Ralph's Blog

Working For The Weekend

Posted on Sat, Jul 28, 2018 @ 23:07 PM

 

harringbone

We had just unloaded our equipment at the shop at the end of a difficult hardwood-floor restoration job.

“Have a good weekend,” we told each other with a weary laugh.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t Friday evening. It was a Monday night after a long weekend of work.

We were joking about having a good weekend. Our weekend was over. We had to be back at work in a few hours. All we had time to do was go home and sleep.

I was in college at the time, home for the summer and working at Ralph’s for my dad, who founded the company. I wasn’t crazy about working weekends, but I understood why we were doing it. This job was for a business rather than a homeowner, and commercial customers often want us to work weekends so we don’t disrupt their work week.

We worked Friday evening and expected to be done early Saturday. But sometimes a job takes longer than expected.

This particular job was for a retail business that wanted their floors re-sanded. The problem was the floor was full of nails. We had to keep changing our sandpaper because the nails dulled the sandpaper and caused it to leave streaks. This slowed us down considerably and kept us working until Sunday night.

The thing that sticks in my mind about our jokingly saying, “Have a good weekend,” was that no one really seemed upset. We were joking around after all, in good spirits. No, we hadn’t spent the weekend like we normally would have, but we had done something worthwhile. We had turned a decrepit old floor into a beautiful floor.

I also still remember another weekend-long commercial job that I worked on as a young installer. An insurance company had 20,000 sq. ft. of hallways with a herringbone pattern on the floor, which they hired us to refinish.

With herringbone flooring, some boards are oriented horizontally and some are oriented vertically. This multi-directional pattern presented us with a challenge because it’s difficult because no matter how you do it the floor is being sanded and finished across the grain of the floor.  There were a few sections that need to be corrected and it took us until Monday to make the floor look the way it should.

Several of the guys I worked with on those long-ago, all-weekend jobs are still with us. Robyn, Al, and Randy all remember the feeling.  We try our best to avoid those weekend killers for our crews—using our accumulated skills and smarter scheduling. But if it’s necessary, we get the job done.

Even if it means working when everyone else is relaxing.

 

 

 

Tags: custom hardwood flooring, Wisconsin, about Ralph's, stories

Enjoying The Extra Mile

Posted on Fri, Jul 13, 2018 @ 23:07 PM

 

Ralphs Hardwood Flooring-Showroom-0005-1-110952-edited

Customer service is a cornerstone of Ralph’s business philosophy, and it has been a priority for me since I was a young man.

I remember a couple of occasions when I was teenager working for my father, who founded Ralph’s. In both instances, the importance of customer service was really driven home for me.

In one case, we were finishing a floor for homeowners who wanted a very light color. Dad wanted to use up some stain we had overmixed the day before, but that would have made the floor darker than they were asking for.

That made me feel a little uneasy. I wasn’t thinking about the long-term benefit of quality customer service or the power of positive word-of-mouth. I just wanted the homeowners to be pleased.

I was able to convince Dad that we could use the extra stain on another job, and so we gave them the color they wanted. I can still remember how happy they were and how satisfied that made me feel.

On another job working with Dad, a customer wanted a board by some stair spindles sanded, but Dad was afraid that it wouldn’t look good if we did it. She begged us to do it; she was practically in tears. So, when Dad left the room, I sanded the piece. The homeowner was thrilled and profusely thanked me. I felt great.

It was starting to click with me—service was in my blood. I soon realized it made good business sense to go the extra mile to satisfy customers. Excellent customer service means repeat customers and referrals. But at first it was just a natural reaction on my part. It’s part of my personality.

On every job I worked on, I began asking the same questions How can we make this look better? How can we better serve the customer? At the end of the job, I wanted the customer to say “wow!” with a big smile.

And it’ not just me. Ralph’s purposely hire installers who have the same personality trait. We can usually tell. They are people who get pleasure from helping others. They enjoy that extra mile.

I’m glad I had those teenage experiences to help me realize the ultimate importance of customer service. Otherwise, I don’t think I’d be suited to be running Ralph’s.

Tags: custom hardwood flooring, Wisconsin, about Ralph's, stories

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