Hug your installer

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by Warren Tyler

As much as I disdain the insincere hugs and vacuous kisses we experience in this vapid society of today, I feel a little real love would go a long way to improving business.

The fact is installers are the last people our customers see on any project. Therefore, in many instances, what customers think of our installers is the impression they are left with of our entire operation.

Many retailers combine a holiday dinner and party with company awards each year. Installers and crews are also included by progressive dealers. Owners often hire me to give an end-of-year rah-rah speech and sometimes to hand out the awards.

As an installer was given his award, I would ask why he was chosen and whether he was most technically proficient. The answer was usually a few were just as good, but he received better reviews. Why? “Because my customers liked him.”

You may have the best installer in the country, but if your customers don’t like him, he is worthless.

As an owner, I interviewed all hires. As an ex-installer, I knew the reason so many stores used me was because my customers liked me. It was my attitude rather than my technical proficiency. The main criteria I, as an owner, hired installation people was because of their attitude. If they were someone the customers liked, we could work on their skills, as even experienced new hires had to spend several months with our own people before we let them loose.

Over the years it was obvious on the popularity scale, whether salaried or contracted, installers invariably ranked lower. In fact, many owners seemed to take particular delight in berating their own workers. I learned long ago it is emotionally, intellectually and technically impossible for anyone to do their best job for someone they didn’t like. It made sense to try and cultivate the best relationship possible with installers so on the job they would try to do the best job possible for us.

As my stores grew more successful, it was becoming apparent we needed an installation supervisor. Because of the close relationships we had developed I wasn’t anxious to turn this over to someone else, which got me thinking: “How else can I handle this?” Our installers had been making such good impressions returning customers often requested the same man.

Then a better way hit me. One of the problems in many stores is when something goes wrong on the job, the installers blame the salesperson and vice versa. What if I were to make each dependent upon one another? The salespeople would recommend their favorite installers and the installers would receive more work if the customers were satisfied.

So we instituted a program where the salespeople recommended the installer for specific jobs. What followed was far better than I could have hoped for. The arguments ceased. Installers, on their own, measured other areas where customers might need new flooring or even went to second homes or homes of friends to measure. Salespeople and installers actually became good friends even socializing with each other. Where have you ever heard of this? The attitude was, it was “Jane’s sale.” So he would do the best job possible because Jane would feed him as much work as possible.

Attrition took care of itself. Installers who were not top notch didn’t receive enough work, and knew they had to either improve their act or work elsewhere.

During sales contests we teamed salespeople up with their installers. The installers felt they were a valued part of the company and their work and attitude showed it. Just as the best salespeople did it by building intimate relationships with their customers, the same dynamic works with installers. It turned out to be one of my best ideas ever.

 

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