By Tom Jennings, WFCA Vice President, Member Services
Every dealer can offer stunning products on their sales floor. Beautiful products are never in short supply. But at day’s end, it’s what happens with those picture-perfect products when they are in the hands of the dealer’s installation team that matters most to the customer.
Think about it. A dealer may have an incredibly talented sales staff that knows how to perform at a high level. Their order department and warehouse staff seldom miss a beat. But beautiful products and a top-notch in-store experience will not guarantee a happy customer. To ensure that result, installers have to deliver at exactly the same level as every other professional on the staff.
We’ve all seen the problems – air pockets bubbling up through a kitchen floor, misaligned tile joints, uneven gaps in a hardwood floor and mysterious ripples and imperfect seams in an otherwise beautiful carpet. These are painful mistakes likely to carry an even more painful price tag, both short- and long-term, for both the installer and the retailer who made the sale.
According to Certified Flooring Installers Association (CFI), most issues surrounding flooring installation are avoidable when dealers use a professionally trained installer. The reality is the majority of flooring installations performed today are completed by self-employed independent contractors who have likely had no formal training, but rather were forced to learn on the job. In most states, there are no educational requirements and no licensing required to becoming a flooring installer. Most people in the profession learn their trade by informal apprenticeship with family members or co-workers. The average knowledge of installation techniques by most installers is limited to whatever the person who trained them knew.
With no formal training, is it realistic to expect them to perform flawlessly on a consistent basis? Hardly! Without proof of training and certification of skills, dealers likely will have no idea whether an installer knows what they are doing until after they install the customer’s floor. Sound too familiar?
There is an easy solution to this critical industry-wide issue ‒ certified installation training. At flooring installation training organizations such as the CFI, National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA), National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) and more, installers are both tested and certified. Also, like doctors, lawyers, and other professionals, they are required to continue educating themselves in updated techniques and new products to remain certified. Installers who graduate from these training programs invest in themselves as professionals because they desire to be the very best at what they do. History shows that store owners who rely on currently certified installers experience far fewer installation issues. All of this translates to happier customers, consistently positive store reviews, and more new business referrals.
Ask yourself this question: Would you trust a self-trained hair stylist or dental hygienist? These are both skills that require certification to work with the public. Both are relatively small ticket purchases with no long term consequences, but would you want these workers practicing on you? Of course not! Then why do so many flooring dealers think their customers would welcome this type of behavior with a far greater investment at stake.
The time is now to raise the performance and skill level of your flooring installation team. The opportunities to do so exist today. Stop procrastinating and get started! All concerned will be glad that you did!