Public wants knowledgeable, friendly staff
RECENTLY, I had the opportunity to take part in a planning session hosted by the Western Retail Lumber Association. The board of directors and invited guests were led through a daylong exercise in analyzing the association and the industry for the road ahead. The program facilitator introduced a number of topics, but one that stuck with me was the professional development of staff, especially in front-line jobs that were face to face with the public.
It is so critically important that those individuals who interact with the public are knowledgeable about the products and services they represent. In the case of the WRLA, discussion centred on those who are assisting the walk-in public and those who work with professional contractors. At first glance, one might think those who are dealing with contractors must have greater technical expertise and be more familiar with the products. Not so. Professionals generally come into the store with more product knowledge and know exactly what they want. The amateur handyman may need more expert guidance and advice; also more patience from service personnel. The message was both client groups are equally important and the same level of expertise within staff is required for both. As someone who occasionally stains a cedar deck, replaces switches, installs railings or performs myriad small repairs, I appreciate the expert advice I receive from my local building supplier. That then got me thinking about other first-contact personnel in the new-home and renovation industries. No matter how good your product is, if the first point of contact is an unpleasant one, you may have trouble selling that product. Who answers the phone? Who responds to emails? Who greets you upon entering the premises? Is the company website inviting and informative? Is there a contact for questions or complaints? All of these can make or break your business. I guess that’s why I have a problem understanding cross-border shopping for building materials and homerenovation products. I concede you may be able to save money on the purchase price due to our tax structure. However, who is there to help you throughout the process? How do you take back the extra can of stain or the box of screws? Even worse, who is going to tell you a particular product isn’t CSA approved and therefore isn’t warranted to be installed in Manitoba? I’m not saying buy only Canadianmanufactured products or never shop outside of our province; however, I am advising to take advantage of the expertise and assistance you can only get locally from personnel trained to take care of your specific building needs. Mike Moore is president of the Manitoba
Home Builders’ Association