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Marketing mastery: How to dazzle walk-ins

May 13/20, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 25

By Jim Augustus Armstrong


(Second of two parts)

During a coaching call, I once asked a dealer from Connecticut, “If 10 people walk into your store, how many end up buying?”

“Around three,” he replied.

“That’s a 30% close rate, which means 70% of your walk- ins are not buying,” I said. “This means 70% the time, energy and money you spend getting people to walk in your door is wasted.”

Unfortunately, this dealer is not alone. In fact, studies show the average floor dealer only closes around 30-35% of walk-ins. Most dealers could transform their business if they simply converted more door swings into closed sales. So how can you do that? Actually, it’s not very hard if you’re willing to do what the majority of dealers don’t: “wow” your customers.

I’ve visited quite a few flooring showrooms and it’s common for them to be crammed with too many displays and/or so silent it’s depressing and/or smell like glue and dust. These conditions do not “wow” the customer. In fact, they do the opposite. In part one of this series I covered these problems and how to fix them. For example, curate your products so your showroom is more open and not cluttered with floor-to-ceiling display racks. Have background music playing so your store isn’t dead silent. Bake cookies/bread or get a popcorn machine so your store smells good.

Here are other “wow” strategies to consider:

Make your customers feel welcome. Have a beverage bar and offer them a drink of their choice. You can even use a laminated beverage menu for an even greater “wow” factor.

Greet your walk-ins right away and use scripts. I’ve walked into so many showrooms where no one greeted me for several minutes, even when I was the only person there. When I was finally greeted it was with the standard, “How may I help you?” or “Can I help you find something?” These are the opening lines used by everybody, so there is no “wow” factor. They also give the customer control of the sales process and introduce premature price and product discussions. Train your salespeople how to immediately take control of the sales process, create differentiation and position themselves as trusted advisors. Use scripts and role play them during your sales trainings.

Use testimonials everywhere. What others say about you will wow your prospects far more effectively than anything you say about yourself. Online reviews are the place to start, especially on Google. Next, have testimonials on your website, including video testimonials. Display testimonials in your showroom where everyone can see them. Also, hand out printed testimonials to customers as they walk in.

In-home measures are often a gigantic missed opportunity to wow customers.Wear shoe covers. Dress professionally. Carry a laptop case or briefcase. Get permission to measure and inspect all of her flooring. Give her tips on getting the longest life out of her floors, even the areas you’re not replacing. Give her a free bottle of spotter with free lifetime refills.

After the sale send her a hand-written thank-you card. Do a post-installation follow-up visit and deliver a nice gift bag or invite her to your showroom to pick it up.

If you do these things, you can easily increase your closed sales from three out of 10 to four out of five without spending another dime in advertising. Imagine the impact that would have on your bottom line.

 

Jim Armstrong specializes in providing turnkey marketing strategies for flooring retailers. For a free copy of his latest book, “How Floor Dealers Can Beat the Boxes Online,” visit BeatTheBoxesOnline.com.

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Lessons learned: Meanings of ‘wow’

May 13/20, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 25

By Tom Jennings

 

My experience has taught me that the best way to build customer loyalty is to consistently do the expected things well. Many retail experts are constantly referring to the necessity of having a “wow” factor to differentiate your business from the field. Remember, though, that “wow” can have both a positive and negative meaning. When we say “wow” as we walk into a new and dramatic retail establishment, it will most likely have a positive tone. If this experience is lacking in perfection in any of the customer’s basic service and product expectations, however, then wow may have a totally different connotation upon exit.

As an example, many restaurants today are based around a variety of novel themes. Upon arrival, you may sit in the midst of many large-screen televisions displaying a seemingly endless variety of programming, which can make you feel almost dizzy from all of the motion. If you’re really lucky, you may even get to experience today’s digital music played at such a volume that conversation with your fellow diners becomes strained at best. Is this enjoyable? Depends upon the person being asked. Keep in mind that all entering the establishment had one thing in common: they were hungry or thirsty.

