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“When you get tied up with any big company, it has the tendency to change your perspective. Getting involved with Ford was kind of’ like asking a big gorilla to dance. You start off leading, but before very long you’re being swung all over the floor, and pretty soon you lose sight of the fact that all you wanted to do in the first place was dance.”
Carroll Shelby, automotive icon

This week’s reminder is for all the managers in our member firms. Whether your title includes the terms: general, sales, service, installation or office; please hear me out.
If you are not growing as a person and a leader, how can you expect those who report to you to do otherwise? It’s very likely those under your charge are following your lead.

You may ask staff members to use online training, participate in webinars or attend seminars. Do you participate as well? Or are you too busy for that? What message is this sending to your troops?

I’d like to suggest a challenge for each of our members this week. It is to identify one thing about your company that makes it distinctly different from others in your marketplace.

This exercise can be done individually or as a group. Or it may possibly be the topic of a contest within your staff members. Most of all, it should be fun!

As I write this, I am currently representing the WFCA at the CFI Annual Convention in Nashville, Tennessee. My question of flooring dealers and installers everywhere is: why don’t I see you here? You don’t know what you are missing!

One of the best parts of my job is having the opportunity to see many different places and meet many interesting people. One of the realities of my job is that I must endure the rigors of travel in order to do so. Along this path, I witness a variety of attitudes that are allowed to pass for customer service. Allow me to share one with you that we can all learn from.

Loyal readers of this space know that I am constantly preaching that the best customer service lessons are learned when we ourselves are the customer rather than the seller. There has been news on the automotive front recently that I feel offers all flooring dealers a valuable lesson in how to deal with customer claims and warranty issues.

When presenting unique design ideas to your customer, always remember the saying “the whole is worth more than the sum of its parts”. Too often I hear a shortsighted salesperson say something to the effect of, “I don’t make enough commission on a few feet of ceramic listellos to merit the time spent”. Or, “I just spent an hour selling a stair runner. The commission received for selling this small portion of a sale doesn’t justify the time and effort spent doing so”.

Providing outstanding customer service is the lifeblood of any successful business. Ultimately it doesn’t matter how many promotions that you offer or prices that you discount. Unless you are successful getting the majority of first time buyers to return to your store, your business won’t be profitable for long.

Since it costs significantly more to attract new customers than to maintain relationships with existing ones, let’s examine a few keys to staying connected with your core customers.

The flooring industry is blessed with a promotional advantage that I believe is being underutilized. According to a study by Perception Research Services International, which was published by the AARP, seventy-two percent of consumers 50-64 years old say “made in the USA” labeling significantly influences their purchases. And eighty-one percent of people 50 thru 64 years old buy American because they believe that it helps the economy.

Like many industries, the flooring manufacturers appear to currently be in a cycle of both catching up and keeping up with today’s costs. While none of us like to see increased pricing from manufacturers, rational dealers understand that they really do need to have financially solvent suppliers who can afford to both honor outstanding claims and continue to produce innovative products for the future. Simply put, a dead vendor does no one any good.