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I really do have a quality product!

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CKCA by Caroline Castrucci
Caroline Castrucci is CP/Owner of Laurysen Kitchens Ltd. & President of Canadian Kitchen Cabinet Association. For more info email ccastrucci@laurysenkitchens.com

In today’s ever changing marketplace the most difficult value to communicate to the consumer is just how good your product really is. Everyone claims they have a quality product or care about customer service, but how can you back that up in a manner that will resonate with the consumer?
Many of us will inform and educate our prospective client by pointing out the quality of the hinges, the construction of our cabinet the various finishes that we use and how when they all come together they will receive a quality product. We proudly tell them of our warranties and show off our best reviews from previous customers. Sound familiar?
That same client will then surf the net and visit five, six, or 10 other competitors and their website will say the exact same thing, but wait, some were an assembled manufacturer and the others were RTA off the shelf fabricators. You sit there scratching your head and cannot believe that they cannot see the difference. It gets better; let’s throw in imported kitchens from China and other countries with low wages, no environmental laws to follow or benefits to pay. Now place big box stores into the mix and you get a pretty good picture why the consumer cannot see the quality difference.
There are consumer review blogs, websites that rate us by former customers and it always seems that the bad reviews go up faster than the good ones. The consumer is reading the good, the bad and the ugly that makes up our industry. On-air television personalities are another source of information, always warning people to get three quotes, be careful of the fly by night companies. Regrettably we are all lumped into the same group, which sets up a distrusting relationship before they walk into your showroom or visit your website.
All the photo galleries show beautiful kitchens, vanities and decorated rooms that showcase each company’s product in the best possible light. People do not buy kitchens every day, as a rule every 15 years is the buying cycle for our industry. They see pictures and TV shows that focus on the “look” not on the “making” of that dream room. The Internet provides them with a plethora of information, but after a while it all sounds the same.
In order to validate that you do in fact have a quality product we should take our cue from other industries that faced the same obstacles. Most significant industries have industry standards that they must meet to get in the game and the successful ones exceed that standard. Each one had a strong industry association that employs a third party company to test and issue a certificate that informs and assures the customer that they are in fact receiving a quality product. They market and set the expectations for the consumer and since the information is being provided by a third party the “truthfulness” of that information 
is better received and believed.
The cabinet industry has an association that is working diligently to become the voice of our industry and that is the CKCA. By becoming a member you strengthen your industry representation and provide a stronger voice in the marketplace that can educate the consumer about your products. A strong CKCA 
with an ever growing membership will then have the financial 
resources to further enhance the educational opportunities for its members as well as the consumer.
The CKCA can also lobby on behalf of its members at all government levels, but in order to do this in an effective manner, it must have the support of the players. If we look at the home building industry you see a very strong, powerful voice, the same holds true for the automotive industry. With member support and through self-regulation they are able to keep government out of their industry because they do such a good job of constantly raising the quality bar themselves.
The CKCA also has a certification program, which provides you with that third party verification that confirms that you do indeed have a quality product because you have met or exceeded the Canadian Cabinet Industry Standards.
In order for a certification program to work, it must maintain a high level of integrity that is achieved by annual re-certification so the manufacturer maintains its overall quality level year in and year out. The benefit to the consumer is that they can rest assured that the company that carries this certification is dedicated to maintaining and improving their product. The CKCA Certification Program will be re-launched this November and all cabinet manufacturers will have the opportunity to submit their product for testing.
The next step is up to you, are you ready to join the CKCA and place you product under testing so the consumer truly knows just how good your really are? 

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