While all of these trendy diversions can be entertaining in their own way, many of these themed establishments seem to have difficulty executing the most basic of food service promises: hot food hot, cold food cold, served in the proper order and in a timely fashion. They seem to think we will be so distracted by the ambiance we won’t notice. Repeat visits are difficult to obtain in any business if you can’t execute the basics. In short, they forget to “keep the main thing the main thing.”

Think of the dining establishments that have built your loyalty and trust. I would wager they have very little that could be considered trendy in either their physical property or menu. I doubt the waiter has a phony opening line or sits down in the booth with you to take your order. I would bet the core staff of service providers is well skilled in knowing both the menu and their regular customers. I am sure the kitchen staff is capable of preparing your favorite dish in a very consistent manner from one visit to the next and your beverage stays refilled. It matters not whether your favorite spot is a diner or a fine steak house. When the basic core services are well executed, you will return and refer others. This consistency becomes their wow factor.

You may ask, what does this have to do with a flooring store? Everything. Customers’ perceptions of good service are not formed in flooring stores. They are formed in the service establishments they visit frequently: the grocery store, dry cleaners, restaurants, auto repair dealerships, etc. The service attitudes and aptitudes they experience in their routine purchases affect the level of expectations they have when making larger ticket investments. Their expectations don’t change just because the bottom line does.

Ask yourself this: After completing a purchase at your business, what might your customers mean when they say wow? Our industry has many basic “hot food hot/cold food cold” expectations we often fail to execute. Dealers who have stayed customer centered and mastered these fundamental tasks will be the ones that have the best odds of gaining the hardest of orders to receive: the second one. This is when success really begins. When you execute the second order well, trust will have been established and subsequent business will become almost automatic as your firm will now have another loyal client.

Tom Jennings is vice president of professional development for the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA). Jennings, a retail sales training guru, has served in various capacities within the WFCA.

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Al’s column: Attracting the installers of tomorrow

May 13/20, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 25

By Kaye Whitener

The CFI division of the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA) recently partnered with Informa, owners of Surfaces, to host the first Build My Future—Flooring Edition. The interactive, hands-on educational event allows local high school juniors and seniors to experience employment opportunities in the floor covering industry.

The idea behind the event came from attending the Build My Future program in Springfield, Mo. This event is created through the local home builder’s association with a focus on the construction industry trades. Its purpose is to introduce trades to local high school students looking for career opportunities.

Their most recent event attracted more than 2,500 students and featured virtually every aspect of construction. Students had the opportunity to operate heavy dirt-moving equipment, hang drywall, nail shingles on dog houses, seam carpet and design tile backsplashes. At the end of the event, the kids voted on the vendor trade they enjoyed the most. The overwhelming majority said the flooring portion was their favorite!

The construction group decided to branch out and let other organizations such as CFI and WFCA hold their own recruitment event. CFI presented more than 40 hands-on installation modules for the teens to work on, including tile designs, seaming carpet, gluing hardwood, LVP and laminate. The excitement was most prevalent at the Magnetic Flooring platform, which introduced students to next-generation floor coverings.

Some of the industry’s major manufacturers also contributed to the cause. Mohawk sent a team of professional instructors to demonstrate carpet seaming, hardwood and laminate installation, etc. They were such a huge support for us. In addition, we also asked some of our local retail members to participate and be available for any summer work opportunities for the students. With such a large number of students in attendance, I don't think we could have asked for a better event.

In their prime
It was interesting to learn many of these kids are planning career paths, whether it’s college or becoming a tradesman. Even the teachers who brought them were amazed. “We never think about flooring as a trade,” one told me. And when we started talking about the income that can be made, they were very excited.

What was even more amazing to me was the presence of all the female students in attendance; I’d say it was probably 50-50 male and female. I was able to speak to both groups, and what I learned was kids who might not be looking to go to college directly after high school aren’t necessarily unambitious. Many of these kids are extremely smart; they just like to work with their hands. It’s our job to let them know there are alternatives available outside of college.

In a perfect world, we would like to develop this platform in different regions of the country. We realize we will not be able to create this type of regional event without the support of the floor covering industry. We would love to expand the modules to include design, estimating, sales and other employment opportunities currently in demand in our industry.

