January 19/26, 2015; Volume 28/Number 15
By Sonny Callaham
Over the past 23 years of my career in floor covering I have been involved with every side of the claims process. I started out as the service department manager of a large flooring contractor in central Florida. My day-to-day responsibilities included many of the typical issues of any flooring contractor, but my favorite part was going out and meeting with clients to see what the problems were first hand. Many times the problem in person would be dramatically different than what was described on the work order. Sometimes the homeowner just wanted someone to come listen to her.
Before the process of resolving any claim can begin, all parties must fully agree to what the claim is about. Too often a flooring contractor thinks he understands the claim and develops a resolution process only to find out he was wrong about what the customer actually wanted or needed. Training installation managers to practice their communication skills and develop dialogue to get to the absolute root of the issue is a challenge.
There are generally two categories for claims: The customer could be unhappy with the installation or with the flooring itself. It is up to your installation manager to determine if the latter is a warranted claim against the manufacturer or if it is a result of not properly managing customer expectations.
Here are a few steps to maneuver through claims:
- Have a united front. Claims resolution is warfare, and if your customer can create “dissension among the troops,” the claim gains that much more strength. Training your team to not discuss how unorthodox the original installers’ techniques may have been will help resolve your claim that much faster.
- If you believe there is a justified claim against a manufacturer, ensure you have the proper documentation prior to submitting the claim. This can include date of installation, type of installation, materials used, run numbers of materials used, etc.
Providing your installation crews with quality materials not only helps ensure a proper installation, but will also more than pay for itself during a claim. Most manufacturers will have a complaint or claim form they can send you; having all the information needed to complete this form will help move along the claims resolution process.
- Move swiftly to resolve claims. Identify the claim, coordinate the proper materials needed to resolve it and schedule a time to fix the problem.
- Have a secondary person who can visit the jobsite in case the installation manager cannot determine how to correct the problem. If the root cause cannot be determined at that point and you believe the claim should be covered under a manufacturers’ warranty, contact the manufacturer for specific instructions. Never have the manufacturer’s rep visit the jobsite before your company has seen the installation.
- Don’t be afraid to follow up. Any costs involved with having someone make these calls is less than having one customer tell everyone she knows that her flooring was installed incorrectly, and when the store tried to fix it they still didn’t get it right.
The secret to resolving claims is partnering with manufacturers that are willing to work with your team before, during and after the sale. If you have a question about a specific application, call the manufacturer and ask; they are ready to help you.