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If you’re responsible for the purchasing of new office furniture below is a list of the top ten questions you need to ask yourself about as you are choosing a contract furniture dealer.

1. Do they have industry experience?
Furniture manufacturing is a fragmented industry. It takes a lot of time and resources to keep up with the latest product trends and learn the nuances of individual manufacturers. But it is this very experience that allows a dealer to help you with options such as finish selection and planning for end-of-life.

2. Do they know your designer? Are they willing to?
It’s not only relationships with manufacturers that help orders and installations go smoothly. Contract furniture dealerships should have relationships within the Architecture and Design (A&D) community as well – especially yours. This seamless communication structure helps get your furniture in place, faster.

3. Do they have a solid grasp of the vast amount of products available?
There are thousands of furniture manufacturers, each with dozens of product lines. Wood grains and marble veins, glass counter tops and marker boards. The choices can sometimes be overwhelming to say the least. You can rely on a dealership to help you navigate the sea of options to ensure you get the perfect furniture at the right price.

4. Are they asking probing questions about scheduling and delivery dates?
Choosing the right furniture is only the first part of the process. Delivery is the part most people do not even think about until it’s too late. Factoring in delivery budgets and time constraints is one of the major headaches an experienced dealership can help alleviate to keep your project from falling behind.

5. Are they on top of things during the installation stage?
Once the furniture arrives, it’s time for the next phase – installation. This is the stage where the “unknowns” tend to surface. For example, the building may not accommodate the needs of important things like electrical floor outlets and hallway building codes the way you’re A&D firm has planned. Adjustments are often necessary and this is an area where the dealer’s experience matters and resourcefulness comes into play.

6. Do they have design support?
Some contract dealerships have started integrating space design into their list of services. This allows your A&D firm to work closely with the dealership to determine which specific pieces of furniture goes where in relationship to a layout or floor plan. Being able to “speak the same language” helps both the customer and the A&D firm manage resources more efficiently.

7. Is someone managing your project from start to finish?
All of the stages listed thus far are potential roadblocks for your project. One of the greatest advantages of working with a dealer as opposed to taking on the headache yourself is that someone else is taking the lead throughout the entire process. Be sure you are comfortable with the experience and knowledge of your project manager in charge of the furniture component. This could be the difference in a smoothly run project or a potential nightmare.

8. Are you getting the best price?
Another advantage of working with a dealer is quantity discount. This is the point of negotiation where your dealer’s relationships and yearly order volume come into play – where a contract furniture dealership has a distinct advantage. Make sure they have the leverage that can be beneficial to you.

9. Are you looking beyond the sale?
Your company will be living with this furniture for a long time. Something may break or you might want a few more chairs to match your original order, two years later. Make sure that your furniture dealer will not only be there down the road but offers customer service and satisfaction programs after the sale.

10. Do you have peace of mind?
This is actually the single most important question you need to ask yourself when working with a contract furniture dealer.  If you are wringing your hands at night with all of the details listed previously, you need to think about making a change.

What do you look for in a contract furniture dealer?