As we look to replicate the success of the program, we are also working on developing a tracking mechanism to evaluate the true success of this program and the impact it might have on our industry. When it comes to attracting the installers of tomorrow, we have decided it’s time to stop talking and start doing something about it today.


Kaye Whitener is the national manager of member relations for the WFCA, a nonprofit trade group supporting independent specialty retailers. Send an email to kwhitener@wfca.org to learn more about membership or the Build My Future: Flooring Edition program.

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Installments: When you can’t wait for concrete to dry

April 29/May 6, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 24

By Jason Spangler

 

When installing finished flooring materials over concrete, general contractors on a tight construction schedule often face a catch-22 situation. They know a concrete slab needs to be sufficiently dry before installation, but they also realize the drying process can be a slow-moving affair.

Due to schedule pressures, finished floor surfaces are sometimes installed when concrete is too wet—often resulting in flooring failures, costly repairs and even legal action. Fortunately, several options are available to speed up the drying process.

Use the right mix. The more water you put in a concrete mix, the more must come out. If the mix has a high water-cement ratio, it produces more capillaries for moisture to exit quickly. But since more water must leave, the concrete takes longer to dry.

On the other hand, concrete with a low water-cement ratio has fewer capillaries to transport moisture to the surface. This not only delays drying time but also causes cracks to appear in the floor once the concrete dries. Desiccation agents or synthetic aggregate substitutes may help reduce the initial water content, but each comes with the risk for cracking or shrinking. Other admixtures such as silica fume work well, but their higher cost may outweigh the benefits.

Trowel with care. Avoid slick, hard-troweled finishes as they can actually seal the surface of the concrete and prevent moisture from escaping. Using a high blade angle, high blade speed or attempting to burnish too quickly can also have the same effect. Rushing the troweling will increase drying time.

Manage ambient conditions. Managing the ambient conditions surrounding the concrete slab can also helps speed up the drying process. These conditions include:

Air temperature—Warmer temperatures hold more moisture vapor than cold air and can speed up drying.

Airflow—Evaporated moisture often resettles on the surface of the slab. Using dehumidification equipment to extract moisture out of the air allows for a continuous drying cycle.

Relative humidity (RH)—When the air outside the slab has a low RH, more moisture can escape to speed up drying. When the RH outside is higher than the internal RH, the concrete may reabsorb moisture and slow down drying.

Dehumidification. Three dehumidification processes are available to accelerate drying. First,the condensation process uses cooling-based dehumidifiers to cool air and drop the dew point so moisture can be collected and drawn away. Second, the heating process raises the dew point of the surrounding air so it can absorb more moisture from the surface and send it through a collection system. Third, desiccant drying involves moving humid air across a desiccant material that binds and holds the moisture before venting it away.

Mitigation system. A last-ditch effort to speed up a slab’s readiness entails using a mitigation system. These types of products encapsulate the moisture in the slab, allowing amounts of moisture to escape that won’t negatively impact the installed flooring finish.

Concrete moisture testing. While these drying measures can help speed up the drying process, at some point you must measure the slab’s current moisture condition. The only accurate way to assess a slab’s overall moisture condition is to test below the surface of the slab.

 

Jason Spangler is the flooring division manager for Wagner Meters. He has more than 25 years’ experience in sales and sales management across a broad spectrum of industries.

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Marketing mastery: How to ‘wow’ your walk-in customers

April 29/May 6, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 24

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

 

(First of two parts)

“The No. 1 reason customers don’t buy is lack of ‘wow.’ We’re not losing customers to competitors, we’re losing them to other industries.” That’s according to Terry Wheat, founder of RFMS, in a recent presentation on selling. I tend to agree with his assessment. When a customer walks out without buying and disappears into the ether, most dealers think they lost her to a competitor. While this is some- times true, oftentimes the customer decided to buy a TV instead. Why does this happen?

Since I founded Flooring Success Systems in 2007, I’ve been preaching to dealers that it’s essential to impress your customers. But when I walk into most showrooms, I often get the opposite effect. In fact, it’s oftentimes downright depressing. Following are some examples from showrooms I’ve visited in the last year.

