In the past few years, I have had several opportunities — unfortunately — to find out about customer service. Based on these experiences, I’ve developed the honest opinion that few companies really care about satisfying the concerns of their customers. In today’s world, it sure looks like the prevailing attitude of most companies can be summed up as follows: make the sale as if you will never see the customer again.

On various occasions, I’ve called companies with which I do monthly business — such as the phone company, the cable TV company and even the local water company — to report a problem. Often, I’ve received extremely poor response to my problem, and sometimes have been left with the impression nobody even wanted to help me.

Of course, I’ve always believed that these types of companies — particularly the utilities — really don’t have to satisfy their customers. After all, consumers usually have no alternative because these companies have a virtual monopoly on providing their services. So if you’re not satisfied, too bad. You have nowhere else to go for service. Your only option is to go along with this kind of treatment or do without.

By now, I’m sure you are beginning to wonder what my comments have to do with the floor covering business. Well, the same criticisms also apply to our industry and the way we treat our customers. It starts with the manufacturers, and extends to the distributors, to the retailers/flooring contractors, and even to the installers or installation company.

We need to take a hard look at how we do business. For instance, are we as guilty as the utilities mentioned above in treating our customers improperly? Do we look at the customer as a one-time sale? Do we listen with understanding to their concerns about the product we sold them or service we performed for them? Are we just as quick to take care of their concerns as we were to take their money?

Do we handle our customers’ concerns as we would our own? Are we doing everything we can to assure the customer complete satisfaction with what they paid us for? Do we really look beyond the sale, in hopes they will refer others to us or at least return to us the next time they need our product or service?

Are the customer service people in your company well trained? Do they understand the value of a satisfied customer? Many retailers in other industries certainly do.

Remember the saying “complete satisfaction or your money back”? What kind of confidence do you think such a policy gives the customer?

In today’s flooring industry tremendous effort is being exerted to increase sales volume. But will it come at the cost of our future? I feel that if we do everything we should to take care of our customers, they will take care of us in the future. Let’s get back to putting the customer first. That’s who brought us to this point.