Fostering a Relationship with Your Distributor: Collaboration Can Ensure Customer Satisfaction
July 11, 2012
The North American Association of Floor Covering Distributors’ (NAFCD) mission is to promote wholesale distribution in the floor covering industry and provide members with resources for enhancing performance as industry suppliers. Though we are an association of distributors, we understand that the installer has an impact on everyone’s brand in the channel, as they are the last one on the job and have a direct impact on the customer’s perception of the product. For the distributor to be successful the installer must be successful-so installers and distributors must continue to collaborate and foster a strong working relationship.
Communication is important as all parties manage expectations and projects. When the chain acts as one unit, the consumer will have a better experience. The installer and the distributor must work as a team to ensure a quality installation. Distributors and installers must each contribute to the success of the project to ensure a quality job.
The distributor’s role is to make every effort to ensure the installers understand the product. By working together and communicating, installers and distributors will better understand each other’s role. Distributors should ask what kind of work installers are doing, and it is the distributor’s obligation to point installers to products that will help them do a quality job. Installers want to provide great service, and distributors need to help them.
The installer will often become the face of the product and have that direct interaction with customers. If the customer is satisfied, everyone wins within the channel: distributors, manufacturers, installers and retailers. An adverse experience will ultimately impact the entire channel. When a product is not properly installed, distribution is viewed as uneducated about a product line. This places doubt in the consumer’s buying decision, leading to buyer’s remorse.
The distributor also supports the installer by providing lines of credit. This allows the installer to readily buy products that may be needed to complete the project in a timely manner.
It is the role of the distributor to provide advice and product knowledge that will ensure a successful project. At times, products are not aligned with the customer expectations and are sold for applications that do not match their strengths. Distributors do not control the sale of the products, but they do provide local training for retailers, contractors and installers. Continued collaboration and continual training on how to improve service and product knowledge are key for both distributors and installers.
The Educational Process
Education is a key function of the distributor. Distributors need to provide information and training to the installer base by offering seminars and educational events. Distributors want to collaborate and provide the product knowledge to their installer to help ensure a successful project and customer satisfaction. The distributor and the installer should be very active in the educational process.
Distributors should also convey to dealers and flooring contractors how important it is to support these training efforts and encourage their installers to participate in the distributors’ events. It is the best way to ensure future success for everyone in the supply chain.
Training should be among the distributor’s main priorities. Making sure installers have the right tools and knowledge is the best way distributors can collaborate with installers to create an optimal customer experience.
Advice to Improve the Installer-Distributor Relationship
It takes a lot of work and time to build the relationships. Start simply: Talk to each other. Ask each other what challenges they have in getting their work complete. A good thing to keep in mind is that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
A mixture of training, education and collaboration between the segments within the channel will ensure a positive customer experience. Every segment needs to do their part to contribute to the success of the industry, whether it’s sponsoring educational training, optimizing technology to deliver training and product knowledge or offering networking opportunities to help build stronger relationships.
In light of the economic climate, customers are being more selective and have the ability to research products and pricing before purchasing. All segments of the channel must be one step ahead and be just as prepared to address the questions and concerns of the consumers.
Learn More about NAFCD
As an organization, NAFCD is dedicated to representing its members through involvement and providing quality education through its development programs and conferences. To learn more about NAFCD, visit www.nafcd.org. - by the Board of Directors, North American Association of Floor Covering Distributors