One dealer had a massive showroom stacked floor to ceiling with racks holding thousands of samples, with narrow aisles in between. The windows were blocked, and you couldn’t see more than about 20 feet.

Another showroom was so cold I had to put my jacket on. It also was stacked nearly floor to ceiling with display racks. If I was actually shopping for flooring that day I, might have gone to Best Buy where the showroom is bright, exciting and fun, and blown my flooring budget on a flat screen TV just to cheer myself up.

Following are some of the main commonalities I found in many of the stores I’ve visited:

Way too many display racks. Sometimes stacked floor-to-ceiling, oftentimes blocking windows and generally creating a claustrophobic effect. Why does anyone think that this is a good idea? You don’t need 107 samples of light beige carpet. You need to curate and create open space.

They smelled like chemicals—or worse. At best, new flooring products have a chemical odor—and if they sat in a warehouse, you can add dust to the mix. This is not a smell that inspires people to open their wallets. Bake some cookies or bread and make your showroom smell like home instead of a dusty warehouse. Keep your store cleaned and vacuumed, including your carpet samples.

No music on the PA system. This was one of the most depressing aspects of so many of the stores I visited. Ladies and gentlemen, you’ve got to start putting yourself into Cathy Consumer’s shoes. She’s spent hours online looking at flooring. She’s excited about finally getting new floors. Finally, she decides to visit some stores. On the way she stops at Starbucks where the interior is clean, open, cheerful and happy. She walks inside, smiling a little as she inhales the delicious aroma of fresh ground coffee. There’s a hum of pleasant sounds: drinks being made, customers chatting and pleasant background music. She gets her caramel latte to go, climbs into her SUV and heads to the first flooring store on her list. (Maybe yours?) She walks inside, smiling a little in anticipation of finding the floor of her dreams.

Subconsciously she’s expecting an experience on par with her visit to Starbucks. Instead, she experiences the polar opposite. Why not put her at ease by playing some cheerful background music?

Remember: You only get one chance to make a first impression. Make sure it’s a favorable one.

Jim Augustus Armstrong is the founder and president of Flooring Success Systems, a company that provides floor dealers with digital and offline marketing services, and coaching to equip dealers to make more money, work fewer hour, and get their lives back. For information visit FlooringSuccessSystems.com.

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Lessons learned: No place for class divisions in your store

April 29/May 6, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 24

By Tom Jennings

 

Readers of a certain age will remember the popular ’70s television show “WKRP in Cincinnati.” One of the recurring gags in this sitcom was the imaginary door and walls around news director Les Nessman’s office. Upon approaching his desk, he would pause and turn the knob to his pretend door before entering his fantasy of a private office. He felt he was too important to be sitting with the commoners. The joke was that he was mystified why no one else was impressed. It was funny when it was fictional.

The sad reality is I see similar behavior and attitudes acted out constantly in everyday life. On a recent trip I found myself boarding four flights at multiple airports. The airline I was booked on uses a boarding system that must have been designed by Les Nessman himself. They had an assortment of aluminum poles, nylon straps and lanes marked on the floor at the entry gate designed purely to “keep the classes” in their proper position.

If you are among the privileged, you are allowed to walk on the designated side of these straps across a specially printed mat to enter the jet way. However, if you are among the lowly majority, you must wait to enter 3 feet over on the opposite side of the barrier without enjoying the pleasure of walking on a special mat. While boarding one flight, I counted seven verbal reminders that some customers were greater than others.

My observation has always been those who got on the plane first were not necessarily impressed based on which side of the lane markings they entered. However, the reactions of those who were told they weren’t worthy ranged from amused to annoyed. What a waste of time and money. I overheard a fellow traveler state, “Southwest would have the plane in the air while these folks are still busy explaining their boarding procedures.” My rant has nothing to do with having a class system. These were hardly invented by the airlines. They existed on the Titanic over a 100 years ago when Wilber and Orville Wright were still flying their plane on the beach. Those who spend more typically expect to receive more in return. The problem I have is in constantly reminding customers with less sizable purchases that they are somehow less important. This couldn’t happen in my store, you say? My bet would be it occurs more than you realize.

