FC MVP: John Van Hoy, Owner, Carpet One Plus, Roxboro, N.C.
What is your overall feeling about claims?
They are a major pain, but it is something you are going to have to deal with. You have to remember, it can happen to anyone. No one is bulletproof.
What has been your experience?
Getting a handle on claims has been one of the most profitable things I have worked on since purchasing my store. We don't have too many controllable expenses, but claims are a big one.
How would you characterize your approach to claims?
The thing I have tried to hardest instill in my people is an attitude that says "We want your business and we can do it right." That attitude carries right over to claims. If you let the customer know that his/her claim is vitally important and follow through quickly, that person will become one of your best advertisers.
What is the best way to avoid claims?
Handle the situation before it becomes a claim. That is, make sure that everything is right during the installation-especially the materials you're using and the [job site] conditions. Also, don't oversell. You don't want to raise expectations to an unrealistic level. Every floor has limitations. Tell the customer they need a mat outside the house so people can wipe their feet to protect the floor from scratches or dirt. The thing I believe would help the most is if manufacturers would require certification of installers or warranties would be void.
How do you make sure customers understand?
Sit down with them when you are closing the sale and discuss the care of their floor. Tell them that when you track gum on to a carpet or sand on to a wood floor, you are going to damage that floor. Get them to sign off on it so it is clear that they understand. You don't need to hold a science class for consumers, but some basic information about what to expect and how to protect the floor would help address unrealistic expectations.
Sounds like you speak from experience.
Well, I do recall we had a laminate floor we installed that was scratched up and the customer made a claim. It was questionable: She lived in the country, had two teenagers and a dog. The floor was taking a beating. We went through the [claims] process with the manufacturer. They turned us down but we fixed it anyway.
Why did the manufacturer turn you down?
They said the floor was not worn all the way through, according to the warranty. They said "if you read the fine print the finish held up."
Why did you fix it anyway?
It was a gray area but we have found that it is good for business. The customer will probably tell everyone how helpful we were. She'll probably come here again and tell everyone how we fixed the problem. Referrals are how we get business.
What is the first thing you do when you get a claim?
Ask questions about the products used, the installation...everything. You have to know what went wrong before you can fix it. Get someone there by the next day. You have to decide if this is a manufacturer problem and if you are going to make a claim with them. But whatever you do, let the customer know you are on top of it. Call them and let them know what's happening every step of the way.
Generally speaking, how would you rate the level of cooperation from manufacturers?
In general they do well. We have had a couple of problems. Sometimes they resist a claim. The ones that always deny claims, we try to weed them out.
Is there a trend toward more or fewer claims?
I'm glad to say that I have seen a downward trend over the past couple of years. I'm also not seeing any particular trend toward a common problem, which is good, I think.
Why is that good?
Hopefully it means we aren't making the same mistakes time and again. For instance, right now I have a laminate floor with swollen edges, a vinyl floor with one large bubble down the center of a hall, (I can't wait to find out the cause of that one) and this year I have seen several 3 1/2" wide wood floors that are curling. My point is, we seem to be doing a fairly good job on the labor but we need to do a better job on educating the consumer about proper care.
Do you ever get testy with a customer?
Only if they start with me. But I usually just try and "out-nice" them.