As the associate editor of Floor Trendsand editor of its sister publication Floor Covering Installer, I see a great deal of confusion crop up when it comes to how much retailers should know about the installation side of the business.
Many know the most basic concepts, such as excessive moisture causing problems, but that is usually the extent of the knowledge. While there are many industry trade groups that can offer further information, including the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA), the International Certified Floorcovering Installers Association (CFI), the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA), the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) and the North American Laminate Floor Association (NALFA), the answer is actually quite simple.
Much of the day-to-day installation questions can be answered by simply talking more with your installers, involving them in pre-planning meetings and making them feel like a valuable and indispensible part of your team. This “us vs. them” mentality I see at many stores, where retailers are the shining stars and installers are second-class citizens left hidden in the back room has got to go. Both groups need to work together to create the best experience for the customer.
Of course, if you value your installers, you are going to have to compensate them fairly for their knowledge and skill. For all the trained, certified and knowledgeable installers out there, there are many more that charge a very low price but also don’t understand basic things like the need for expansion joints in tile installations or the importance of prepping the subfloor.
We’ve all heard the old adage, “You get what you pay for,” and boy is that evident in flooring installations. If you have ever seen a hardwood floor buckling, vinyl with bubbles underneath it or a carpet starting to wrinkle, then you’ve likely seen the work of someone who knows just enough to be dangerous, but not enough to properly install a floor covering consistently and professionally.
Retailers sell the fantasy of what a floor will look like in the home, but it is the installers who have to deal with the reality. Have you ever uttered words in your store such as “Don’t worry, miss, this floor is hard as nails” when your customer asks if the floor is durable enough for pets? Then you are selling the vaguest of promises.
Where exactly does “hard as nails” fall on the Janka hardness scale? Is the finish also hard as nails, or should you warn her that if she has her beautiful new floor installed directly below a sunny, exposed window in the summer she’s going to see fading?
Train your salespeople and your installers to be better at their jobs, and treat both the front- and back-end of your business with the same level of care. Yes, your salespeople are the ones adding immediately to your bottom line, but if you think the installers—the people out there on their hands and knees in the customer’s house—are not leaving the homeowner with a lasting impression of the quality of your service and your brand, you are mistaken.
Many retailers find out their attitude of attracting good salespeople but low-priced and untrained installers is faulty only when the claims start rolling in. Avoid that mentality, and the friendliness of the staff and quality of the work will speak for itself.