Gold Standard Retailer Award

To Our Valued Members:

The WFCA believes in giving recognition where recognition is due. That’s why we are recognizing and rewarding excellence in our retailer community with our Gold Standard Award. The award, given annually during TISE/SURFACES, will be given to one exemplary business that has well demonstrated the standards of a WFCA member and has created an outstanding consumer retail experience. The Gold Standard Award will be given in two categories based on sales volume: Over $10 million and Under $10 million. We will also be awarding 2nd and 3rd place prizes in both categories. Prizes will consist of training packages:

1st Place: (Over $10 million) - Choice of:

  • Two-day CFI onsite custom CFI carpet seaming class ($5,000 value),*
  • Two-day onsite custom sales training ($5,000 value),* or
  • One-year online WFCA University tuition (multiple locations) ($1,800 value)
    *Both classes would be a one-day class repeated on a second day, allowing dealers with multiple locations to split their staffs.

1st Place (under $10 million) - Same choices as noted above, but only single day of classes. ($2,500 Value)

2nd Place (both categories) - Six months online WFCA University tuition ($900 Value)

3rd Place (both categories) - Three months online WFCA University tuition ($450 Value)

It is time to begin the process of nominating outstanding retailers. In the following pages you will find all of the information necessary for you to submit your store or nominate a retailer, as well as the judging criteria. The information packet and guidelines are also available below.

Apply

 

 

Please note that the entry deadline is December 31. All entry material will be treated with complete confidentiality and will be reviewed only by the judging panel.

If you have any questions, please contact the membership department at 855.330.1183 or info@wfca.org.

Sincerely,

Scott Humphrey
CEO, World Floor Covering Association

 

 

 

Guidelines for Nomination Eligibility

  • Member in good standing of the WFCA
  • Must have been in business for at least three years
  • Clean BBB report
  • Anyone may nominate a retailer they believe meets the criteria or companies may nominate themselves

 

 

Gold Standard Award Criteria

Once a store has met all of the above eligibility criteria, the winner will be selected based on the following:

  • Knowledge: Knowledgeable management and staff who work to keep actively informed on the industry.
  • Customer Service: Providing courteous service, and offering customers help throughout the purchase process.
  • Quality of Store Image: Must maintain a clean, professional, well-maintained store – both inside and out.
  • Adherence to the WFCA Code of Conduct.
2015 Gold Standard Winner—McSwain Carpets & Floors

McSwains Retail Management

2015 Gold Standard Award Winner—McSwain Carpets & Floors

By Arpi Nalbandian, Associate Editor

Recognizing its continued dedication to putting customer service first, the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA) has honored Cincinnati, Ohio-based McSwain Carpets & Floors with its 2015 Gold Standard Retailer Award. To McSwain’s employees, suppliers and especially its customers, the WFCA’s Gold Standard Award comes as no surprise since one of the company’s leading principles of conducting business is to provide “service you can trust.” 

“This award confirms our commitment to an exceptional flooring experience is on the right track,” says company president Jason McSwain. “Our employees are reaffirmed by the WFCA of the high value we place with each customer. For every customer that trusts our sales associates and entrusts our brand with their flooring project, our reputation is only as good as the deliverable we generate in their home. The commitment to always refine for improvement is validated with receiving the Gold Standard achievement.”

Historical Perspective: It’s in the Genes

With a grandfather and father involved in the hardwood flooring installation business, it was only natural the beginning of the McSwain Carpets & Floors story took seed when two brothers, Ralph and Ron, found in themselves the spirit of cooperation. Since the age of 12, Ron McSwain worked at his older brother Ralph’s flooring company. These efforts eventually led to a college education funded by Ron’s strong work ethics, all while installing hardwood for Ralph’s customers.

In the mid 1960s, Ron formally joined Ralph’s business, McSwain Hardwood Floor Co. As the business thrived, the McSwains never faltered in their core beliefs -- treating builders and homeowners with integrity.

Shortly after incorporating a new division of McSwain Hardwood Floor Co. in 1969, the family tradition of McSwain Carpets was realized. “More than 41 years after our first store opened, McSwain Carpets & Floors is still very much a family business,” added Jason. “We continue to uphold the tradition of putting customer service first.”

