Establishing quality-control measures within your installed sales program is a topic that I have addressed recently, and I think it deserves more attention this month. Just merely saying you have a quality-control program in effect isn't going far enough with your goal of total quality service, nor is it providing your company the protection you need for the future of your programs and services. As you follow through on your mission, you must get documented proof of all the steps along the way.

As I've mentioned before in this column, you need documented job standards and installation specifications, and you also need to document your installers' proficiency and training. This will play a large part in defending your operation in the case of any liability or litigation. In business, your best defense can be a good offense. A close friend of mine who is in the insurance business told me that when a lumber dealer faces a liability claim or potential litigation resulting from a construction defect issue, one of the first things that many investigators look for is documentation supporting the installers' proficiency, qualifications, and training.

Think about the records you're keeping. What kind of paperwork or computer database do you have that supports your claim to having licensed, insured, and trained installers? What steps are you taking to ensure that you are providing the level of quality work that your salespeople have promised? Do you routinely follow up on jobs to ensure that they have been completed according to your written specifications? If they are not in compliance, what remedial action is taken to bring the job up to standards?

My recommendation is to develop a file system (at the least) or a database (at best) to fully document everything. You need to maintain copies of licenses (if applicable in your area) and original copies of insurance policies (yours and your subs') showing coverage limits, expiration dates, and who is covered, and, on your subs' policies, listing your company as an additional insured (we've discussed this before). The copies of policies should be provided directly from the insurance company, that way you have originals, not something that has been run through a copy machine a dozen times.

You also need to document any training programs you send your installers to, including frequency, who provided the training, and what was covered. This shows proficiency and will help to demonstrate your desire to provide top-quality installation services. It also serves as a source of pride for your installers and demonstrates to them that you care about their professional development.

Offering and providing outstanding customer service, protecting your business from legal harm, and protecting your installers from physical harm all go hand-in-hand. A well-planned and -executed quality-control program can do all of this and more.

Finally, quality control also gives your salespeople a real value-added proposition to offer their customers. If they can show—in writing—the steps your company is taking to ensure quality, there may be a clear market differentiator that sets your business apart, one that provides a real-world solution to problems facing your contractor-customers every day.

Mike Butts is president of LBM Solutions, a DeWitt, Mich.–based LBM supply consulting and training firm. 517.668.0585. E-mail: [email protected]