Many customer complaints can easily be avoided during the sale if she knows what to expect. The salesperson’s job is to point out common things that may happen during the installation. Marks, scrapes and even damages can happen during the install and your company is expected to take care of them. Share simple warnings, such as scratched baseboards are unavoidable due to the fact that the carpet will be put in with the edges riding up the wall and this can’t be considered a complaint. Customers understand this. Let customers know that if they want to paint or touch up the baseboards prior to installation, do so several days ahead of time as the paint needs time to set and dry.

Warn people that doors may have to be cut, and if it is not your normal practice it will have to be paid for. Let them know how far from the floor the bottom of the door should be trimmed. Many customers mistake your installers for carpenters, plumbers and electricians, and a simple explanation will stop them from asking for work outside the purview of your people.

If you don’t move furniture for free, let them know beforehand. Explain cleared and prepared floors. Seams are also a touchy issue. Offer the explanation that there are no such things as invisible seams, but your installers’ seams will meet any accepted standard. I used to go a step farther if I suspected a problem by letting my customers know that nothing we buy—from clothing to draperies, furniture fabric, and even moldings and wallpaper—contains invisible seams. A general statement that will cover it all is: “Because you have seen the flooring installed, you will be more sensitive to where seams may be.” All of what I’ve shared above will take less than five minutes to convey when woven into your presentation—a small price to pay for eliminating problems and keeping your customer happy.

So what happens with the super-sensitive customer? Complaints such as: “I can feel the tacks along the wall” or in doorways. Tacks should never be used across doorways, and gripper bar tacks should be hammered down. My wife once demonstrated that to feel the tacks along the wall as a customer had complained about, she would have to attach herself like a tree frog and mini-step in her bare feet along the wall. Even the customer saw the humor in this. Humor can go a long way.

One discriminating (the kindest word I could think of at the moment) customer had me come in on a sunny day exactly at 2 p.m. and tilt my head a certain way to see a seam. Laughing, I explained that if you could only spot a seam on a sunny day at exactly 2 p.m. and hold your head at a precise angle, this was not a complaint. Don’t laugh at the customer—laugh at the situation and she will laugh with you. There are customers who will call you out to look at a job and admit they are “picky.” If the job is professionally done, agree with them: “You know Mrs. Harper, you are right. You are picky.” Again do it lightheartedly. Don’t ever tell them they aren’t picky. If there is something you can adjust or you could have done better, fix it. You may even have to adjust something that doesn’t need adjusting.

I now live in the South. My businesses were in New England. On Northeastern slab floors, concrete nails could be pounded in secure and true. Down here many of the floors require liquid nail which takes longer. It is wise to apprise customers of this. For some silly reason builders leave the moldings an inch or two above the floor, not realizing our tools made to cut up against the baseboard.

My friend Lew Migliore, the premier inspector in the industry, has a saying: “The flooring never lies!” I share this witticism with customers so they know we will know exactly what has happened to their flooring. Many complaints are not your fault—spills by children, animal damage, dragging heavy furniture and other things. Letting your customers know this upfront will save you a lot of grief. On one occasion I was called out to examine some spots on a carpet under a dressing table where no one walked and the customer said this was an obvious defect. Upon examination, she had a teenager with acne (the meds were on the table) and from the color of the stain, the teenager obviously had some residue on her fingers when she searched for something she had dropped under the table. Damages from cats scratching vinyl and carpet are just as obvious. Retailers tell me customers will actually hide their animals to get away with this, forgetting the installer or measure person saw the animal(s) on a previous visit.

The bottom line is a few customers will be looking for something that will hold up payment or result in a refund. I blame the wretched state of the economy for making customers like this. I sold my stores in 1985 and rarely ran into this type of customer, but retailers tell me in today’s society, these customers are more common. My wife finds customers reaching under the raised baseboards and picking the carpet off the pins complaining that it was installed wrong. This is where you need to have the human skills to explain that without help, the carpet will never come loose. Complaints of damages are becoming more common and if I were in business today, whoever measures would be taking pictures of any damages in the house and pointing them out. Again, it’s unfortunate it has to be done, but it’s only a few minutes. I compare it to people involved in minor auto accidents trying to fold in prior damages to get a larger payout from their insurance.