sales staff and customers and checking associate’s temperatures at the beginning of every shift. And, by cleaning and sanitizing the showroom three times a day, they’re doing everything they can to return to business as usual without risking anyone’s health.

To find out more about how today’s leaders are meeting the challenges of the new world, check out our Leading Through Change series for tips, thought leadership, and other helpful resources.