Recently, while being shown around a dealer’s store, I was advised of a “huge contract job” they were in the process of installing. The RSA was obviously proud of performing this job, and I admired his enthusiasm.

The problem arose when I overheard staff members tell other customers twice that morning their jobs would have to wait until our “big job” was finished. One customer was told they could “possibly work her in,” while another was actually advised, “we simply don’t have time to do a two-room job anymore this month.” This poor lady actually apologized for “bothering them” with a job this size. Can you believe that? She should have kicked the clod in the shins for being made to feel her business was trivial to any other.

The moral of this story is to train your staff that there is no such thing as a small sale. More importantly, there is never a less important customer. Remove the perception of any class barriers that may currently exist in your store. As customers, most of us will be reasonable in our requests when treated with respect.

 

Tom Jennings is vice president of professional development for the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA). Jennings, a retail sales training guru, has served in various capacities within the WFCA.

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Al’s column: Clarity on real estate deductions

April 29/May 6, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 24

By Roman Basi

 

It’s been over a year since the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) passed, and the IRS is providing the final pieces of clarity for the infamous section 199A deduction, which allows owners to avoid paying tax on 20% of the qualified business income. This article addresses another component of the 199A deduction—rental real estate enterprises.

The IRS in Notice 2019-7 states a rental real estate enterprise—whose primary form of income based on rental properties—will be treated as a trade or business solely for purposes of section 199A. The courts have often found there is a simple test whether a taxpayer’s activity qualifies to meet the level that constitutes a trade or business, the test being: regular and continuous conduct of the activity, which depends on the extent of the taxpayer’s activities; and a primary purpose to earn profit, which depends on the taxpayer’s state of mind and good faith intention to make a profit from the activity. By meeting these requirements with your rental property, you should be in line for the 20% qualified business deduction.

Additionally, it will be imperative the taxpayer meet the IRS’s definition of rental real estate enterprise in order to qualify for the safe harbor. Per the IRS, the definition is, “an interest in real property held for the production of rents and may consist of an interest in multiple properties.” For consistency sake, the IRS has decreed taxpayers must either treat each individual rental property as a separate enterprise, or treat all of them as a single enterprise. However, commercial and residential real estate may not be part of the same enterprise. Finally, taxpayers may not pick and choose enterprise variations year by year unless there is a drastic change in facts surrounding the properties.

For the sole purpose of section 199A, a rental real estate enterprise will qualify for the 20% qualified business deduction if the following are met within that taxable year:

1. Separate books and records are maintained to reflect income and expenses for each rental real estate enterprise;

2. For taxable years beginning prior to January 1, 2023, 250 or more hours of rental services are performed per year with respect to the rental enterprise. For taxable years beginning after December 31, 2022, in any three of the five consecutive taxable years that end with the taxable year (or in each year for an enterprise held for less than five years), 250 or more hours of rental services are performed per year with respect to the rental real estate enterprise;

3. The taxpayer maintains contemporaneous records, including time reports, logs or similar documents, regarding the following: hours of all services performed; description of all services performed; dates on which such services were performed; and who performed the services. Such records are to be made available for inspection at the request of the IRS. The contemporaneous records requirement will not apply to taxable years beginning prior to January 2019.

If you have questions about what qualifies as a rental service, following is a list of services the IRS has deemed as rental services: advertising to rent or lease the real estate; negotiation and executing leases; verifying information contained in prospective tenant applications; collection of rent; daily operation, maintenance and repair of the property; management of the real estate; purchase of materials; and supervision of employees and independent contractors.

But there are some exclusions. Real estate used by the taxpayer (including owner or beneficiary) as a residence is not eligible for the 199A deduction. Neither is real estate rented or leased under a triple net lease.

 

Roman Basi is an attorney and CPA with the firm Basi, Basi & Associates at The Center for Financial, Legal & Tax Planning. He writes frequently on issues facing business owners.

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Lizbiz strategies: Differentiation is the key to your survival

April 15/22, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 23

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

A flooring retailer recently told me she couldn’t understand why customers weren’t coming to her store. “Don’t they know I have the best prices, and that I’ve been here 20 years?” she asked. “We only get the cheap customers.”

