Today’s Advisor reports on how one company’s training program has performed beyond all expectations.
When Hunter Douglas launched a training program for its installers 15 years ago, it did not realize how successful the program would become.
The Professional Installer Program (PIP) was initially rolled out in 2000, responding to a need identified by Hunter Douglas, a custom window fashions manufacturer. “Our product is only as good as its installation,” says Amy Lund, director of the Hunter Douglas Customer Education Group. “The installers were the last touch point of our customer experience,” and, although the installers are not Hunter Douglas employees, the company wanted to offer training to help ensure that installers meet its high expectations and represent the company well.
In the process, PIP, which has evolved into a three-tiered training program with graduating levels of installer expertise, has fostered two-way communication between Hunter Douglas and its installer community, providing valuable product feedback to the company and giving it an audience to beta test new products, Lund explains.
The first tier of the program is Professional Installer, which provides online training and product information to anyone who sells or installs Hunter Douglas products. The company offers about eight webcasts per year and has a library of 200 videos.
Three times per year—and more frequently when updates are needed—the company distributes an electronic newsletter with technical information and important updates about its products, she says. Past issues are available online.
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Certified Installer, the second tier, includes in-person training at Hunter Douglas’s training facility in Broomfield, Colorado. Participating installers spend 2 days learning about products both in a classroom and in a hands-on environment, where they practice installing the company’s entire line of products in display windows, Lund says.
Participants in the Certified Installer program generally must have 3 to 5 years of installation experience, she says. Covered topics include repairs, adjustments, measuring, and customer interactions, as well as specific challenges faced by installers, such as physical space constraints in homes, pets, homeowners who hover during the installation process, and damage to products as a result of shipping.
Hunter Douglas offers six to eight Certified Installer programs each year with 40 to 45 participants in each class. There is a $175 registration fee, and participating installers pay their own travel expenses.
There is no registration fee for the third-tier program, Master Installer, but, before being selected, participants must complete a survey about their experience in the industry (8 to 10 years is recommended) and a phone interview with Hunter Douglas trainers. “We are pretty stringent on who comes to the program. We’ve only failed a few people,” Lund says, adding that those who fail are given another opportunity to take the class.
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In this 3-day program, participants completely disassemble and reassemble Hunter Douglas products and then install them in a window, she says, adding that this program features hands-on training and hardly any classroom training. About 25 to 30 participants work with five to seven coaches in this class, which generally is offered two to three times per year.
Thousands of installers have been trained and certified through PIP over the years, and the program has been more successful than Hunter Douglas thought it would be, Lund says.