With decades of business experience and 11 showrooms, McSwain has served its community and flooring clients well. “Armstrong has had the unique privilege of partnering with the McSwain family over many decades, and through this experience,” says Tom Cole, retail strategy manager, North America, Armstrong Floor Products. “We’ve gained a first-hand feel for how they operate their specialty flooring retail business. After a complete analysis of all retailers in the markets that they serve, McSwain was chosen by Armstrong to receive our highest Elite endorsement, and is the only flooring retailer in the greater Cincinnati-Dayton Metroplex that we actively elevate to consumers as ‘an expert team of trained product professionals dedicated to helping you choose the right floor.’ To put this in perspective, of the 11,200 flooring stores in the United States, less than 2% have achieved Elite status from Armstrong as the most recognized and trusted brand in flooring.” 

Moreover, Randy Merritt, Shaw Industries president, added, “On a personal note I have known not only the McSwain family but many of their associates for at least 35 years. I have called on them and sold them. From this experience I can tell you that they are true to their word and committed in their mission to serve.”

“This recognition will positively affect the morale of each associate,” commented Jason. “In all we do, humility is the key to happiness because humility enables learning. If pride sets in, the ability to learn and adjust to the ever changing needs of customers also sets in. The esteemed recognition from WFCA, spurs our group to pursue greater brand growth to more customers that may be new to our region and not familiar with the McSwain Carpets & Floors legacy of customer service.”

Creativity, Innovation Enhance Customer Experience

It takes more than setting up a table covered with product samples to help a customer understand which product(s) would best fit their home’s and their family’s needs. The McSwains, as have previous Gold Standard Award winners, understand, meet and exceed their customers’ needs with several in-store zones. Each zone, be it a designer/product center, lounging area, or one catered toward the comfort of children, is focused on the customer’s experience. 

For Jason, product zones organized by customer needs and/or brands, take center stage. The zones include:

  • STAINMASTER Flooring Center displays that group carpets by construction and customer need (e.g. extra durability for active families).
  • Armstrong Elite, which groups all Armstrong products together for the customer seeking that particular brand.
  • The Karndean Design Center, which features all LVP and LVT products for creative use by designers.
  • The interactive DalTile Statements Dealer showroom, which offers the most recent updates DalTile brings to the market.

Further, design/work tables available throughout the stores provide customer with a home base where samples from home (fabric, pillows, paint swatches) can be arranged, while working with product samples from within the store. Most importantly, at least to parents of small children, McSwain’s activity areas feature comfortable seating, games, and TV/VCRs for videos to keep the kids occupied. Refreshment areas with a coffee maker and cold beverage center helps keep customers hydrated for an enjoyable shopping experience. 

Specialized rooms and vignettes also showcase each product category with sample displays, imagery and installations. The customer is allowed to look, feel, touch – and most importantly – envision how the chosen product(s) will change the look of their home.

In terms of providing the customer with a complete experience, McSwain adheres to pre- and post-installation checklists, offers a variety of customer support channels, and empowers its sales and installation managers with decision-making tools when it comes time to correcting a problem. 

It’s with this care overall commitment to its clients that McSwain Carpets & Floors netted the WFCA’s Gold Standard Award. Obviously, providing exceptional customer service doesn’t just start with the initial greeting and end with the installation. A full-service model ensures that associates can oversee the customer’s flooring project from start to finish. For McSwain, this means: 

  • Customer Service support from the time the product is ordered until the installation is complete, but most importantly, until the customer is satisfied with their experience.
  • Address and correct any negative experiences promptly to the customer’s satisfaction
  • Frequent follow up with existing customers via phone call, email, social media, direct mail
  • Exclusive product warranties; installation warranties, and more.

In the Community

Similar to how McSwain Carpets & Floors works hard to deliver premier flooring products and services to its extensive client base, it also serves as a leader within the communities they serve and live amongst.

“We’ve partnered with St. Jude Hospital for the past six years providing flooring for the St. Jude Home, and plan to do so again in 2016. The partnership Shaw Industries has with St. Jude is commendable and McSwain is fortunate to provide the skill of flooring installation for these homes. Shaw has now expanded their partnership with St. Jude and we will now carry the St. Jude flooring line within all showrooms,” added Jason.

