The most beautiful fabric in the world can have a less than perfect appearance if the workmanship is not excellent. But when a quality fabric is paired with a workroom that knows how best to handle it and apply it to window treatments, amazing synergy occurs. The end result is that customers get what they crave most: their designs come to life.
During a time when the window coverings industry is settling into a new economy and with a new consumer, it is important for the workroom and window coverings industry to rebuild its relationship with the customer and come out with better strategies to address windows with the soft treatments that are back in style. Every workroom needs to consider elements like: quality control, timeliness and efficiency, effective customer and brand communication and, especially, to evolve with an always-changing industry. With these things in mind, a workroom can thrive.
CONTROL THE QUALITY
As C.W. Barron said, “Everything can be improved.” In order for a workroom to achieve the highest quality, its professionals must be thorough and assume that everything about the end-product can be improved.
First, hand-inspection is the single most crucial element to ensuring fabric quality. Ask yourself, why stop looking at a product after it’s dyed and finished? Shouldn’t a product be re-inspected before packaging and shipping to assure it arrives with no imperfections? What about the inspection of seams after a custom product has been sewn?
Assuring that everything about a product can be improved makes for a high-quality window treatment every time. Workrooms should challenge themselves to ask the kinds of questions that may have been overlooked in the inspection department, and all workroom professionals should consider themselves quality control managers. The modern workroom environment could use an inspection department for its customized orders to achieve true end-product perfection.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that the workroom should be viewed from the perspective of the customer. If every person in the workroom approaches a project with the most finished and professional looking end-product in mind, the end result is almost always an improved product. ADO has a mission to make our customers look good to their customers and, in a sense, to be a value-added partner to our customers. The only way to do this is to ensure that we’re delivering the best quality they can present.
Finally, if workrooms want to achieve the highest quality standards, they must ensure that workroom management takes time out to train its professionals, assuring that all individuals are taught how to complete each task thoroughly. At ADO, for example, every order that comes in is inspected by every person who touches the order. A reputation for quality is directly related to workroom practices and the care that’s put into the construction of customers’ window treatments.
TIME IS MONEY
In an age where timing is everything, workrooms must strive to deliver quality products fast. There’s so much to consider when placing a timeline on orders—from the fabric inventory to workroom efficiency to shipping and handling of a product. The I-want-it-now end-consumer doesn’t care about the production logistics of the stunning swags they’ve ordered, they care about the upcoming dinner party they’re throwing and the draperies that match their new table linens.
Timeliness and quality should go hand-in-hand, but that’s not always easy. In order to maintain an effective level of timeliness for work orders, workroom managers should cross train employees so they are skilled across all levels of specifications that come in. This means less downtime on any given treatment because the production workers are adept at the specifications and techniques for all customized products. Training programs are a crucial element to put in place if a workroom places a priority on reduced turnaround time.
Even with one of the fastest turnaround times in the industry, we constantly work to improve as much as possible with training programs and customer communication.
CUSTOMER COMMUNICATION COUNTS, TOO
As valued partners, customers play a part in any workroom process necessary to assure a timely order. When a customer is preparing to use a workroom, he or she also must take care to fill out order forms and follow the workroom’s processes correctly, assuring measurements are clear and entered exactly where they’re needed.
If a customer has special instructions on a rare, customized piece, sketches sometimes work best. Using graph paper with concisely measured scale drawings is a better way to specify every detail of a window treatment leaving no room for interpretation. Taking a half hour to sketch a treatment not only helps the workroom, but it also helps the very visual designer take a second look at the treatment. This kind of tool helps everyone working on the project because it also can be handed off to the installer for use. This is a great approach to creating a customized product from start to finish.
To make a design come to life, more customers can—and should—take a partnered approach with their workrooms and collaborate on expectations for the finished product. A company’s customer service department also can work with customers to assure effective communication with a partnered approach. The more direction provided, the more exact the finished product will be.
This process starts with effective communication from all parties. At ADO, it means something when customers can talk with the same customer service representative every time. We try to organize our representatives so that they deal with customers in specific areas in order to create the comfort and consistency designers crave when placing an order or following up on a deadline.
It’s no coincidence that ADO gives a written five-year warranty on all its fabrics. Our workroom operates with the notion that customers deserve more than reliability; they also deserve accountability.
SELL YOUR SERVICES
What good is your workroom if no one knows you have it? It’s amazing that after nearly 30 years of business here in the United States, some customers still don’t know that we have one of the largest workrooms in the window coverings industry—and that we can customize our fabrics to meet any customer need or specification. Selling the services you offer is key to workroom success, especially if you sell fabrics, no matter how long you’ve been in the industry.
In any business where there are many sales avenues, it’s important to let your customers know that you have a service, and remind them of those services. Fast food chains use this approach when they ask customers if they would like to upgrade to an apple pie with the combo meal, so why can’t fabric companies offering more than bulk fabrics consider this, too? Conveying it to your sales force and customer service department as a sales upgrade tool will certainly garner more orders and get the word out, especially in an industry that’s people-focused and networking dependant.
EVOLVE WITH THE INDUSTRY
Everyone in our industry is aware that it’s changing. That’s why it’s important that today’s workroom professionals focus on new machinery and technology, and on conducting a lot of research on new tools that will help them be the most efficient and to utilize the best new techniques out there. Collaboration with industry partners also is key to the evolution of the window coverings industry.
At ADO we constantly strive to stay ahead of the times with product manufacturing technology, product development and interior industry partners. The window coverings industry is somewhat parallel to the fashion industry. It doesn’t remain stagnant. Home design trends are constantly evolving and a workroom should, too. Workroom managers who work closely with product managers to meet the latest design standards on new products have more success and grow because they provide their workrooms with products that sell in today’s market to today’s evolving consumer.
Walter Herr is the executive vice president of ADO Corp., Americas, a German-based company now celebrating nearly 30 years in the United States. As one of the largest U.S. workrooms in the industry, it houses professional craftsmen and women who specialize in made-to-order window treatments, window covering products and customized draperies.