XL North recently sponsored a manufacturer panel discussion at the Starnet Floor Care Maintenance Conference in Dallas, TX, where we discussed how flooring maintenance providers can become a customer’s trusted resource by adding value to your service offering.

Our group of flooring industry experts included:

  • Jim Toth, Maintenance & Technical Service Specialist of Mannington Commercial
  • Brent Fike, General Manager of Technical Services & Co-Op Accounts with Roppe Holding Company
  • Don Styka, Director of Field Services with Tarkett
  • Mark Bischoff, VP of Sales at Tarkett
  • Paul Richards, Product Care Manager for Tandus Centiva

These gentlemen joined our own Bill Luallen in a conversation about how to become an indispensable flooring ally by building your network and reinforcing your knowledge and expertise. Combine that with upfront, effective communication with your customer and you’ll become a valued partner in no time.

Mark:

Making a favorable connection with a customer the first time is necessary for growing business. Industry associations, like Starnet Floor Care, are akin to tribes and offer the ability to gather with like minded individuals, share stories and experiences, network and expand your industry knowledge. All business is going tribal and your customers are looking for that, too. Passing along your expertise and floor care insight to customers sets up opportunities for future business.

Go to any company, and they’re interested in two things: safety and people. They may not associate floor coverings or maintenance with those topics, but tying those subjects into your conversations with customers is key in becoming a part of their tribe. Find ways to discuss slip fall, indoor air quality and infection control. By offering solutions to their primary concerns, you’ve created a connection and are one step closer to joining their tribe.

Brent:

There can sometimes be a disconnect with customers about what a flooring product actually is and how it’s supposed to perform and be maintained. Flooring is often the last thing installed in a building. Most things come down to cost, so product specifications, recommendations and requirements can sometimes be lost in translation when reaching the customer because of miscommunications between designers, architects, project managers, decision makers and end users.

Our written specifications are more than just suggestions; they are requirements. We’ve put together the best possible maintenance plan for that floor. If those recommendations are overlooked, the product often doesn’t perform to a customer’s standards. Upfront, honest communication with the end user about all flooring considerations – materials, cost, installation, maintenance, and life cycle – is step one in building a solid customer relationship.

Paul:

Know what the product is and read the manufacturer recommendations. It’s that simple. We’ve all been on jobs where no one has thought to pick up the instructions and follow procedure. Be your customer’s advocate by making sure you know the proper floor care process and imparting that wisdom to them.

Don:

People are a representation of your company. Teach them, educate them, and let them grow with your business. Your brand is a reflection of their connections and relationships with customers.

Technology is a competitive differentiator that make your people and your business more streamlined and efficient.

Jim:

Floor care simply comes down to TACT: Time, Agitation, Chemical, and Temperature, but those components vary greatly depending on the type of floor. The maintenance process that an end user has followed for decades may not be the right set of procedures for a newer flooring product, like luxury vinyl tile or planks, that incorporate advanced technology.

To solve customer issues, go out and ask simple, straightforward questions – “What chemistry are you using? What’s your process?” Have conversations with not just the facility managers but also the technicians. Walk them through the procedure, step by step.

In situations where improper maintenance has gone on for too long, manufacturers rely heavily on floor care providers to not only come in and reset the floor to ground zero for the customer, but educate them on the proper maintenance procedures moving forward.

Don:

It’s okay to ask your customer, “What do you expect from your floor covering?” By having upfront, honest communication at the start of a project and getting answers to basic questions – where is it going to be installed, who is in charge of floor care, what maintenance equipment do you have – you can match those expectations to flooring specifications.

Most often, floors don’t fail. They simply don’t meet end user expectations. Something that is cheaper on installation may mean more money over the floor’s lifetime in daily, routine and restorative care. Customers greatly appreciate suggestions for perhaps a slightly more expensive upfront install that can save a small fortune over decades of maintenance.

Brent:

Train, educate and cultivate talent in this new crop of young professionals. Millennials are the future of business. Create an interest amongst their generation for our industry and help to develop and nurture future floor care leaders.

Jim:

Proper flooring maintenance breaks down to reading and understanding the instructions, double checking that procedures are being followed properly, and scheduling routine training to verify that the system in place is working accordingly.


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Author:
Bill Luallen

Bill Luallen is the Director of Technical Sales for XL North, a division of Textile Rubber and Chemical Company. He is the IICRC RFMT TAC vice chair and participates on many panels and boards including the CRI and the League of Hard Flooring Professionals. When Bill is not traveling to work with customers or talking on the phone, he spends all his down time with his wife Cynthia of 30 years, outside enjoying this beautiful world.

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