Certified Carpet: Best Practices - February 2014
By Sonya Jennings
Certified Carpet, a family owned and operated business in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, has three divisions: flooring, mat and carpet cleaning. Each division is run by one of the three Legenstein brothers, who took over operation of the company from their father, Walt. Walt retired in 2009 after working for 40 years in the business.
The company’s flooring sales are 40% residential and 60% commercial, with a focus on healthcare and negotiated contract work. According to Mark Legenstein, vice president of the flooring division, “Lancaster County has a total population of half a million people. This means we have to be many things to satisfy the needs of the customer in order to grow our business. Offering residential and commercial flooring products as well as cleaning services and mats helps us to provide many products and services to our local community.”
To drive store traffic, the company funnels most advertising dollars to television and print. Television ads are purchased through an ad agency, and a local production company produces Certified Carpet commercials. For 40 years, Walt was the face of Certified Carpet on television. In recent years, brothers Tony, Joe and Mark began appearing in the commercials, and now each shoots the commercials for their division. The commercials are usually made on location at the company and include testimonials and sale promotions. Promotions change monthly, which keeps the commercials fresh.
Ad dollars are also funneled into print advertising. According to Tony, company president and head of the mat division, “This part of Pennsylvania is a coupon driven area. Coupons generate a lot of business for local companies, including ours.” Certified Carpet advertises in a local favorite, the Clipper Magazine, as well as in newspapers and through direct mail.
The idea for a one-day sale was generated from attending an Abbey Carpet & Home show. Two weeks before the sale, which usually takes place in May, heavy print, television and local radio are used to promote the event. On the day of the sale, 20 or more people are on the sales floor, and it is one of the best days of the year for Certified Carpet. The Legenstein brothers are always looking for ways to improve, and these types of shows offer fresh ideas for change.
On Certified Carpet’s residential side, sales are approximately 40% hard surface and 60% carpet. LVP, LVT and some of the new softer carpet products are trending currently with residential customers. On the commercial side, LVT and carpet tile are strong sellers. According to Mark, “Ease of cleaning and durability are the two main reasons these products are doing so well.”
Joe, vice president of the carpet cleaning division, points out that the main competition for Certified Carpet’s services are the customer doing the job themselves or customers doing nothing at all. Professional competition for cleaning jobs is scarce.
Tracking performance is key at Certified Carpet. After installation, the installer asks the customer to fill out a comment card (with postage provided) and mail it to the company. Every card is read during the weekly staff meetings. Also, a thank you note is sent to every customer after a job is complete, and an additional thank you note is sent when a customer takes the time to fill out a comment card and mail it back. For carpet cleaning customers, a “refer a friend” coupon is given after every job is complete. Customers who refer a new carpet cleaning customer are mailed a $15 gift card to a local convenience store.
After hiring an outside business consultant, the company created a strategy for offering options to the customer. If a customer comes in and requests a quote on a particular carpet, two other options are automatically offered as well. The three options show contrast in price and product. According to Mark, “We never give a customer just one choice. If she says ‘no’ to one option, we have a chance that she may say ‘yes’ to one of the other choices.”
The Legenstein brothers believe that what drives the company’s success is a foundation of morals and beliefs set by their parents, Walt and Fran. Tony comments, “The morals of our parents have seeped into the business. We don’t worry about money; we worry about people.”
Mark adds, “Whatever it takes, our customers will be satisfied.” In a small town, this philosophy travels through word of mouth and brings referrals and repeat business. When looking for a new employee, honesty and integrity are the two key factors. If a person does not have these, they will not fit into the company’s culture. Community involvement is also a focus of Certified Carpet, including company donations to local churches, scouts and non-profits.
The little things are big things at Certified Carpet. Joe comments, “When an installer arrives to a home, the person opening the door is usually a woman home alone. That could be an uncomfortable situation, so our installers are experts at being professional and courteous.” The installer may, for example, bring in the newspaper from the driveway or assist with the family pets before installation. And company trucks are always clean. This philosophy carries into the store as well. Uniforms must be pressed and neat with shirttails tucked in and no tattoos or piercings may be visible.
SIXTY-FIVE YEARS IN BUSINESS
Certified Carpet began in 1949 as a rug cleaning company. In 1969, an owner who did not work in the business hired Walt as manager. Over a 15-year period, Walt bought the company from the owner, and he grew the operation from a five-employee shop to a company that currently has 50 employees.
In 1955, the company began selling and installing flooring in addition to its rug and carpet cleaning, and the mat division was launched in 1970. Walt officially retired in 2009 but still has the title of chairman and CEO.
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