Similarly, McSwain partnered with Armstrong with the installation of flooring for “Homes for Our Troops” by providing hardwood flooring throughout the ranch home of a returning disabled army veteran wounded from battle.

Further, McSwain Carpets & Floors has provided flooring services for more than 120 Habitat For Humanity Homes in Cincinnati since 1992. The company has also played key roles in the startup of a free medical clinic, a credit union, early childhood education program, and a K-8th elementary school, all in Cincinnati’s most challenged neighborhood, called Over-The-Rhine. 

Also benefitting from McSwain’s community involvement mission, the company also sponsors ‒ with financial or product support: Matthew 25: Ministries’ “Fighting Hunger 5K Run/Walk” (an international humanitarian aid and disaster relief organization helping the poorest of the poor locally, regionally, nationally and internationally; Hands Against Hunger: A Child’s Hope International (motivates and mobilizes the church to care for the orphans in their distress; Cornerstone Foundation (more than $6 million donated to date); 241-KIDS organization (a hotline for reporting child abuse); founder Ron McSwain, has focused on the creation of Insured Success, a program that enables foster children to prepare for and complete a college education; and so much more. 

Training & Education

As evident from the recently concluded TISE West/Surfaces exhibition in Las Vegas, new product launches are a must for the floor covering industry to remain relevant, and most importantly, fashionable. With that in mind, McSwain is passionate about keeping everyone within each of the company’s showrooms up-to-date with new products, methods and technologies: 

  • In-showroom mini-meetings 
  • General sales meetings 
  • Vendor seminars 
  • Two-day Karastan Installation clinic for installers 
  • Two-part TCA tile certification training for contractors 
  • Shaw Learning Academy
  • Mohawk brand product training with Mohawk University
  • Invista continuing education for Stainmaster Flooring Center selling teams 

Obviously, says Jason, “Our retail sales associates are trained on products through a number of ways. We also recognize the continued development and training of installers as a top priority.”

Improvements & Staying Power

With new ideas come two outcomes: long-lasting success or immediate failure. However, with McSwain’s longevity and its inherit embracing of new technology, the company has introduced several new successful ideas/platforms, including: 

  • Newly optimized website for both desktop and mobile phone users
  • Increased social media interaction
  • Partnership through Shaw Industries to service the Costco Warehouse flooring program
  • Partnership with Pet Adoption Event – My Furry Valentine, from which they gained several customer leads, resulting in sales, as well as capture a prospect list to advertise to in the future.

“Beyond our quality product selection, it is McSwain’s desire to give our customer’s complete satisfaction with their experience. This business can be difficult because so many things can happen that are out of our control, but if we truly work to treat our customers fairly and to provide an experience that exceeds their expectations that will set us apart from the competition,” added Jason.

Along with the recognition and honor for receiving the Gold Standard Award, annual recipients are also awarded a $5,000 check. Jason says small celebrations with those involved in their installation and customer service teams have already occurred. “It is team reliance each and every day. The clear reality with servicing retail customers: we are only as strong as our weakest link on any given day.”

To further spread the word on this recognition, McSwain plans to implement “a talking piece that invites customers to want to learn more in each showroom. The WFCA trophy will be part of this. Our office is not big on collecting plaques or trophies; there is no trophy case in the lobby. But making replicas of the trophy received by WFCA, one for each showroom, is intended to invite future consumers to gain a glimpse of how McSwain Carpets & Floors is recognized within our flooring industry. We are truly honored with this recognition; we want our consumers to share in the joy alongside our team. I plan to also place a copy of the trophy in our three customer service offices, as a job-well-done each and every day to our service team members that execute behind the sales team.”

Additionally, Michelle Bruegge, McSwain’s marketing director, will incorporate the Award into the company’s upcoming print campaign, as well as their online social channels. “Michelle’s creativity will push the Gold Standard far beyond my initial ideas,” McSwain added. 

