Countertop installation is tough. It is where the customer forms her lasting impression of your company and where, ultimately, the job makes or loses money.
There are four essential elements to a good installation:
- On-time arrival
- Quality of installation
- Leaving the house clean
Of those four essential points, only one has anything to do with craftsmanship – the rest is about showing respect and communicating with the homeowner.
Balance that with the very real challenges of maneuvering heavy pieces of material around a confined space crammed full of expensive appliances and furnishings and the case for putting your best people on the installation crew is pretty compelling. Many shops today employ sub-contractors as installers, which makes a lot of sense when it comes to knowing and controlling costs. The implied downside is potential loss of control of how your company is presented to the end user.
Finding Great Installers
Jordany Nunes of NF Granite in Slidell, LA is acutely aware of the need to have outstanding people on every job. The bulk of NF Granite’s work comes from big box stores, which means the company operates in an environment of high volume/low margin, and where minor mistakes can have a disproportionate impact on the profitability of a job. “They (the box stores) demand a lot from you,” Nunes explains. “You have to be an almost perfect company in order to make money.”
So NF Granite invests heavily into finding and keeping people who possess an attitude of continual improvement. “We don’t just hire somebody off the street and say, ‘Hey, here’s your job, now go do it.’ It’s hard work, and at the volume we run, with most of the profit coming from retailers, you need people that are willing to work, deliver good service in a timely manner, and are happy.”
It’s a tall order in a tight labor market. So, where does Nunes find such high caliber sub-contractors? The answer is, anywhere he can. “Of our four installation crews, none of them are from this area,” he explains. “We have guys from Atlanta, Nashville and Texas. I’m constantly on the lookout for people wherever I go. I always get their phone numbers and I stay in touch with what is going on in their lives. Then when I need someone I can find out what it would take to bring them here.”
NF Granite installers get paid by the square foot, which means the more countertops they install, the more money they take home. It’s a great arrangement, so long as the quality of work remains high.
“We track their quality,” Nunes says. “We survey every job by calling the homeowner. We try to find out if the installer was there on time, if he left on time and if the customer is happy with the job. Then we log the data into a computer to review what is happening. If we see a trend where one installer is getting a lot of callbacks we talk about pulling back some of the work so he has more time to pay attention to details. Usually in that situation, he’s not taking his time, not talking to the customers, which means that guy has too much work. Consistency of work is what’s key. We can’t have people that some days are good and some days they aren’t.”
By having a customer service rep call the customer after the installation is complete, NF Granite has the chance to identify small errors before they turn into a big deal. “We wait until the installer leaves because sometimes a homeowner is too shy to say anything in front of our worker,” Nunes explains. “The person who makes the call is very good at making the customer feel comfortable in order to find out if there are any issues or questions. And that’s when we can catch it and say, “’Hey, we’ll go back there and make it right. We want you to be happy.’”
To hear Jordany talk about finding and managing installers first hand, Listen to StoneTalk »