Retail education: Heading off call backs

Home Columns Retail education: Heading off call backs

by Kelly Kramer

Nine out of 10 times, a call back is the fault of the sales advisor. Over time, I’ve realized that I personally get almost no call backs on installed jobs. Call backs can come the day of the installation or several years out, but in either case they are mainly due to what happened in the selling and explanation portion of the purchase.

In short, most sales clerks are afraid to explain what could happen to any given product. They look at any explanation of possible performance scenarios as a negative to the sale when, in fact, it should be a positive. A positive because being upfront and honest is more often looked at as a refreshing change and it sets you apart from all the smiling, “yes” men out there.

It also helps you steer a buyer to the right product to fill her particular wants, needs and sometimes means. For example, I always let my buyers know that different styles of carpet will show vacuum cleaner marks and footprints more than others. Early on in the interview I explain the smoother the pile, the shinier the yarn, and the darker the color, the more that type of carpet shows the break in the nap much more than others. This leads to explaining about texture, fleck, and choices between light and dark colors. Simply by presenting this early I get a wealth of information to help direct me.

Often when you explain something like this you can change a person’s direction and she gets the idea that you know things other salespeople have not told her. I can truly say I’ve never had a call back because the buyer thought the carpet was defective, because she saw vacuum marks.


Can you believe installing broadloom actually requires seams? Well, about 20 years ago I got just that call back. A young customer of mine called me back the day after his installation because he had seams in his new carpet and his parents house never did. Then I thought to ask him this one question: Did your parents have shag carpet? He quickly said yes. My mistake was presuming that everyone knew what I did.

So, I explained why some carpet styles show seams more than others, explaining that shag carpet had yarn so tall, fat, textured and thick that you could lose small toys in there, let alone find a seam. He understood but said something I’ll never forget. “Well, I just wish you would have explained that in advance.” He was absolutely correct and I’ve never made that mistake again.

But this is another question in the interview that helps you direct, help and look intelligent. When I’m asked if this carpet will show seams, I respond quickly with “yes,” and then explain which styles show more seams and which show less. Loop pile and Berbers show the most, and textured taller, duller lustered yarns show the least, etc.


To date, I’ve had just a handful of call backs on a manufacturer’s flooring warranty, mainly because I don’t use warranties to sell. You might say I never ever promise anything that a warranty might cover. But if I’m asked what the warranty is, I bluntly say that warranties cover all the things that won’t happen to your flooring. If they can happen, they are not covered in the fine print. Then I explain, for example, why wear is defined as loss of mass by definition. Plastic (nylons, polyesters, etc.) will never wear the standard 10%, but what will happen in poorly made carpets is matting and crushing. That is not wear.

There’s a whole list of potential call back items you can present in the sales/education process. And you guessed it, they are in my books under the Customer Interview.

Thanks for reading.

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