When it comes to the installation process, it often feels like retailers and installers live on different planets. This lack of understanding can lead to an experience that frustrates the installer, the retailer, and most importantly, the customer. World Floor Covering Association (WFCA) and International Certified Flooring Installers Association (CFI) recently hosted a webinar series that aimed to help floor covering retailers and installers strengthen their team dynamics to create an unforgettable customer experience from sales through installation. 

The event, moderated by WFCA CEO Scott Humphrey, was joined by Robert Varden, executive director of CFI, and Dave Garden president of Installation Services. 

1. Build Relationships With Your Installers

Scott Humphrey
WFCA CEO Scott Humphrey.

Humphrey: The more you know a person, the more you feel like you’re personally failing them or letting them down if the relationship’s important. And that’s one thing professional flooring dealers should understand. There’s a reason to invest in that relationship because you want them to feel like you’re counting on them. They’re doing a job for you. I always say that basically the salesperson sells the canvas and the paint, but the masterpiece is created by the installer. They’re the one that paints the picture that gets looked at every day, and so it is that intricate a partnership; it’s important that both are working together. 

2. Get Creative in Your Installer Recruitment Tactics

Garden: If I were a dealer right now, or a carpet store, I would make sure that I had a good relationship with the sundry houses. Let’s face it, a Craigslist doesn’t work. Back in the 80s, you put an ad in the paper and you’d have 50, 60 calls. [Today], you’re lucky to get that many in a week. When the installer goes to the sundries store to pick up their staples and tack strip, if they’re happy doing business with you, they are going to bring someone else to you when they hear them whining inside the shop. 

Robert Varden
Robert Varden, executive director of CFI.

Varden: If I’ve got a job that needs to be installed next week, the only place I’m going to find an installer that’s worth hiring, in my opinion, is to steal from somebody else. If I have things covered and I’m thinking of the future of my business, I’d be looking for young kids. I’d put them through a phenomenal interview process and I’d put them in situations where I get a good sense of the individual first. Maybe I’m putting them in my warehouse and then I would put them into training. 

3. Improve Your Communication

Varden: On the commercial side, I would say, did the salesman call the general contractor at all to ask him if this project was ready? Did he communicate that all the trades needed to be out of the way? On the residential side, I’d ask if the salesperson walked this job with the consumer. Did they make a checklist and let them know that my installers won’t be able to move the giant antique that is 10 feet wide and 10 feet tall and that the homeowner will have to hire somebody? No, they don’t. The installers get out [to the job], and they’re scratching their head. They don’t want the liability. It comes back to the communication. It’s the tiny little things that don’t get communicated.

4. Respect the Installer’s Time

Garden: Granted, pay should be better for installers. We will harp on that over and over again, as installers will always ask for more. I want a clean work order. Let me know exactly what’s going on in that household so when I call the customer when I’m on my way, I have a good conversation with her about what’s going to happen when I get there. If I work for a shop that cuts the carpet, I want my cut right. If I work for a shop that doesn’t cut the carpet, that’s fine, too, but I want that carpet and padding ready for me so I can load and go. If I work for a shop that supplies tack strip, I want that tack right there. If I work for a shop that doesn’t supply tack strip, I want to know if I need tack strip before I get to the job site. We don’t like surprises.

Learn more about the installation side of the flooring business