We all have experienced changes as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, whether it be in our personal or professional lives. At Callen, the way we have needed to modify our business has been challenging, but it has also allowed us to streamline our product offerings, focusing on completing projects that we do best – window, door, and siding installation and kitchen, bathroom, and interior space remodeling. “We wanted to be realistic regarding what we could produce to provide excellent products and services to our customers,” said Mike Wood, Callen Construction, Inc. vice president.
Most consumers are aware that the majority of home improvement and remodeling contractors are extremely busy as there is amazing demand from consumers. “Homeowners have decided to put money back into their homes in place of taking vacations, going out to eat, and purchasing new clothes,” Mike said. “With that in mind, it’s important to move forward now if there is interest in doing any type of home improvement and remodeling project during 2021.”
The increased demand has created a significant backlog for manufacturers and suppliers. “We are still recovering from having manufacturer and supplier facilities shut down and/or operating with reduced staff and limited capacity at the outset of the pandemic,” Mike said. Callen is experiencing a variety of delays from manufacturers regarding delivery of products.
For example, the entry and storm door company Callen works with is having to wait up to eight weeks to get materials from its suppliers. “Prior to COVID-19, the typical turnaround time for getting an entry door was three to four weeks, while it is now up to three months for the door to be delivered,” said Steve Turzinski, the Callen production department manager. “For cabinets, it’s gone from six to eight weeks for delivery to three months, while getting countertops installed in a timely manner has also become more difficult. The suppliers have shortened our timeline for order placement so we can get on the supplier measure schedule within our installation timeline.”
It’s not just that products are not readily available, as there is a shortage throughout the industry for workers with suppliers, manufacturing facilities, and remodeling contractors. “It is difficult to find individuals to work as installers,” Steve said. “Callen has created incentive packages for workers joining the company and we’re actively seeking new team members.”
Mike explained that Callen takes pride in having its own window installers. “We are always seeking quality people to join our team,” he said. “We’re offering a bonus program to secure additional staff and we encourage employees to take advantage of available educational opportunities to enhance their skills.”
At the inception of the pandemic, Callen began offering virtual appointments, with its Muskego and Brookfield showrooms open by appointment only. “I was a bit surprised that most prospects wanted to have the initial meeting in person, as they were trusting that it was safe for Callen staff to come into the home,” Mike said. “The majority of subsequent meetings, where plans were presented and products selected, have been conducted via video.”
As more information than ever is available online, Callen staff and consumers have gotten much better at using technology as part of the remodeling process, whether it be conducting research, obtaining contractor information, identifying product and materials options, and more. “One area that remains unchanged is people still want to touch and feel when it comes to selecting cabinet hardware,” Mike said.
Callen instituted other changes that have proven to be beneficial to both the company and customers. “We started using Microsoft Teams, updating the status of a project daily and making the information available to all employees, which has streamlined communication,” Mike said. “This has been particularly useful at the conclusion of the project, as the salesperson knows as soon as the installer finishes, allowing him/her to call the customer to make sure they are totally satisfied.”
To better communicate with window customers, Callen has instituted a text notification system that informs the customer along each step of the process, allowing them to know the status of their project and any changes. In addition, contactless payment is available for all projects, with the ability to pay electronically via credit card or check.
Callen salespeople are adept at setting realistic timeframes for projects, as they know the status of product availability from the manufacturers and suppliers with which Callen works. “While it is difficult to give customers a timeline longer than they would like, people have been understanding,” Steve said. “Prior to COVID-19, it was typically about 12 weeks from contract signing for a remodeling project to when it would start. Now, it can be up to six months, depending on the materials selected.”
Steve anticipates availability of products and lead times should go back to more historical levels by the end of 2021. “There will likely be a reduction in the available options, with a focus on those that are more popular,” he said.
“At Callen, we provide experiential value, as we can put what a consumer is looking to do into motion,” Mike said. “We connect consumers to products through our relationships with manufacturers and suppliers. We have 35 years of bringing our experience to customers, allowing them to have a superior remodeling experience.”