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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.

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.

The goal of any flooring salesperson is to have their customer satisfied with as few “surprises” as possible. Believe it or not, this is any competent installer’s goal as well. Too often, though, these goals get sidetracked by poor communications that usually result in the customer being adversely affected. Think of the satisfaction of the customer as a three legged stool. The first leg is the customer, the second is the salesperson, and the third is the installer. When each leg is doing their jobs correctly, the stool can support a great deal of load.

In my last article, (see…-no-surprises-salesperson-part-i​) I brought up several responsibilities that salespeople have to installers to insure that each job goes as smoothly as possible. Now let’s look at the obligations that a competent installer has to the salesperson.

I have always felt the very best marketing lessons are learned by observing others’ reactions to firms not in our field. As an example, recently I was having a conversation with my 29-year-old daughter regarding her having some service work done on her vehicle. She was relating to me how nice it was to patronize a business that kept their appointed time. They explained to her what they would be doing and why it was important to have the work performed sooner rather than later. They advised her of the costs before they began working.

Whether you’re an installer, estimator or inspector, I would bet that you’d agree that your day is both more enjoyable and productive when you can quickly develop a good working relationship with a client. Do you want the customer that you have an in-home appointment with to think good thoughts about you before you even arrive at her home? Consider doing this: call her a few minutes before your scheduled visit just to let her know that you will be on time!

Many flooring businesses train their internal team members a variety of ways to positively manage the customer’s first impressions when she interacts with a sales professional. This is both logical and necessary given the logic that “nothing happens until somebody sells something.” It has been my observation, though, that far too few dealers take the same approach with the service portion of their operation. Let’s examine some opportunities to make a positive impression when she meets our installation staff.