August 24th, 2012
Is Andersen a Dinosaur or an Elephant?
There can be no question that Andersen Windows and Doors is very big. Andersen Corp. is one of America’s largest privately held companies with annual revenues estimated at more than $100 billion and more than 10,000 employees. The longevity, size and marketing efforts of Andersen made the company the Kleenex™ of the window business. It branded its name so well for so long it became the only manufacturer brand name my to which my homeowners asked me to compare my window product.
For the last 20 years when a potential client asked me, “How does your window compare to Andersen?” I could throw the question back to them and ask, “What do you know about Andersen Windows?” When I did, I would find they knew virtually nothing. I got responses like, “I think the builder used Andersen on my last house.” It’s been as easy for vinyl window salesmen to win against Andersen as shooting fish in a barrel. The proof is that vinyl windows have taken a lot of market share from all wood window manufacturers, including Andersen.
But Andersen did not stay in the tar pit like a dinosaur. The company is still the largest beast to roam the American world of windows. Now, it seems they are performing more like the elephant in the center ring of the window circus than a Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton in a museum.
Window clients are asking me again how my window compares to Andersen. Now, when I put the ball back in their court, they tell me things like, “I like the look and feel of their patented composite window frame.” Selling against Andersen isn’t like shooting fish in a barrel anymore.
Last month, I found myself losing a houseful of windows to Andersen. This client appreciated a soft sell in the past and his home was in a neighborhood I “owned.” I had developed a great rapport with my client, done my job of educating them about window choices and got them to decisions about changes in size and style for the kitchen, bath and family room. The homeowners had visited my showroom, liked my windows and told me they were going to the bank for approval. Imagine my surprise to open an email from “my” client and read:
“With all the information we were provided and subsequent research we did, we decided not to go with vinyl replacement windows. Instead we have decided to go with a composite material window and feel that Andersen would work better for our house.”
Two weeks ago, I had a similar situation. A repeat customer had me out for new windows in his sunroom. We had already replaced doors and installed a complete outdoor living space. All I had to do was mind my p’s and q’s and I was sure we would be starting on the replacement of windows. This client is an engineer and very detail-oriented. We thoroughly reviewed all aspects of my product and he visited my showroom. When he called to ask me if I would install Andersen windows, because he liked my workmanship, but was impressed by the Andersen product, I was floored.
I told him, “no.” I asked him to take a closer look at Design Pressure Ratings, U-value and warranty. I asked him to visit BF Rich, the manufacturer whose product I recommended for his home. I asked him to talk with the company’s in-house engineer.
He visited the manufacturer’s facility. He met the wonderful staff at the facility, including a longtime customer service representative and longtime friend of mine, Denise Dancy. On the drive home he called me to tell me about the conversation they had. Denise spoke about the length of time she worked at BF Rich and how much she liked it there. She told him how everyone was dedicated to their slogan of “Quality First and Service Second to None.” She talked about how long she knew me and my family and how we all shared the same vision of delighting clients with products and service. Before he hung up the phone with me, he finalized his order for BF Rich Windows installed by Milanese Remodeling and wanted to let me know that Denise and her winning personality had ultimately made a big impression on him and influenced his decision. I immediately called Denise to thank her. I asked her to never change and I let her know how important her sincere opinions had mattered – even to the most calculating of engineers.
So, now I am batting .500 with clients who have told me they like composite Andersen Windows. I am still skeptical about and hesitate to offer composites, but other manufacturers besides Andersen are jumping into the composite window product pool with both feet. Interstate Window and Door Co. is one that has made a significant investment in their composite product’s design and engineering. They can show how their product can compare favorably to vinyl in many ways. Their product does look and feel different than vinyl.
One thing composite manufacturers of door and window products cannot show is how their materials will act over time when exposed to real world elements. Mother Nature can be harsh and only time will tell for sure. If the pain felt by the manufacturers of composite deck board materials such as Trex when their first generation of products failed repeats itself in the composite window business, it may mean a trip back to the tar fields for dinosaurs that went the wrong direction.