Reflecting upon the company’s longevity, Jason credits his father Ron’s strong business foundation and core business principles to lead today. “In 1988, as Dad received the Greater Cincinnati’s Small Business Leader of the Year award, he shared with the Cincinnati Enquirer the following quotes: 

  • Executives of a company in its formative years should be employee-conscious and also sacrifice personal financial gains for corporate success. 
  • Officials should leave money in the business. If the company is expanding rapidly, it’s easy to outgrow your cash limits. 
  • Presidents who think they deserve more money should invest the money back into the firm. 
  • It is important to put employees first, thereby retaining solid people.

“These principles he shared publically of his first 20 years, continue today. Arising from these primary root principles, the company has strategically expanded through acquisition while weathering prolonged economic recessions. Recruiting and developing exceptional people is the common business pulse from the 70s through today that produces the success we strive for,” added Jason. 

Lastly, as a flooring retailer, Jason emphasizes how the embracing and leveraging technology can lead to “innovate new ways of engaging and delighting the customer, and then converting and executing sales as accurately and efficiently as possible. To do this thoroughly, investments of attention and funding in areas that often receive less support than needed are required.” With thoughtful planning and execution, McSwain will surely achieve its next set of goals.

To receive the Gold Standard Award, companies were reviewed and judged based on:

  • Knowledge – ensuring a knowledgeable management and staff who work to remain actively informed on the state of the industry;
  • Customer Service – providing courteous service and offering customers help throughout the purchase and after-purchase process;
  • Quality of Store Image – a clean, professional, well-maintained store must be presented at all times;
  • Code of Conduct – the facility must adhere to the WFCA Code of Conduct, which states retailers must: be truthful with customers in all matters related to the sale, service and installation of floor covering; refrain from misleading advertising of any nature, and offer only merchandise and services that are readily available; treat all customers with respect; be attentive to the customer’s desires and needs; uphold the highest standards of excellence and fairness in their business; observe and abide by the laws and regulations governing good business practices; conduct business in a sensitive and considerate way; subscribe to the highest standards of professionalism in their business at all times; and treat violations of this code as inconsistent with membership in the WFCA.

In order to be considered for the Gold Standard Award, companies must be WFCA members, had to have been in business for a minimum of three years, and have a clean Better Business Bureau report. Applicants also had to complete a multiple-page submission form and present multimedia marketing materials and other collateral that is factored into the review process.

       

2014 Gold Standard Winner—American Carpet One in Hawaii

Teamwork, Aloha Spirit Garner WFCA’s 2014 Gold Standard Award for American Carpet One​

By Arpi Nalbandian, Associate Editor

The World Floor Covering Association (WFCA) recently announced Honolulu, Hawaii-based American Carpet One winner of the association’s 2014 Gold Standard Award for excellence in retailing. 

Of course, this came as no surprise to its employees or to its loyal customers. American Carpet One, had burst onto the Hawaiian flooring scene on January 2, 1974 as The Carpet Shoppe, with just five employees. Within six months, a small warehouse was added to support the newly launched installation department. In 1988, after joining Carpet One, American Carpet One was born. 

“Since 1988, American Carpet One has been a shining example of excellence in floorcovering retail,” said Howard Brodsky, co-founder, chairman and co-chief executive officer of CCA Global Partners.

Fast-forward 41 years after the company’s founding, American Carpet One still holds its commitments to long-lasting customer and community service with the highest regard. “Clients can purchase flooring from any number of retail and wholesale locations, but the savvy shopper wants more,” says store owner David Arita. Customers want to “purchase from a company they trust. They want to establish a relationship with this company. Each job is completely custom and comes with its own challenges. Our shopper today wants a company to go on this journey of a home flooring renovation with them rather than just an exchange of money for product,” added Arita.

American Carpet One’s dedication to community and charitable causes is further indication of the company’s legacy. In addition to being ranked #61 within Hawaii’s most charitable companies (Hawaii Business magazine, November 2014), the company is continually involved with The Salvation Army, four local universities, several schools, Humane Society, the Aloha United Way, State of Hawaii Adopt-A-Highway program, Toys for Tots; and in 2014, it hosted its very first Adopt-a-Pet Day. 