The movie, “Field of Dreams” memorialized the saying, “Build it and they will come.” That was nothing more than a line in a movie, but it doesn’t mean the customer equivalent of Shoeless Joe Jackson is going to show up. We’re already overbuilt with retail space and restaurants; how much fast food can we consume?

In the old days, you didn’t have to try too hard to draw customers. But then again, this was a time before the Internet, social media, blogs and Amazon. Differentiation meant you existed. Today, you have to do more than show up if you’re going to thrive.

Need proof? Just look at what’s going on with the fast food industry. I live in Upstate New York, where Friendly’s, a family restaurant, is closing the remainder of its Albany stores. They aren’t the only ones; it appears that Ruby Tuesdays, Chili’s, Applebee’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, Outback and Hooters have all been selling off their restaurants or shutting them down. Several are reportedly basing their lackluster performance on trends showing millennials like to cook at home. Really? That’s hard to swallow.

Fact is, many of these fast food chains pretty much look—and taste—alike. A blooming onion or scantily clad servers won’t cut it anymore. (By the way, I heard Hooters has plans to open new restaurants under the name of “Hoots” and put more clothes on the servers. No, I didn’t make that up. According to my research, several of the older chains had internal disputes about what they should do when business was declining, and they chose to do nothing. You need more than new paint to attract today’s customer.)

So, what can you do to differentiate your business? Here are a few ideas:

Teach your salespeople to be marketers. No one knows the customer better than your RSAs, so ask them to post regularly on social media. I’m appalled when I see a store that’s been in business for 50 years but only has 500 friends! If you have 10 salespeople and their average number of Facebook friend is 338, that’s potentially 3,380 people who like your employees and should be on your business page as well.

Organize a ‘Product Day.’ Pick a day of the week or month to promote wood, carpet or even area rugs. Invite people on social media to attend; the ones who are interested will come in. Give away goods and get people excited.

Use your parking lot to stage events. Putting up a tent and throwing some remnants in the parking lot isn’t exciting. How about having an antique car day or animal adoption to bring in customers? In my area, Curtis Lumber hosts a car, truck and jeep show—an event that brings in hundreds, if not thousands, to their parking lot. Better yet, how about a yoga or Zumba event?

Partner up with local businesses. One retailer I know organized an event with a nearby landscaper. He offered advice on how to make them thrive, and he sold a ton of plants in the process. Spring is the perfect time for such a promo. Memorial Day typically brings everyone out to buy products to spruce up their homes.

Bottom line: Always be on the lookout to find ways to market to both new and returning customers. This way, when they need flooring, you’ll be top on their list.

 

Lisbeth Calandrino has been promoting retail strategies for more than 20 years. To have her speak at your business or to schedule a consultation, contact her at lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com.

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Guest column: Don’t let moisture ruin your wood installation

April 15/22, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 23

By Jason Spangler

 

Hardwood is one of the oldest and most widely used premium flooring types, and its popularity is increasing. In the United States today, sales of hardwood flooring products are approaching $4 billion yearly.

On the downside, however, more than $500 million is spent each year on repairing flooring failures. Since hardwood accounts for about 10% of all flooring installations, that amounts to roughly $50 million lost to wood flooring failures. That means it’s in your best interest to take precautions to minimize the risk of failure.

The worst enemy of a wood floor is excess moisture, which can come from a wood or concrete subfloor, the ambient air or the flooring materials. Excess moisture can cause cupping, crowning, gaps, buckling and squeaking.

To protect yourself from liability and callbacks, you need the proper tools to measure moisture. Remember: moisture must be within acceptable limits in the subfloor, the flooring system you’re installing and in the ambient air both during and after the installation.

Before you begin, make sure the subfloor has been tested for moisture. If you’re installing over a concrete subfloor, ensure you possess ASTM standard documentation that proves the concrete has been tested for the correct moisture conditions. You may be able to get this from the general contractor, or you may have to conduct the testing and document the results yourself. Wagner Meters offers an easy-to-use and quick concrete moisture test system that fully complies with ASTM F2170, so if there’s a failure after your installation due to excess moisture from the subfloor, you can prove the problem isn’t with your work. If you’re installing over a wood subfloor, the situation requires the same documentation to protect you against liability.

