Installed Sales is All about the Details

The emphasis must be on service, say two vinyl window manufacturers experienced in the game
By Christina Lewellen
May 1, 2007
FEATURE ARTICLE

The business of installing replacement windows is evolving as the line between a manufacturer’s role and a dealer’s role continues to get blurrier. Some vinyl window manufacturers started with or grew into a business model that includes installing its own products. And, over the years, numerous window dealers—particularly in the replacement market—have decided that in addition to selling windows, they want to make their own products too.

Installed sales isn’t a one-fit-solution for every company, but it’s a venture that more window manufacturers are spending time considering.

Vytex Windows, based in Laurel, MD, and Stanek Windows, with locations in Ohio, Wisconsin and Florida, are two manufacturers long experienced with installed sales. Each has its own approach, but they agree on a primary point—installed sales is not a business to attempt half-heartedly.

“It’s very easy to have things slip through the cracks,” explains Bob Maceda, Stanek president and CEO. “There are probably people out there that see the value of enhanced margins, but they don’t truly understand how difficult it is to do it.”
Vytex Windows installs nearly every window it manufactures, allowing its dealer network to focus on drumming up sales and customer service.
“Running the factory is more like the hobby part of the business,” say Chuck Scalzott, COO of Vytex, half jokingly. “Running the measure and installation—that’s where the challenges are. It’s a big job trying to coordinate everything. Sometimes Mrs. Jones is supposed to be at home but she’s not. We still have to do everything we can to have those windows measured. manufactured and installed in about four weeks from the date of the order.”

RETAIL ROOTS
Stanek started as a dealer installer and then moved into window manufacturing. With its dealer mentality, one might think Stanek would have a pretty tight grasp on the rigors of measuring and installation services. However, the whole dynamic changes when one company is responsible for everything from production to the final walk-through on a project, Maceda explains. When a manufacturer is installing its own products, he says, there’s no room for what he calls the “blame game.” Traditional dealers might suggest to a homeowner that a service issue is a manufacturing defect, and in turn, a manufacturer may point to sub-standard installation, Maceda says. “We can’t play the ‘blame game’ and we play that up in the sales process,” he notes. “We’re not going to pass off issues to someone else, because they’re all our issues.”

The other aspect that shifted once Stanek became an installing manufacturer, Maceda points out, is that the installers became a much more integral part of the sales process. “If this guy doesn’t do his job right every time, everything falls apart,” he says. “The installers’ quality of work is absolutely essential to us delivering on our promises.”

Stanek relies on scheduling software to help sync sales to the production floor, and then the output of the production floor with the installation crews. In many ways, the company is still structured like a retail outfit—it targets potential customers with advertising campaigns, manages leads among its sales teams and even has a follow-up measuring crew confirm sizes once a contract has been received. Everything after that, including the installation of the products, is approached with a manufacturer’s mentality, with a premium placed on the delivery of what Maceda has coined “the Stanek experience.”

“We have to deliver the Stanek experience like Lexus delivers the automobile experience,” he says. “We take it from cradle to grave. In the event that there is a problem—every window will sometimes have service issues, no matter how good the manufacture—we go out with our service vehicles and live up to the Stanek name.”

Maceda sees installing manufacturers as a very specialized niche within the industry. “It’s very hard for a window manufacturer to pull it off without causing itself problems.”

There is a lot of detail that goes into the remodeling and replacement side of the business and that equates to logistical fine-tuning, he continues, but when the company gets it right, they’re often left with highly satisfied customers. “After all is said and done, we send out that customer service satisfaction survey asking if customers would recommend us to their friends and neighbors. That allows us to constantly fine tune the program.”

By doing everything from manufacturing to installation itself, Stanek avoids one issue that often arises with installed sales—competition with customers. “I think one of the biggest obstacles window manufacturers have in doing installation is the thought that they’re competing with their customers. Manufacturers have to ask, ‘How can I do this without losing my customer?’ That’s a real challenge for a typical window manufacturing company. It’s hard to walk both sides of the street.”

WORKING THROUGH DEALERS
Vytex also avoids competing with its customers with its approach. The manufacturer handles nearly all of the installation of its windows so its dealer network can focus on marketing, selling and moving on to the next sale. “Basically, our window dealer can concentrate on generating leads, running those leads and closing those sales,” Scalzott says. “Everything beyond that point is handled by Vytex.”

This has been Vytex’s business practice since its inception nearly 20 years ago. “It was the business model from the beginning—make a really good window, provide excellent customer service and provide professional measure and installation,” Scalzott says.

Being sandwiched between the Baltimore, MD, and metropolitan Washington, DC, areas allows Vytex to serve a dense population in a relatively small geographic footprint.

As the company has grown in this ripe housing market, the manufacturer has added more installation crews and service technicians to keep up with demand. Today, the company’s teams can tackle 25 or more jobs per day. “To do this, we have a complete staff,” Scalzott explains. “We not only have a qualified inside staff who handle the scheduling of measuring and installation, but we also have on the road six days a week the measuring techs, the service techs and an installation manager.”

Some of Vytex’s dealers had never installed before partenering with the manufacturer, and some have their own crews and continue to install products on their own. The majority of dealers, Scalzott says, are dedicated solely to Vytex and take advantage of the installation program.

To keep the schedule running smoothly and keep its dealers’ customers, the homeowners, happy, Vytex also blends competent customer service representatives with good logistics management software. The technology tracks products as they move through the production process so employees know when to contact the homeowner and schedule the installation.
The Vytex installation crews wear the shirts and carry the lawn signs donning the appropriate dealer’s logo and marketing slogan. The manufacturer also answers post-installation questions homeowners might have and handles any service issues that pop up. “There are challenges, but the service we can give our customers is unmatched,” Scalzott says. Essentially, the dealer with which the homeowner contracted and Vytex becomes one and the same, he continues. “It is an expensive and time-consuming venture, but I think our dealers appreciate what we do for them.”

A Window & Door Top 100 manufacturer in the $20 million to $30 million in annual sales category, Vytex plans to grow by extending the same business model into new geographic regions. The company expects to attract new dealers with its solid product platform and its comprehensive installation program. “I think people in this industry eventually try to find niches,” Scalzott says. “This has been our niche and it’s been very positive for us.”

He reiterates, however, that manufacturers exploring the possibility of offering installation services must be prepared to attach a significant amount of planning and dedication to the process. “Can someone else do this? Sure, but they have to be dedicated to it. They can’t just throw three or four people on the road and say, ‘This is our installation department.’ It takes constant monitoring and follow-up.”

It’s not easy to pull off, but homeowners like the seamless package that results, these manufacturers agree. “I think that the customers really like that there’s one party responsible for everything,” says Maceda. “We manufacture the window, install the window and service it after the sale.”