“It’s fine to give back, but most times it is actually your time and attention that people crave,” mentioned Arita. “We’re active in many networking organizations hoping to educate the community on flooring and what is involved in the installation process. The Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM), Rotary, BNI, Honolulu Association of Insurance Professionals (HAIP), Honolulu Board of Realtors (HBR), and the Chamber of Commerce are a sampling of the organizations we have committed to being a part of.”

Along with the recognition and honor for receiving the Gold Standard Award, annual recipients are also awarded a $5,000 check. Upholding their reputation of dedication and giving back, American Carpet One will be sharing its cash prize with charities and its employees. “This is very huge for all of us. The employees all deserve a pat on the back and an acknowledgement for  winning this award. It will prove to them that our hard work and effort as a team has paid off. Each and every person is to be congratulated. Everyone in the company is important and plays a very important role to our success,” added Arita.

It’s safe to say that the methods, practices and programs American Carpet One has implemented in recent years to increase the customer’s experience have been very successful. “At American Carpet One, our goal is to create a raving fan. We strive to move beyond the customer relationship and look to building a friendship. Hawaii is a very special place and we appreciate that our connection in the community reaches far beyond a place to shop. Our customers are the friends and family of our own friends and family members,” Arita said proudly.

Hence, a customer’s experience at American Carpet One begins when they first step into the wide, inviting store entry that features a comfortable seating area and a warm welcome by the receptionist. Assigned salespeople then greet the customers and take them on a personal tour of the vast showroom’s layout and available selections. Specialized rooms and vignettes showcase each product category with sample displays, imagery and installations. The customer is allowed to look, feel, touch – and most importantly – envision how the chosen product(s) will change the look of their home.

“We use every platform available to educate and inspire,” said Arita. Our walkways and walls are a curated quilt of flooring and window covering possibilities. Customers can tour from our showroom to warehouse and view large installations of stocking options to suit every home from traditional to modern. Within one hallway, we created a path of wool and natural sisal on our walls with information to help the consumer understand, in a very tactile way, the differences in carpet fibers.”

“This store is constantly striving to be at the forefront of floor covering marketing and merchandising,” commented Eric Demaree, president of Carpet One Floor & Home. “They strive to keep up with continuing education and not only stay up-to-date, but one step ahead of industry standards and trends.”

It’s with this attention to detail and overall commitment to its clients that American Carpet One netted the WFCA’s Gold Standard Award. Obviously, providing exceptional customer service doesn’t just start with the initial greeting and end with the installation. “Our full service model ensures our associates can oversee the customer’s flooring project from start to finish,” said Arita. This means: 

  • Associates are available by phone, email or text; 
  • Estimators remind customers of their measure appointments;
  • Service department personnel contact customers to confirm installation;
  • Follow-up calls are made the day after installation, and again at six-month and one-year intervals by sales associates;
  • Carpet warranties are registered on behalf of the customer;
  • An in-house claims department handles any concerns that may arise; and
  • Report cards and thank you notes are sent to every installation customer. Yelp and Facebook comments are encouraged.

“This is the experience that we provide at American Carpet One. It all starts with our people. All positions within the company have specific training programs that must be passed before they even come in contact with the public,” noted Arita. “Client retention or maintaining any relationship is about appreciating the other party and never taking them for granted. We have established a culture of giving back to our clients and our community because it is them who have allowed us to operate on Oahu for the past 40 years,” Arita concluded.

In addition to its annual Client Appreciation Golf Tournament, the company also hosted the largest private golf tournament in the State of Hawaii in honor of its 40th anniversary (2014). With more than 265 participants, this free event included gift bags for the attendees, prizes and awards, as well as food and drink from local restaurants and vendors. “It’s a day of fellowship, and strengthening relationships by spending the day together,” mentioned Arita.

Yet, having high customer satisfaction ratings and a family-like environment between associates and clients doesn’t mean American Carpet One could sit back and relax. They have consistently implemented ideas such as new advertising platforms, scratch-off coupons, renovation stories and editorials, as well as a special tabloid. According to Danette Hoe, American Carpet One’s sales manager, “Renovation articles and editorials were frequent parts of a specialized Sunday insert called Hawaii Renovation, and a separate popular local section called MidWeek. Topics shared covered the entire range of flooring, installation methods and services. These included specific categories like LVT, wool, Stainmaster, etc., as well as CCA exclusives like the Healthier Living Installation System. In these articles we wanted to expand on consumer education, and help homeowners think about how they live on their floors and from there focus what products would best suit their needs.”

