As a professional installer and an educator of professional installers and salespeople, I hear this statement all too often. Usually it is uttered by someone I’ve never seen or heard from before and precedes a Stephen King-like narrative documenting years of frustration at the hands of individuals masquerading as professional floor covering installers.
The question implies the problem of quality floor covering service is an availability problem. But that isn’t necessarily the case. There are quality shops and qualified professional installers, although the number of both is shrinking. Finding and training good people who provide service is a cost problem, not an accessibility issue. Before we go any further, you need to understand why floor covering installation is more expensive today than in the past.
In every industry you encounter costs. With the floor covering industry of the past, the installer was a craftsman that carried his skill in his head and hands. The tools of his trade were simpler in nature and inexpensive to acquire, while his education and experience went on for a lifetime.
Over the past 20 years, the floor covering industry has evolved from the industrial revolution to a technical revolution due to the higher technology in job conditions, materials, adhesives, tools and installation techniques.
Floor covering salespeople and installers today must also be aware of environmental issues, government regulations, compatibility issues between adhesives and surfaces, new floor preparation products that work with the new materials, bonding and welding systems for seams, moisture conditions of both wood and concrete substrates and all of the specialty materials requiring different installation techniques.
Installation service jobs can’t be compared as though they were two similar commodities sitting side-by-side on a supermarket shelf. You cannot walk into a local floor covering retailer and order a 1/2 lb. of floor preparation. And installation services cannot be easily comparison shopped because methods in this industry have been bastardized to a point where they have no real meaning.
Case in point: what exactly is minimal floor preparation? Ask six different floor covering salespeople and you will get six different answers. The worst part is none of them are wrong. Floor covering installation is an art, a practice and now a science. The floor covering professional must exercise judgment in determining what constitutes the procedure to be used.
The consumer needs to understand not only what service they will be receiving for their money, but also whether that service will address their expectations. However, every day across America, consumers request a simple and inexpensive magic solution to a problem that is complex and expensive. After over 45 years in the industry, I am convinced the only magic solution is to concentrate on quality products from every aspect of the installation, using no halfway measures to solve a given problem.
Retailers should become more specialized and concentrate on the products they carry. For example, if you carry ceramic, know ceramic; if you carry hardwood, know hardwood. Don’t allow your focus to stray away from products that are not going to be your specialty. The same should hold for your installation services. If you want inexpensive installations hire inexpensive installers. But remember, you get what you pay for.
The consumer must also be made aware that the floor covering industry is a specialty business, and they must find the right floor covering establishment to fulfill their needs and expectations. I have heard a lot of horror stories with one thing in common. The customer did not spend enough time trying to find the “right place” to shop. In some cases they went with the low bid. However, a low price does not necessarily ensure a high level of quality and service.
Because of the very real shortage of trained and qualified installers, most of the good stores are busy. That is why floor covering establishments must concentrate on constantly upgrading their sales and installation forces. Successful flooring retailers should use this effort as a sales tool, which should be communicated to their customers through advertising.
There are lots of reasons consumers cannot get their floors installed properly. Some of them are real, and some imagined. Some of the blame deserves to be placed on the consumer for not knowing what their needs are, or the willingness to spend the money to have the installation done properly. But most blame needs to be placed squarely on the retailer. They are often more willing to spend their profits on complaint administration than on training.
It is a fact there are not enough retailers who support training efforts, and there are even fewer who have a training budget. Despite all of the installation concerns, millions of yards of floor covering are installed every year without problems. If you keep your installers educated, you can add to that number.