Let's Talk: Delivery and Installation
By: Brian James, Regional Furniture Manager & David Kaiser, Account Manager
“I just include it in my sell price, right?” This question is often asked to us, Regional Furniture Managers, regarding delivery and installation of commercial office furniture.
So slow down. Pump the brakes. Let’s discuss both of these topics in detail.
Delivery and installation are two very different things and when it comes to furniture you should be charging for both. Delivery is more of a transactional sale term. You deliver a filing cabinet, a chair. Installation is a project furniture term. You install 4 offices of furniture, 20 cubicles.
Back to the part about charging for both. Even if I am just “delivering” a chair, I prefer to have the value add of not just dropping a box in the office, like I’m an internet reseller. Let’s review how we can deliver more value for our customers.
Let’s look at an example:
- To deliver more value, I prefer to put the chair together, walk the end-user through all the adjustments and mechanisms of the chair making sure the customer is fully comfortable and positioned properly.
I’m sure you agree that is the way you want to service your customer.
Now, that service isn’t free; it’s what makes us different from the internet guys.
Please don’t be shy when it comes to attaching value to that service in the form of a cost. Know that contract furniture dealers around the world get away with it, because they hammer home their expertise and level of service, we should do the same.
If you’re reading this, we assume it’s because you’d like to learn how to charge for installation and be able to defend the cost. Here it goes.
First, you are probably already working with the SPR Interior Design team to get the correct products laid out in the proper configurations. Before you start talking installation, this has to occur. There is no sense in asking for an installation quote before you have the final layout approved. Every change in a drawing will cause a change in the installation cost.
Let’s imagine, in your hands you hold a beautiful drawing of exactly what the customer wants and you are ready to quote the project. The next step is to reach out to your SPR Regional Furniture Manager.
Each of us has a wealth of contacts for installation companies around our territory. If we don’t have a contact for a particular area, we normally know someone that can help us out. Either you or the Regional Furniture Manager will need to get that perfect drawing layout to the installer with the parts list included. The installer will have a list of questions. Some examples are:
1.) Is this installation going to occur during normal business hours? M-F 8 to 5?
2.) Is this a first floor delivery? Are there stairs? An elevator? Can we use the elevator?
3.) Is there a dock for unloading? Regular height or do we need a lift-gate?
4.) Is union labor required?
5.) Is the product shipping directly to the job site? To the installer? To the dealer?
6.) Is electrical involved?
With this information, most installation companies will provide you a reasonably accurate quote to get you started.
Next step, now this is IMPORTANT! Please note: You need to mark up your price BEFORE quoting your customer. Perhaps, you are thinking, “Ah, I don’t need to be greedy and mark up installation.” The best advice with installations is Murphy’s Law, which we all know is, if something CAN go wrong, something WILL go wrong. Look, something will go wrong with your project, period.
For example, a bag of screws missing for a chair or the corner of a desk was dinged up in transit. You ordered purple when clearly the customer wanted plum. This means sending the installers back to fix said issue. If this happens and you didn’t mark up YOUR PRICE, you now have less profit for every trip your installers make back to the install location. Hey, if nothing goes wrong, then you make a little more money, because something else that day will cost you more than you expected.
So, you get a price back from the installer. Is it too high? Too low? How the heck should you know?
We personally choose to work with installers who do a very good job, not because they have the lowest price. Installers are normally the last person that your customer sees on a project, beside you, of course. Do you really want to put that responsibility on the lowest bidder? We choose to work with certain installers because small issues don’t make the entire installation grind to a halt. Missing flat brackets? They grab some they had left over from a previous job and keep working.
You may pay a little more initially but it will save you money multiple times over. With that being said, normal installation for us has been somewhere between 9-12% of the sale price. Obviously, this number is a ball-park amount but it gives you a benchmark to work from in your particular region of the country. Installing 5 offices of fully assembled casegoods doesn’t cost as much as installing 5 cubicles. Installation is all about time, cubicles take longer. This is just a guide to give you some idea of where we have seen installation costs typically. Many factors will affect the installation cost starting with the questions above.
We had a dealer tell us the other day that the installation quote he got back was way too high. We asked him how much it would cost to have his people do the installation instead of the quoted company. He said there was no way his people could do it. My response had to be, “Then the quote isn’t too high.” Lol. (I’m smiling as I write this) and please know, I said it with a smile…if that helps.
So now, you finally won the project!!! Nice work. Now the fun starts. Here’s a typical install sample timeline, “The Groupe Lacasse product will ship in 3 weeks, the Hon filing product will ship in 4 weeks, and the Lorell product is all in stock. Now what? There are tons of moving pieces, right? Please work with your Regional Furniture Manager to arrange getting everything where it needs to be, when it needs to be there. We’ll help you to request a ship date from Lacasse that is in line with the filing product from Hon. We’ll work with the branch customer service to get the Lorell in stock products ready so in 4 weeks we can put them in “will call” for the installer. We’ll work out all the details. We do it every day. This is the part of the value we bring.
The week of the installation arrives and you receive a call that the building isn’t ready. You’ve got trucks coming from Lacasse, Hon and the DC has a dock full of Lorell. This scenario happens more than you could ever imagine. So what do we do? First, we hope that we discussed this possibility in the early planning stages of this project, way back before we ever got a beautiful layout completed. Especially in a new building, but even in remodels this is a very real possibility. Again, we would point you to your Regional Furniture Manager. Someone has to receive and store the products. This could be the installer, the end user, or it maybe even you. We’ll look at all courses of action, some of which will have a cost associated with them. That is why it is very important to discuss this possibility early on. From the first moment we begin talking about a project with the customer, we should be setting expectations.
The drywall is finished, the carpet is in, the building is ready to go and you have furniture onsite. My suggestion and strong recommendation is to let the installers do their work. If the preparation is done on the front end. The layouts are correct. The measurements are correct. The order is placed correctly and we’ve gotten the furniture to the end-user, please allow the process to work. Let the installers do what you and your customer are paying them to do, install the product professionally. Be available for any issues or questions that arise but please do not be the furniture equivalent of a helicopter parent. You chose your installer because of their professionalism and ability to get the work done that has been contracted.
When they unbox the desk with the destroyed corner you can smile to yourself and remember it’s no big deal because you marked up the price on installation. That is truly something to smile about!
At the end of the project, everyone’s expectations will be met because you set the correct expectations, planned for issues, hired professionals and delivered what your customer needed. Another happy customer.
TIME STAVING TIPS
* Make sure your installer has the appropriate drawings for install. For the more difficult panel system projects, SPR Interior Designers can provide you with zoomed in typicals and dimensioned plans to show panel placement and color renderings.
* Your installers will document any damages and/or missing products and parts. In order to get replacements quickly, make sure you are taking photos of the damages and including the sku and serial # of the damaged product. Manufacturers will need that information to proceed.