Train your customers for deck season

By / March 13, 2018

Over the winter months, you’ve no doubt spent a significant amount of time determining which decking products your lumberyard will carry. You’ve reviewed your vendors and you’ve gotten rid of those that didn’t perform. You’ve added new vendors and you’ve upgraded your product lines. With your product set for spring, don’t forget to make sure your staff and your customers are up to speed with your offerings for this year’s deck season.

There are a lot of new products coming out, especially new aluminum railings and upgrades on composite decking. If your store is anything like The Deck Store, there have been a number of changes. We’ve changed our decking lines, and we’ve changed our railing lines. Now it’s time to let our customers know what we’ve done and why we’ve done it. We need to make sure that our employees are trained on how the product is priced and more importantly, how it’s installed.

The biggest reason for product failure isn’t that the product is defective, it’s that it isn’t installed correctly, or not installed according to manufacturer’s specified instructions. Too many times, the end user—either the homeowner or contractor—doesn’t understand how to install it correctly. If you can teach them before they make a mistake and install something incorrectly, you’ll save everyone a lot of headache and trouble.

I recommend that each year, in the spring, you hold a training class. We do ours in late March or early April. This is your opportunity to teach your customers. We invite them in for lunch, we host them for maybe an hour, and we show them all the new products that we have. We explain to them the reasons why we switched to a new line or a new product. We show them how the new product is easier to install or is more cost-effective. Maybe the product just performs better and we want them to know that our store cares about that.

Often times, when you introduce a new product, it can come with new installation techniques. We want to make sure that each of our contractor customers is aware. Some decking needs to be installed differently than other decking.

Composites don’t perform the same as real wood. PVC products don’t perform the same as WPC capstocks. For instance, if you shift from WPC capstock to a PVC, you’ll need to make sure all of your customers know that PVC is installed very differently than WPC would be. That kind of change needs to be relayed to the contractor customers and the DIY homeowner customers as well. If you don’t do this, the contractor can get in trouble, especially on the first few decks, and that can really throw a wrench in all of the work you did bringing in these new product lines.

” I recommend that each year, in the spring, you hold a training class. This is your opportunity to teach your customers. We show them all the new products that we have. We explain to them the reasons why we switched to a new line or a new product. We show them how the new product is easier to install or is more cost effective. Maybe the product just performs better and we want them to know that our store cares about that. ”

There are also a lot of new ways to finish edges, to hide the fasteners, and so on. You’ll need to make sure your customers are aware of these. Also consider that there are new offerings in railings, and be sure you are familiar with recent or upcoming changes in building codes.

Product training is key for introducing new products and gauging how your customers will react. It’s also a good teambuilding exercise for employees and customers to get reacquainted after the long winter season. I can’t recommend enough that you hold training events. It’s the best way to make sure your competitors aren’t doing a better job of training your customers in or introducing them to new products.

Bob Heidenreich

Bob Heidenreich, owner of The Deck Store, in Apple Valley, Minn., has been selling decking and home improvement projects for 30 years. Follow Bob on Twitter: @TheDeckStore.