We are all consumers and we all encounter products or services that do not meet our expectations. The consumer having a problem with their floor covering is no different from me or you. The flooring they paid good money for is not living up to their expectations.
When I first became involved in complaint handling, I thought I would see a lot of people trying to get something for nothing. The complete opposite has proven to be the case. In all the years I have been doing inspections less than a handful have met that ulterior motive. The overwhelming majority of unhappy consumers just want what they paid for.
Many complaints are never reported. Many that do complain only do so after they become convinced they are not at fault. A typical consumer will tell you that he or she noticed the problem months ago but thought that if they just vacuumed more or had it cleaned, it would look better. Unfortunately, in our industry, complaints are often neglected. When addressed, more is done to shift responsibility than to resolve the complaint.
When dealing with an unhappy flooring consumer, it is not wise to become defensive or take the discussion personally. Remember they are not angry with you, but at the situation. The types of personalities you will encounter will run from meek and mild to aggressive. The most important thing is to listen. This seems to be the most important aspect of customer relations. You will be surprised at how this will smooth the inspection process. Do not go to the consumer’s home with a preconceived idea about the product, the problem, or the end user.
As an independent inspector you have the responsibility to provide the commissioning party unbiased, truthful information and accurate, justified conclusions.
Your report is the property of the commissioning party and you have an obligation to discuss the inspection report with no one other than the commissioning party, not even the consumer, without written consent of the commissioning party. However, all involved in the complaint deserve your best, unbiased, honest opinion.
You will never win an argument with a consumer. Your professional courtesy is required even if the consumer isn’t pleasant. Everything you say will be important and may be misconstrued. If you don’t know the answer to a question, say “I don’t know.” These are sometimes very hard words to say because everyone is expecting you to know. To them, you are the expert. Flooring is a very complicated product and is becoming more complex all the time. No one knows all there is to know.
Virtually all consumers with floorcovering problems can show you the problem and you will be able to see the problem. This does not mean necessarily that there is anything wrong, but to them, it is wrong. For instance, matting and crushing is a common complaint usually perceived as wear but is not considered to be a defect. It may be that it is wrong but not a manufacturing defect, as in the case of an installation error or poor maintenance. The consumer, by and large, is not interested in who is at fault, but is only interested in getting something done. The consumer is the most important element in the floorcovering industry and deserves to be treated with respect and consideration. Ultimately, they are the ones who write the checks.
About The Author
Michael Currin is a 34 year veteran of the carpet industry. He owns and operates Flooring Warranty Services Inc., a national carpet field services company, out of the Dallas Ft Worth region.
Clipart for this article is courtesy of APerfectWorld.org.
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