In 2014, the company upgraded its phone and Internet systems, purchased new computers, and hosted a Pet Adoption event in conjunction with the Stainmaster Pet Protect product line introduction. “Our Pet Adoption Event was initiated in conjunction with the Stainmaster ‘Sit, Stay, and Save’ event,” said Hoe. “However, we enjoyed the event so much that we are looking to make it a bigger partnership. We have since provided donations for their fundraising efforts and will be making the adoption day an annual event.”

Plans for improving business include focusing on education and training, similar to Carpet One’s Education Day. Leadership classes and Dale Carnegie courses are also part of the improvement agenda, as are attending training programs offered by CCA Global and Invista. “We will also have Robert Varden from CFI come to train our installers and subcontractors for the fourth time in our company’s history,” added Arita. 

In line with the company’s objective of preparedness, American Carpet One has weathered the recession with thoughtful planning and execution. “We weathered the downturn in 2008, 2009 and 2010 by not hiring unless absolutely necessary. We had no layoffs or pay cuts,” said Arita. “In 2011 and 2012, business started to level off, and by 2013 and 2014, we have had double-digit increases. I believe we are on a growth cycle and out of the recession.”

As with any industry, employee retention remains a concern. When asked how important the staff is to the success of American Carpet One, Arita responded with two words: One Team. “No one position is any more important than another. If one of us fails, we all fail; if one of us is successful, then we are all successful. This business or any business is all about the people you choose to represent yourself and the brand you have created. They are a direct reflection of the company’s values and represent those same values out in the community,” stressed Arita.

According to Bob Bryan, CCA Global University, “American Carpet One has created systems and standards that define who they are as a company, and what their customers will experience throughout their entire encounter.” What sets this company apart from other flooring retailers is that “the showroom staff takes the time to really know their customers as people, not just another sale,” added Bryan. Customer-oriented focus, coupled with the store’s inviting, easy-to-navigate floor plan, is what makes American Carpet One “truly a Gold Standard retailer whose whole focus is in fulfilling the customer’s, and their people’s needs and wants,” concluded Bryan.

When asked about how the Gold Standard Award will affect the company, Arita said, “This will make a huge impact on how they [team members] feel about who they are and what they do. They may not be able to comprehend [what it means] to receive an acknowledgment at this level. We are the best of the best in the world.”

“I travel all over North America and do not know another company that has company culture that is so defined, understood and practiced every day,” mentioned Pami Bhullar, director of retail development for Invista. “I am always amazed that everyone in your organization not only can recite it at any time, but sincerely believes in the following: 

“Vision: To Be the Best We Can Be. Mission: To Serve Others. Goal: Create Raving Fans (Ambassadors). Values: Honesty, Integrity, Hard Work and Team Work. Culture: Kaizen– Continuous Improvement. Willingness to Change. Perfection is the Standard. Passion: Exceptional Customer Service Quick, Easy and Accurate.”

To receive the Gold Standard Award, companies were reviewed and judged based on:

  • Knowledge – ensuring a knowledgeable management and staff who work to remain actively informed on the state of the industry;
  • Customer Service – providing courteous service and offering customers help throughout the purchase and after-purchase process;
  • Quality of Store Image – a clean, professional, well-maintained store must be presented at all times;
  • Code of Conduct – the facility must adhere to the WFCA Code of Conduct, which states retailers must: be truthful with customers in all matters related to the sale, service and installation of floor covering; refrain from misleading advertising of any nature, and offer only merchandise and services that are readily available; treat all customers with respect; be attentive to the customer’s desires and needs; uphold the highest standards of excellence and fairness in their business; observe and abide by the laws and regulations governing good business practices; conduct business in a sensitive and considerate way; subscribe to the highest standards of professionalism in their business at all times; and treat violations of this code as inconsistent with membership in the WFCA.

To be considered for the Gold Standard Award, companies must be WFCA members, had to have been in business for a minimum of three years, and have a clean Better Business Bureau report. Applicants also had to complete a multiple-page submission form and present multimedia marketing materials and other collateral that factored into the review process. 