Next, use a pin or pinless wood moisture meter to make certain your flooring system materials have been properly stored and acclimated before you begin the installation. Both types are accurate if used properly, but pinless meters have some important advantages. First, pinless meters don’t damage the floor. Pin-type meters use metal pins that must be pushed into the wood, which mars the surface. A pinless meter rests on the top of the wood and determines moisture content in the wood via an electromagnetic wave pattern. Pinless meters are also faster and easier to use. There’s no time wasted pushing the pins into the wood, and because they use an electromagnetic field to measure moisture.

If you’re properly equipped for your installation, you’ll have a high-quality wood moisture meter that can also be used on the subfloor. A dual-depth moisture meter can be adjusted to the thickness of the material you’re testing, so you can use it to accurately test both the subfloor and the flooring materials before and during installation.

After the installation is complete, it’s important to ensure the correct ambient conditions are maintained. Even if you’ve done your job and kept moisture conditions within spec, the client can cause damage to the floor by not maintaining the proper service conditions post installation.

You can help prevent this problem by monitoring and recording the ambient conditions in the space after the installation. However, this requires you to return to the site repeatedly.

 

Jason Spangler is the flooring division manager for Wagner Meters. He has more than 25 years of experience in sales and management across a wide spectrum of industries. He can be reached at 844.808.8761.

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Lessons learned: Sometimes you have to fire your customer

April 15/22, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 23

By Tom Jennings

 

We’ve all countlessly heard the saying, “The customer is always right.” I believe this to be the case—the majority of the time.

When a customer is unhappy with the goods she has purchased, or the service she has received, shouldn’t you make every effort to ensure her concerns are remedied to her complete satisfaction? My answer would usually be yes.

But isn’t the customer always right no matter what the particulars of the transaction may be? Simply stated, no.

What causes the exceptions? Often it is simply a matter of fair- ness. It’s not just the equitable rights of the entire business to be considered. Many times it is imperative management validate the value of an employee who may be under duress.

Let me first explain I am focusing on a small percentage of the customer base. I have always felt the majority of the people we deal with are basically decent folks who are just concerned with getting their fair value and being treated respectfully.

When this fair-minded customer has a concern that is valid in her mind’s eye, you should endeavor to satisfy her at any cost without delay. Your perception of reality doesn’t matter when dealing with the honest customer. The value of future orders and referrals they can create will always exceed the cost of keeping her happy now. There is never any reason to argue or negotiate with this customer; long term this is a battle you will never win. Remember, whether posting a review or discussing her experiences in person, she will never tell your side of the story—only her own.

The small percentage of the customers I am referring to are the ones who just decide to be impossible to satisfy or decline to play within the rules of decency. Maybe it’s a male customer who harasses a saleswoman. It could be a contractor who is rude and unreasonable in his time-related demands. It could be one who is verbally abusive on the telephone. Maybe it’s the customer who decides to treat your installation staff as subservient. And then there is always the curmudgeon who will find some fault with anything you say or do. If you’ve been serving the buying public for any length of time, you know the type.

When dealing with these customers, it’s usually best to say, “We’re sorry, but maybe we would all be happier if you took your business somewhere else.” You’ll be amazed at how liberating saying these words can be.

As an owner or manager, it is imperative you show your staff the value and respect you have for them—even at the expense of losing a sale. Bending over back- wards to satisfy a customer is admirable. Getting bent over backwards by a customer is not.

Inviting a customer to leave your store is obviously not some- thing you should do often. Perhaps it will occur only once or twice per year. None of us can afford to get in the habit of walking business out the front door.

I would suggest, though, that none of us can afford the cost of walking good employees out the door, either, when they feel unsupported by management. This carries a much greater financial and psychological cost than any profit a sour customer could have provided. Don’t be afraid to fire the occasional bad customer. Your blood pressure will go down and your staff’s morale will go up.

 

Tom Jennings is vice president of professional development for the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA). Jennings, a retail sales training guru, has served in various capacities within the WFCA.