Claims file: Does the rep know?

Home Columns Claims file: Does the rep know?

by Lew Migliore

Our industry has changed significantly over the last 40 years. When I got into the industry, I learned and was taught much of what I know from technical people who populated the industry at all levels. The culling of technicians began in the ’80s during one of our economic downturns and continued into the ’90s until there were virtually none left. Very few manufacturers today have true technical sources and most have none.

For some unique manufacturers we serve as their technical source. This being the case, the default for “technical” information falls upon the sales representative and most who buy flooring material will rely on what he or she tells them, right or wrong. Understand this in no way is meant to cast aspersions on sales reps nor besmirch their integrity. It is just a statement of fact that sales reps are not technical people and most manufacturers don’t expect them to be. In fact, the rep’s job is to sell the product but again, because there may be no one else to answer questions, the rep is thrust into that position.

What’s the point?

This week alone we had two major commercial flooring installation issues, one carpet and one hard surface, where the rep made statements about the product and how to install it that were questioned. In the case of the carpet, the rep said to use a seaming method that was unfamiliar to us by name. When the manufacturer’s technical installation people were contacted they had no idea about this method and were baffled themselves. As it turned out, the reason this was so foreign to all of us is because this method doesn’t exist.

In the case of the hard surface issue, the rep gave his blessing at the start of the installation that the installers were doing exactly what they should. Later, when the installers contacted the manufacturer to tell them they were having problems and that the material was doing “weird” things on the floor, they were told it was an installation problem and were not told how they should change what they were doing to resolve the problem.

It turns out the problems were with the product, not the installation, but it is always easy to blame anything that happens on the installation first. Installation doesn’t put physical blemishes or compromising characteristics in the material, unless of course the installer was also the one making the product before he installed it: That would be a plausible argument.

Surveys taken in the commercial market credit the representative as the source for technical information, even before the commercial flooring contractor who, most often, knows a lot more than the rep because they actually work with the material. The largest cause of claims in the industry is the wrong product in the wrong place, not installation. Getting the wrong product in the wrong place is the fault of the person selling it. That person is always the sales rep, whether in a residential or commercial setting. They offer the product to the end user or the architect that may or may not perform, yet these are the people we turn to for technical answers.

I’m not bad mouthing reps. Their job is to sell, but with all due respect, salespeople are not technical people. They shouldn’t be thought of as such and they shouldn’t be burdened with those technical questions or issues. Either go to the manufacturer’s technical people—if they have them—or come to us. We have the answers to keep you out of trouble, or at least explain how you got there and what you have to do to get out of it.

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