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NFRC's Rate Debate
Reach Out and Touch Someone

Get Up, Get Out and Interact with Customers
by Jim Benney

Many of us in the fenestration industry, particularly those of us who work on the design and engineering side of the
business, rarely interact with the customers who ultimately purchase our products.

I think that’s a mistake. One of my missions as executive director of the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) is to encourage our members to shake off their often insular natures and get out there and interact in some way with the consumers of our ratings. Broadly defined, these include regulators–those involved in code compliance and enforcement–and buyers such as contractors, homeowners, builders and architects.

It’s just too easy for us to sit in our offices or in our meetings developing new ratings and procedures without giving much thought to how our decisions and actions are going to affect the people at which they’re aimed. It’s my opinion that everyone in our industry should find a way to spend a little time on the client side.

Serving and Understanding Our Customers

We’ve embarked on a several projects recently, designed to help us serve our customers better, in part by understanding how they think and act. The following are a few examples:

·        Retailer Program. Earlier this year, we entered into a partnership with Home Depot and Silver Line Windows. Our goal is to place NFRC ratings information in the hands of homeowners when they need it and where they want it. Our research demonstrated that people like to shop in home stores, and then take the information they collect back home to think over their decisions. So we developed a tear sheet designed to provide useful information about NFRC ratings, describe the NFRC label, and direct users to an NFRC website where they can download ratings for specific products. The sheets have been in Home Depots nationwide since the spring, and thousands of people have visited the website looking for help. We hope to expand the program to additional home stores in the months to come.

·        Homeowner Survey. Early next year, NFRC will conduct a new nationwide survey of homeowners. As a follow up to a similar survey we conducted in 1998, we hope to learn more about how homeowners make decision about the fenestration products they buy, how we can continue to help them make an informed decision and how much they know about us. Unlike similar surveys conducted by other associations and individual companies, the results of ours will be made available publicly. In fact, the readers of Door and Window Maker can look forward to a future column discussing the results.

·        Outreach on Code Issues. Although NFRC certification is required or referenced in the building codes of most states, we’ve found through our research that a surprisingly small number of people involved in code compliance and enforcement are aware of the benefits NFRC can provide. So last year, we embarked on a formal campaign to get our messages out to this important audience–in part by spending some time getting to know them. I am now a member of the International Code Council’s industry advisory committee, for example. Members of the NFRC staff attend as many code-related meetings and conferences as possible, particularly at the state and local level. We’ve also redesigned our energy-performance label to be more useful for code compliance and enforcement officials.

The common theme of these efforts is to touch our audiences and spend time actually talking with and learning from them. That way, when we go back to our offices and meetings and talk to each other, we can think and speak intelligently about the best ways for us to serve our customers.

It’s a lesson I think everyone in the fenestration industry can take to heart.

Jim Benney serves as executive director of the National Fenestration Rating Council based in Silver Spring, Md.