When asked how the company would spread the word of this well-deserved recognition, Arita said: “We will promote it on all of our advertising media – newspaper, TV, radio, our website, our brochures, and every opportunity we have. And we will do this for the next 10 years or until we win again. This means a lot to us!” 

As for what has kept American Carpet One going for 41 years, Arita feels faith in God played a big role in the longevity and success of the business. “Being in business is not something a person can do alone."

2013 Gold Standard Winner—Star Flooring & Decorating

High Quality, Customer Satisfaction Nets Star Flooring & Decorating WFCA’s Gold Standard Award

By Arpi Nalbandian, associate editor

The World Floor Covering Association’s (WFCA) recent announcement of Star Flooring and Decorating winning the association’s annual Gold Standard Award for excellence in retailing came as no surprise to its more than 350 employees, or to its loyal customers.

Star Flooring and Decorating, Inc. has been owned and operated by the Goebel family since 1939 when Earl Goebel founded Star Lumber & Supply Co. in Wichita, Kansas. “Being in Wichita nearly 75 years has fostered feelings of responsibility and love for the community, which is felt by all who work at Star,” said Allen Clouse, Star’s director of retail sales. 

Along with the recognition and honor for receiving the Gold Standard Award, recipients are also awarded a $5,000 check. Upholding their reputation of dedication and giving back, Star Flooring and Decorating will be using their prize money for employee and installer training, added Clouse.

As a major Kansas corporation that now operates four divisions — Star Lumber & Supply (Wichita); Star Flooring & Decorating (two locations in Wichita – one for the builder/contractor, the other for retailer customers); Perfection Structural Components – Truss Mill (Wichita); and Star Home Concepts (Wichita and Hutchinson) — it’s safe to say that the methods, practices and modifications Star has implemented in recent years to increase the customer’s experience has been very successful.

“We are proud and honored to be selected. Having spent time visiting many other retailers over the past few years, we are excited to have been chosen as there are some wonderful retailers in this business segment,” added Clouse.

In addition to completely remodeling the showroom in 2012, Star reviewed and assessed the various methods of delivering a great customer experience. As a result of this overhaul, they implemented various innovations and changes, including revamping the sales area by improving the purchasing and shopping experience so both retail associates and customers could enjoy peacefulness and privacy during transactions. 

Custom fixtures were also designed and built to both emit a fashionable environment, and to eliminate clutter. “It is clear to me after reviewing multiple applicants that Star Flooring ‘left no stone unturned’ when it comes to the retail experience,” said Scott Humphrey, WFCA chief executive officer. “Not only have they been recognized four years running in their largest daily, The Wichita Eagle, as the #1 flooring retailer in the city, but they have completed a state-of-the-art store renovation with themed room settings, a children’s play space, and custom sample displays to keep everything clean and organized.”

Further, Humphrey added, “To give you an example of the lengths this store goes to make their customers happy and satisfied, they even have fresh sugar cookie scent piped into their kitchen showroom area. Another bonus for this store is a sales force comprised predominantly of certified interior designers – I am sure their customers truly appreciate the added benefit of a trained eye. The Wichita store’s efforts extend far beyond the storefront, too, as they donate 10% of net income each year to a charitable trust that supports organizations, including United Way, Habitat for Humanity, and many others.”

Star also prides itself on keeping the shopping experience positive from beginning to end. “We are intensely focused on achieving a 100% Likely to Refer score,” said Clouse. After completing an installation, customers are called and asked how likely they would be to refer Star to a friend. As a result of their associates’ actions and the services/amenities that are offered, Star has consistently rated in the high 90% percentile, most recently 97.50%.

Of course, floor covering sales is not a one-shot deal. By becoming a trusted part of its customers’ family, whether a retail or commercial account, Star continues to earn new and repetitive business. 

“A significant part of our business is related to helping new construction customers, as we currently sell and install product in nearly 60% of the new homes built in the Wichita area, noted Clouse. Star also send mailers to its past customers to offer free padding if they come back to Star for new carpet, personalized thank you cards, and more.

