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I saw this headline while reading the editorial section in a morning newspaper recently. The subject of the article was local politics, but it struck me as defining exactly the position many independent flooring retailers are finding themselves in today. We at the WFCA are seeing far too many dealers who have been too busy and involved in the daily grind of their businesses, that they fail to take a longer term view of what course the flooring industry is taking.

It’s a reality that most local, independent businesses are constantly being pressured by large mass merchants. It matters not if you’re selling toothpaste or televisions, some large firm is bound to have a bigger, faster, cheaper version that they are promoting with yet another barely believable offer. The flooring business certainly falls into this category. However, we have a distinct advantage that those selling toothpaste don’t have in our opportunity to sell both product and our services.

The flooring industry has long been viewed somewhat suspiciously by the buying public. Frankly, I believe this dubious viewpoint has been deserved. I served on the Northeast Kansas Better Business Bureau board of directors for many years and each year we were provided with a list of more than 200 business categories ranked by the number of inquiries received. Please note that these are inquiries and not complaints.Inquiries come before a purchasing decision is reached and complaints are registered afterwards.

In the 1990’s, my firm was among several dealers asked to monitor all installation related interactions that our firms had with customers. We not only tracked installations, but all correspondence that we had with our customers which may have lead to them being disappointed with the service experience that they received. There were both single and multiple store operations included. This group represented dealers with employee and contract installers. These surveys were gathered over a period of six months.

Since the WFCA assumed the operation of The International Certified Flooring Installers Association (CFI) last fall, I have been receiving frequent inquiries regarding how we intend to address the problem of getting new blood into the flooring installation trade.

No flooring business seems to be flush with money today. Competition is fierce and margins are squeezed. As with every budget in the business world, the need to watch expenses is very real. I get it! It’s just that there are some areas of your business which may be poor places to attempt to save money. In fact, in order to actually grow your clientele you may want to consider just the opposite.

Frequent readers know I believe before we can be good customer service providers, we must first learn to be good customers ourselves. By that, I mean we must pay attention to how we are treated when we are spending our hard earned pay checks. By doing so, you will learn a tremendous amount about both the service provider and their management. Please allow me to share two very different recent experiences I had on the same very day.

At the risk of coming across as an old curmudgeon, I have a nagging question: What in the world has happened to common courtesy? Am I the only one who has gotten my fill of rude and insensitive behavior when attempting to give my hard earned money to a retailer or service provider? I hardly think so.

In the 1990’s, my firm was among several dealers asked to monitor all installation related interactions that our firms had with customers. We not only tracked installations, but all correspondence that we had with our customers which may have lead to them being disappointed with the service experience that they received. There were both single and multiple store operations included. This group represented dealers with employee and contract installers. These surveys were gathered over a period of six months.

My purchasing experience is that regardless of whether you are making a purchase – large or small – it is seldom the owner of the business that leaves a lasting impression. In most transactions, you are not likely to meet the top of the company’s management team. The person most responsible for your attitude regarding your purchase is likely to be someone further down the corporate ladder in seniority, training and scale.