RSAs & installers: Bridging the divide

Home Column RSAs & installers: Bridging the divide

By Paul Stuart With all the lip service paid to floor layers these days, I still find that some dealers and contractors act as if the flooring installers are disposable. Why is that? Maybe it is the salesmen and estimators who are not needed. I mean, they just mess everything up, overselling and overcommitting to the impossible.

OK, so let’s say we just get rid of salesmen and estimators. I can see it now—a wonderful world where salesmen and estimators are a thing of the past and the installer does it all. He finds the opportunity, goes through the selection process, sets the client’s expectations, measures the project, orders the materials, schedules the material deliveries, sets the install date, then installs the product flawlessly just like the client wanted.

I’m being facetious, of course, but I think you get the point: We all need each other. Projects are like ecosystems that require nourishment. Everyone in the equation has an important role to fill the client’s needs. The question becomes, then, how can we improve? How do we create an atmosphere where both sides win and work together?

Don’t get me wrong—I do not mean to imply that this is the case in every company. There are plenty of instances where this relationship works quite well. However, a quick peek inside some online installer forums and social media groups revealed a heap of discontent.

My perspective is uniquely formed from spending years as an employee installer, then as a subcontractor and, now, a commercial flooring contractor employing and contracting installers, salesmen and estimators. In my view, there is one way to improve this situation: communication.

Simply telling you that communication is the answer is obviously a bit cliché, so let’s dive deeper. We have all heard that communication is the key to life, so why do we experience such disconnect? In my opinion it’s because communication is about understanding the other party’s perspective and speaking to that perspective. This means we must listen first.

Practice communication

Do you set clear expectations for each project with your installers in your verbal communication? Do you listen to each difficulty as they see it? Give it a try. I guarantee you it will lead to stronger relationships with your crews. In addition, it will help your staff set up projects better and help the installer be more successful. When we listen to an installer’s ideas and really value their perspective, you can be certain of the positive effects it will have on your project.

Bottom line: Keeping the lines of communication flowing during a project encourages dialogue that solves problems before they become a catastrophe. Focusing communication directly on the work order at hand will fend off misunderstandings.

We all must encourage this type of focused dialogue, champion it and build rewards around it. Your client will appreciate the fact that the salesperson and installer are on the same page, thereby unifying their experience. Ask more questions, truly listen to each other and fully understand and appreciate the expectations of the “other” person—and then you can exceed the client’s expectations together.

Paul Stuart Jr. is president of Stuart & Associates Commercial Flooring and founder of GoCarrera, a mobile app and desktop software that connects flooring companies and professional flooring installers.

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