Al’s column: Make sure your vendors are true partners

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September 2/9, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 6

By Lou Morano

 

(Editor’s note: This is the fourth installment in a multi-part series.)

For many years most flooring retailers shopped vendors according to the best value—just like many of our customers—and we often purchased from those vendors. Over time, however, we noticed that some of those vendors were not up to our standards as it pertained to the level of customer service they provided. We also experienced a much higher rate of claims from some of those vendors.

It is of the utmost importance that we set proper standards for the vendors we deal with. Some of our standards include quality with minimal claims, even on commodity items. The vendor must have competitive pricing, and their claims department must deal with any issues in a reasonable and timely manner. In addition, the culture of the vendor and their representatives, from the top down, must match ours. We chose to eliminate vendors that were good partners, but unfortunately their quality control was terrible and caused too many problems. We also severed ties with vendors that made quality products and were priced competitively, but their culture was all about them and not about us nor the consumer.

When we deal with vendors that are aligned with our values, not only is it a pleasure to do business with them but it is also a mutually beneficial relationship. When you must jump through hoops or have to constantly contest and argue about scenarios that are obvious or are “just the right thing to do” to properly service the end user, then that vendor needs to be eliminated. On the flip side, the vendors sometimes have to contend with unscrupulous retailers who try to take advantage of them in claims situations and make it difficult for the vendor to determine the real truth. Therefore, it is paramount to create long-standing relationship with your vendors, building trust along the way so on those occasions when you are in a “gray area” the vendor can make the right decision based on the trust in your relationship.

We carry this thought process vertically with the vendors we choose to deal with, the people we hire all the way to the installers we employ. We strive to only work with people who have a similar value system, ethics and standards as our own. What that looks like after many years of weeding out the “undesirables,” for lack of a better word, are mutually beneficial relationships with our vendors, installers and employees—something our customers notice through our high service levels. Before we hire anyone or deal with any new vendor, we ask ourselves: “Do they hold up to these standards?” If not, we move on. If they do, we move forward. If they prove to not live up to those standards, then they will be replaced.

We also hold ourselves to those same standards. In many instances we make decisions that cost our company money because we defer to our customer in all gray areas. This means that unless we can know with absolute certainty that a situation is not our fault or the manufacturer’s fault, we usually defer to our customer. There have been many times where we have replaced floors we believed were the consumer’s responsibility. But we replaced it anyway, because when we are not 100% sure—and when we do not have irrefutable evidence—then we do the right thing and take care of the customer.

 

Lou Morano started selling carpet for a major retailer at the age of 19 in 1981. In 1985 he and his father incorporated Capitol Carpet and opened their first full-service retail store in 1986. Today Morano operates five retail stores, including a commercial division, under the name Capitol Carpet & Tile and Window Fashions.

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