Business students’ insights prove powerful to City Furniture.

With the effort to capture a new customer costing eight times what retaining a customer does, companies understandably see customer retention as a competitive advantage.

Recently, one of City Furniture’s retail stores was the beneficiary of input from students in the College of Business at Florida International University (FIU) who proposed ways for the store to increase customer awareness and loyalty.

The project was an assignment in a course called Customer Relationship Management (CRM), which provides students with an opportunity to have an impact on a real business challenge faced by a real company. It is part of the college’s Sales and Customer Relationship Management Certificate Program in the Department of Marketing.

Members of the winning team and representatives of City Furniture: Gene Lunger, vice president of sales, City Furniture; Evalee Berbrick; Joseph Mendola; Gretel Jardon; and Kathryn Gottlieb, talent acquisition manager, City Furniture. Daniel Collar was the fourth team member.

“The deliverables—a report of recommendations and a video of each presentation—were nothing short of profound for me,” said Gene Lunger, vice president of sales at City Furniture, who has established a new partnership with the college and looks forward to helping build the sales program. “I was a little blown away by the quantity and quality of the work and by the analysis of course instructor, Nancy Rauseo, with whom I chose a winner from the eight teams.”

Students learn range of practical skills.

For management major Gretel Jardon, a member of the four-person winning team, the project was “overwhelming at the beginning. We drew up a contract, divided the tasks, went into the store as customers, developed a questionnaire, met two hours weekly and then spent six hours at the end pulling our findings together. We had so many ideas we had to really come together as a team to focus them.”

In addition to learning about City Furniture’s business, Jardon found the experience immediately applicable in another business setting: her father’s plastic surgery center.

“I used to work there and therefore know the business well,” she said. “Everything I learned has been useful to him, helping him make sure he concentrates on a company’s most important asset: its customers.”

Lunger welcomes having an impact on the program, noting a mutual benefit.

“The students feel like business consultants and we get to look at talent that fits our company,” he said.


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