So you've settled into the installation business. You've made careful product and service selections and you feel confident that you're meeting your builders' needs. All of your team members—from sales to delivery to accounting—are on board with the program, and your installers are showing up for work. Everything is good in your world, right? Wrong. Don't forget one very important facet of the installation services business: a quality-control (QC) program.
Many dealers venture into offering some type of installed services only to discover that they have become part of the problem (one that they were trying to fix for their builders) by performing sub-standard work. If you are running an efficient installed operation, with well-trained and -supervised crews, you are on the right track. But an active, aggressive quality-control program that routinely checks every job for compliance will go a long way toward total customer satisfaction, not to mention becoming a tremendous value-added component of your overall program.
The primary components of a QC program are as follows:
Detailed job or project specifications for installers. These need to be spelled out in detail—exactly what you want done, how you want it done, and in what order. Remember, you can't manage what you can't measure.
An established training program. This will ensure that your installers fully understand the proper installation specifications for each product category you sell installed and are capable of following the job specs.
Training documentation. Document how often training takes place, what topics are covered, and what areas need to be reinforced. (This also can be an asset in case of a liability issue or possible litigation.) Figure out your installers' strengths and weaknesses, and then use that intelligence to hone your training program going forward.
Follow-up. Your installed sales manager, jobsite supervisors, or production supervisors (depending on how large your operation is) are responsible for performing the actual quality-control function—approving all work and going over every job to make sure each installation was completed to your company's—and clients'—standards. These people must review the punch lists and sign the completion certificate.
Accountability. If an installer drops the ball, it is his or her—and ultimately your company's—responsibility to take care of the problem and to do so quickly to avoid production delays. If one of our suppliers has a product failure, we expect them to take care of the problem, along with the labor to repair/replace the defective material.
Awareness of outside QC issues. If your installation crew shows up to find that the builder's framing crew left a window opening out of square or plumb, whose responsibility is it to fix the problem before you install the windows? If this situation occurs on the occasional job, it's usually not a big problem as you can usually fix it yourself to avoid additional time loss on the job, but if it becomes a recurring situation, you have a responsibility to report it to the builder/GC.
Feedback for crews. Everyone needs to know their work is appreciated. Bear in mind that many people will only do a good job if they know it will be inspected. Your goal is to inspect everything and provide feedback—and make sure they know that quality control is the main focus of your operation.
As more and more dealers delve into installed sales, quality control can be the differentiator that sets your company apart. Strive to provide excellent service and a quality product—on time, every time.
Mike Butts is director of installation services for United Building Centers. 507.457.8453. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org