Residential replacement remains an area of growth for flooring retailers, but for those looking to expand their sales beyond remodels, the restoration side of the business can offer ample opportunities. Traditionally, that meant developing a relationship with a restoration contractor and hoping he throws some subcontract work your way. However, another option is available: TradePRO’s Certified Flooring Replacement Network (CFRN).
Mike Lees, president of TradePRO, has 20 years of experience in the property claims management business. His vision for TradePRO, which he launched in 2009, is to connect a network of certified service providers with national insurance carriers for a range of repair and replacement services, including flooring. “Traditionally, flooring dealers have been locked out of insurance opportunities,” Lees said.
CFRN currently includes more than 300 flooring retailers throughout North America, and has secured national service contracts with Safeco Insurance and Liberty Mutual, with more planned. The network is also a partner with Shaw’s aligned dealer programs, though any dealer is welcome to join—providing he meets the criteria.
Lees said the benefit to insurance carriers of using the program is reduced indemnity payments, improved claim cycle times and increased policyholder satisfaction.
CFRN offers full support and training to members. “Our field team will perform an on-site visitation at the retailer’s location and ongoing training and support, teaching them the insurance claim process including how to write estimates and use the technology necessary to work with the insurance community,” Lees noted. “Claims come to us through adjusters and get dispatched to the nearest qualified flooring dealer. We help manage the claims process through the entire lifecycle from reviewing the scope and creating the estimate to processing the payments.”
Since retailers are working with displaced homeowners who have experienced property loss and want to get back to their lives as quickly as possible, timing is critical. “They do have certain time obligations with us,” Lees stated. “They have to contact the customer within an hour after getting the referral, and they need to be on-site within eight business hours to perform the inspection. Then they need to send us the information within 24 hours of the site visit.”
As part of the process, retailers are asked to take photographs and measurements of the damaged floor. Additionally, a sample of the floor must be taken and sent in for laboratory testing. “A laboratory analysis is performed, to [ensure] the homeowner is getting material of similar quality,” Lees explained.
He added retailers in the network have provided all types of flooring for homeowners, including carpet, tile, marble, laminate and even sanding and refinishing hardwood. “Many times these claims are the result of a sink being stopped up, pipes breaking, or the kids coming through with roller skates and tearing up the wood floors. While natural disasters such as floods and hurricanes have a dramatic impact on homes and businesses, most insurance policies don’t cover rising groundwater and limit the funds that are available for consumers to repair or replace their floors.”
Retailers Weigh In
Tammy Goff, co-owner of Indianapolis-based Mainstyle Flooring with her husband Kris, joined TradePRO’s network as a Shaw Flooring Gallery dealer. She said she was interested in CFRN because “as a company, you always want to grow, but when you don’t have a way into insurance you miss out on some opportunities.”
Goff said several steps are necessary to make the TradePRO partnership work: “You need to dedicate an individual to manage the account, and have the appropriate staff and equipment necessary to turn jobs around quickly.”
Because each job is so time-sensitive, “even when he has the day off, our team member who manages the account knows he’s on call,” she added. “Honestly, the limited timeframe for turnaround was probably a fear of mine before we signed up, but we have an excellent communicator managing the account, and we haven’t had any problems.”
Sam Gulesserian, president and owner of Carpeteria in San Leandro, Calif., put what he called his two best salespeople on the TradePRO account, and said the resulting business has already made the decision “one of the best things we’ve ever did.
“We are a well-known retailer in the Bay Area, and have had a lot of customers since 1973, but joining the Certified Flooring Replacement Network has increased our business considerably. It’s a lot of work, with a lot of follow-up, but it’s been worth every minute of it,” he explained.
Gulesserian noted that whenever a problem has come up, TradePRO has been quick to solve it. “The insurance companies are supposed to give the money to TradePRO directly to distribute, but sometimes the adjuster gives it to the customer. When that happens, we might have a hard time collecting it. But we do collect it.”
He added he felt there was “nothing to lose” in joining the network. “There’s a fee for signing up, and a fee for each job that’s completed, but whenever we get a lead we otherwise wouldn’t have gotten, it’s been worth the investment.”
Brian Combs, manager of The Flooring Gallery in Louisville, Ky., called joining the organization “a no-brainer,” adding, “You follow the steps and the margins are great. The investment and training is well worth it.”
He estimates his company picks up two to four leads a week through CFRN. Combs also agreed there needs to be someone on staff dedicated solely to handling TradePRO accounts. “It takes special training and a certain type of person to manage the scope of work in an efficient manner.”
One retailer joined the TradePRO network even though he already specializes in restoration. “We’ve been doing insurance restoration for about 20 years, but never worked directly with the insurance companies before,” noted Irv Rager, owner of IJ Rager Floor Covering in Arcadia, Calif. “TradePRO has a relationship with Safeco, and that’s the largest carrier in our area.”
He said working with TradePRO has brought in “a steady stream of business, and that’s worth a lot. It’s a lot of work, and you have to stay on top of it. It’s very demanding and TradePRO makes it even more demanding, which is good. Everything is an emergency, and has to be treated that way.”
Rager added the leads he gets through TradePRO have created a situation where he has had to hire new people.
“That’s a great problem to have,” he concluded.
For more information on the network, visit www.cfrn.us.