Diagram courtesy of Bostik Findley Flooring Group.

You must understand that every installer/contractor has one irreplaceable asset - time. So, don't waste yours on complaints or callbacks. We have all heard the expression "labor-intensive." I urge you to make your laborprofit-intensive. There are only so many workable hours in a week and only 52 weeks in a year. So it's in your best interests to diligently work to eliminate complaints and callbacks.

Are complaints important? When surveyed, 300 sales reps said their most important activity after selling was complaint handling. Remember, it costs five times as much to gain a new customer as it does to keep an existing one. Of course, complaints are important. They not only cut into profits but you may lose clients as well. Bad news travels fast. More than 90% of unhappy customers do not complain to the store. Instead, they relate their complaints only to other potential customers.

A good beginning means more profits. So please follow a few simple rules. Here are nine of them:

1. Know your job site.

2. Know your substrate.

3. Know your product.

4. Know your adhesive. (You don't have to use the cheapest. Step up in quality. It will only cost pennies more.)

5. Know the "Standard of Care." It's the law when it comes to litigation.

6. Perform the proper floor preparation. This includes moisture testing. You can use a simple industry-recognized test or step up to electronic instruments. In highly questionable situations, use the calcium chloride test method.

7. Be sure to use the correct trowel (and keep it clean). You need to think of the trowel as a metering device. All manufacturers have lavished a great deal of time and study on determining the proper trowel size needed to obtain the best bond. (To get a feel for the importance of using the right trowel, see the example illustration from the wood floor industry.)

8. Strictly follow the manufacturer's instructions. If not, a failure may come back to haunt you.

9. Don't cut corners.

The cost of labor is a significant part of every job. It is the obligation of the professional craftsman to make every effort to ensure that each job he completes is as perfect as he can make it.

A great number of the problems I see are associated with adhesive transfer. Transfer "happens" when you put your flooring down into wet adhesive. Some of that adhesive transfers to the back of the material and makes a pattern. That pattern will determine how well your flooring bonds to the floor.

Insufficient adhesive will yield insufficient transfer. This, in turn, will provide insufficient bond. Too little adhesive will also dry too quickly and skim over. The more an adhesive has dried, the less transfer - and bond - you will get. Dry adhesive will have no transfer and no bond.

A smooth, even pattern of transfer is a necessity for a proper installation. The only way you can be sure that you are getting this transfer is to look. Get in the habit of doing this regularly. Make it a reflex, like sharpening your knife (and cleaning your trowel).

The transfer problem, or lack of it, will tell you how the job is going. It will warn you of problems before they get big and costly.

But let me get back to the big picture. Although you want to avoid it, all is not lost if you do get a complaint. It has been my experience, as well as that of others who become involved with complaints at the actual job site, that proper handling of complaints can often work to your advantage.

Consumers want their complaints handled in a timely way. Do not procrastinate or point fingers without consulting all parties and conducting an adequate inspection. Retailers, mills and others involved in the job should not be in a hurry to point an accusing finger. If everyone works together, almost any complaints can be resolved to the satisfaction of the customer.

Handling complaints in a timely, professional manner builds confidence and credibility for you. Don't forget the fact that dealing with a problem can also be a valuable learning experience for you.

By the way, I've put together a list of comments I've heard over the years during my many trips to complaint sites.

"We've always used your glue and never had any problems."

"You manufacturers are all alike - you never pay for anything."

"Hi, ________. How's your family?"

"We always notch our trowels."

"You mean I can't use that adhesive with a vinyl-backed material?"

"A little water like that shouldn't make a difference."

"I've been laying floors for 30 years."

"Write me a letter that says this isn't my fault."

"Got any more hats? Bubba wants one and the distributor's salesman said you'd take care of it."

"The carpet manufacturer said it was your fault. When do I get my check?"

"I've got the best carpet installers in town."

"I've never had this problem with your competitor's glue."

Do any of these lines sound familiar to you? If not, perhaps you've been smart or lucky - or both - and never had a complaint or callback. However, I don't think I've yet run into an installer who hasn't. Nobody is perfect, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try to be.