In addition to advertising on television, radio, direct mail, billboards and on the web, Star updates its website with weekly blog posts and articles to increase its search engine optimization (SEO) and online presence. On a more personal, face-to-face level, they are a highly visible participant in local remodeling shows, as well as their own Builder’s Expo that is attended by builders and remodelers.

However, having a high customer satisfaction rating doesn’t mean that Star could sit back and relax. Quite the contrary – they have consistently implemented new ideas in the last year that have proved successful, such as: a secret shopper program to keep the sales, management and administrative staff working hard to continually improve; pre-calling every installation customer two days in advance to review key installation points, concerns, and preparedness; moved one of their most experienced salespeople off the sales floor and into a new coordinator position to manage the details of the flooring installation; changed their payment policy to 100% payment required at purchase; and more. 

The next 12 months include a strategic planning series for the flooring division where the goal is, “to be 100% ready for each installation each day” with the correct drawings, maps, instructions, product, and labor tickets. 

In line with the company’s objective of preparedness, Star has weathered the recession with thoughtful planning and execution. “When the recession set in,” says Clouse, “we rolled out a Roadmap to Remodeling campaign and partnered with remodelers so we could sell more countertops, cabinets, backsplashes and flooring packages. The program has been successful as we have grown our countertop sales by 250% and significantly increased our cabinet and backsplash sales in the past few years,” Clouse added.

As any industry evolves, such as floor covering, so do its products. From new hardwood species to sustainable woods, from recycled tiles to recycled carpet – highly knowledgeable retailers and sales staff are looked upon with high regard. How does Star keep-up-to-date? “We place a large emphasis on training and holding weekly one-hour sales meetings with our retail and purchasing staff where we cover product, installation, and processes,” said Clouse. In addition to its weekly training, Star staff members regularly attend local supplier product and installation seminars, as well as invite specialized training from manufacturers such as Invista (Stainmaster), Shaw, Mannington, and others. Our retail associates have also attended Shaw Learning Academy Floor Tech, Schluter-DITRA training, and the WFCA’s There is Only One Boss, said Clouse.

When asked about how, if at all, the Gold Standard Award will affect the company, Clouse said, “We are using this recognition as inspiration to keep pushing. We know we have work to do in many facets of the business, however, like any team, it is always good to get a win to put some wind in your sails.” 

He added, “We are honored to receive the Gold Standard award from the WFCA. The foundation of our family-owned business is based on the very principles this award represents. We work hard to continuously improve and I am proud that the team is being recognized by the WFCA.”

To receive the Gold Standard Award, companies were reviewed and judged based on:

  • Knowledge – ensuring a knowledgeable management and staff who work to remain actively informed on the state of the industry;
  • Customer Service – providing courteous service and offering customers help throughout the purchase and after-purchase process;
  • Quality of Store Image – a clean, professional, well-maintained store must be presented at all times;
  • Code of Conduct – the facility must adhere to the WFCA Code of Conduct, which states retailers must: be truthful with customers in all matters related to the sale, service and installation of floor covering; refrain from misleading advertising of any nature, and offer only merchandise and services that are readily available; treat all floor covering retailers with respect; be attentive to the customer’s desires and needs; uphold the highest standards of excellence and fairness in their business; observe and abide by the laws and regulations governing good business practices; conduct business in a sensitive and considerate way; subscribe to the highest standards of professionalism in their business at all times; and treat violations of this code as inconsistent with membership in the WFCA.

In order to be considered for the Gold Standard Award, companies had to be WFCA members, been in business for a minimum of three years, and have a clean Better Business Bureau report. Applicants also had to complete a multiple-page submission form and present multimedia marketing materials and other collateral that factored into the review process. 

Star Flooring and Decorating, Inc. obviously met and exceeded the requirements by adhering to a simple rule. “The Goebel family operates with point-of-view that can be defined as, ‘is this good for everyone involved?’ Because of this, the business is based on integrity, and therefore the employees and customers become the company’s biggest cheerleaders,” Clouse said.

Lastly, when asked for additional wisdom that could benefit flooring retailers, Clouse said, “Don’t rest. Continuous improvement is critical to the success of Star and all brick-and-mortar businesses. We are proud that our efforts have been recognized, but our society is changing rapidly and we need to keep moving!”