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How To Handle A Challenging Client?

 
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Old 04-01-2019, 10:21 AM   #1
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How To Handle A Challenging Client?


Built a deck this January for a new client. I felt like I bent over backwards for this one since work was slow. He asked for probably 10 variations on materials and pricing before finally green lighting the project (10x20 floating deck at ground level).

He was always a huge struggle to get onto the property for work, always had a reason we couldn't get access to the property. When the job was done, we walked the jobsite, he signed off on all work, and then he asked if he could delay payment for a few months which I kindly declined.

A week after payment he asked about my warranty policy. I don't warranty my work, but do a final walkthrough and any complaints within a week of the job are addressed immediately. I did ask if anything was wrong at this point and he said no. Now, 3 months later he's saying that there are some things he doesn't like and that the work has a 1 year warranty on it through Home Depot (referral from them). To my knowledge, he is completely wrong about this. I don't think Home Depot will be sending people out to adjust deck boards.

So, I guess my questions are varied:
1. How many contractors warranty every job they do? I know this is applicable for home builds but I haven't considered it for reasons just like this (one of the complaints are that the trex boards swelled and aren't perfectly even at the edge of the deck anymore. I don't consider this poor installation, just material fluctuations. We're talking off by mm's)

2. How much time do you put into a needy/problematic client before you just move on? What kind of wording have you had success with when drawing those lines?

Thanks!
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Old 04-01-2019, 11:21 AM   #2
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Re: How To Handle A Challenging Client?


First of all, asking to delay payment for months is insane unless it was stated up front and written into a contract.

All of my work is warranted. I stand behind it. But things also need to be stated outright. Things such as boards moving a bit is normal and not under warranty. A board twisting and being totally unsightly would be. Damage caused by the client isn't a warranty issue. Lots of things that happen to a deck are weather related and have strict time limits unless they want to purchase a maintenance plan from you.

To say that you don't warranty your work/workmanship at all is pretty lame.

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Old 04-01-2019, 11:35 AM   #3
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Re: How To Handle A Challenging Client?


Leo, how did you go about getting to a place where you had contracts that lined those details out clearly enough? I do a wide variety of jobs and the idea of individual contracts stating the ins and outs of warranties for each task sounds daunting. If I was just a deck builder that's one thing, but I'm not.

Thanks for the input.
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Old 04-01-2019, 11:51 AM   #4
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Re: How To Handle A Challenging Client?


I don't do much decking anymore. Been doing cabinet making for some time now. But things weather related and wood movement related need to be limited because they can't be controlled. Everytime someone screws with you, you have a new item to add to the contract. Just sit down one day and think of all the issues that you've had that were beyond your control and start putting them into your contract. No one else can do it but you. Or if you don't want to warranty your work make sure it is stated boldly in your contract and even have them initial it. I'm sure them seeing that in your contract will limit the jobs you get.
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Old 04-01-2019, 12:07 PM   #5
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Re: How To Handle A Challenging Client?


Yeah, it's not that I don't want to offer a warranty, it's more that I'm concerned about the consequences of not offering the correct warranty. I started my business about two years ago and haven't had any call backs for poor work. In this specific scenario I've asked the client to send me a few pictures of whats going on and I'm not opposed to going back if somethings off, but I don't want someone trying to screw me for the "list of small things I don't like" according to him.

For the most part 99% of my clients have been awesome. There's typically 2-3 a year that cause a little drama with being a little over the top needy IMO.
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Old 04-01-2019, 12:30 PM   #6
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Re: How To Handle A Challenging Client?


Quote:
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Yeah, it's not that I don't want to offer a warranty, it's more that I'm concerned about the consequences of not offering the correct warranty. I started my business about two years ago and haven't had any call backs for poor work. In this specific scenario I've asked the client to send me a few pictures of whats going on and I'm not opposed to going back if somethings off, but I don't want someone trying to screw me for the "list of small things I don't like" according to him.

For the most part 99% of my clients have been awesome. There's typically 2-3 a year that cause a little drama with being a little over the top needy IMO.
"List of small things I don't like" are generally not warrantable items unless they contrast with what was detailed in the contract...

If you provide drawings, product list with details of what's used in your contract, backed by permits and passed inspections, and your warranty addresses those things warranted, you'd pretty much be covered in most cases and would have to fall outside of it (not that there's not a lawyer for that...)... one thing to include in your warranty is a trip service charge to cover your time if their issue is not covered under warranty... you can always waive it if you like but will also help deter those with ill intent... just be sure to remind them before coming out for the warranty call...

Guy had balls asking you to wait for payment for months...

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Old 04-01-2019, 12:44 PM   #7
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Re: How To Handle A Challenging Client?


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Guy had balls asking you to wait for payment for months...
Yeah, he was angling for the "I hired you because you're a vet so how about you hook me up since I'm in the military."

We'll see how this one plays out but it seems like most people lean on the paperwork to cover themselves on this kind of thing. I wish it wasn't that way but with each passing day in business I value it more and more...
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Old 04-01-2019, 02:03 PM   #8
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Re: How To Handle A Challenging Client?


Gotta expect a difficult one every couple of years. I say, I'm not a victim, I volunteered for this sh**...

Only good thing to come out of this is you get to raise your prices for all your other clients.
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Old 04-01-2019, 07:13 PM   #9
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Re: How To Handle A Challenging Client?


For some reason the people that go thru Lowe’s or Home Depot always tend to be a challenge. I agree with standing by your work 100%, but sometimes craziness trumps reality and you have to be direct and somewhat blunt about how things are handled. Don’t ever be rude, just direct. Apply that directness to your normal warranty process you explained in your OP.
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Old 04-01-2019, 09:08 PM   #10
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Re: How To Handle A Challenging Client?


Did the customer select the products that are warping?

Were the products used cheaper because a certain percentage would likely warp or twist as the humidity changed?

Won't it be nearly impossible to color match the new with the old leading to ANOTHER 'warranty' issue?

Is the flaw a safety issue? = causes injury sometime?

Did you promise perfect or some lower condition at finish?

Did the customer fail to perform normal maintenance, like leaf removal?

Were all the gutters working and properly sized? No exceptional snow , wind, sun or Rain events?

Are the defective pieces subject to reflected light/heat creating extra-ordinary drying conditions, Delta TS & Delta Humidity....
A furnace or clothes dryer vent under or near the flaws.
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Old 04-01-2019, 10:07 PM   #11
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Re: How To Handle A Challenging Client?


If a customer is a PITA then they deserve less of my attention than the good customers when making out of the ordinary requests. Other than that, they get treated the same. In your case, I'd be asking for some description/photos of the issue and, if there's ANYTHING potentially wrong, I'd do a site visit and take my own photos. If the issue is real, fix it, if not then write an email explaining why. Now you have also detailed evidence that their claims are false if they complain to HD or try to take it to the review sites or court.

My first focus is on good professional service. My second focus is on documenting evidence.
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Old 04-08-2019, 05:32 AM   #12
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Re: How To Handle A Challenging Client?


In Texas your warranty one year workmanship, 2 year mechanical and 10 year structural whether you want to, know it, or like it. Contract no contract. Have to sue to enforce though.

****y client. Not all money's good money dude

Contracts help protect from this kind of stuff.

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Old 04-08-2019, 05:40 AM   #13
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Re: How To Handle A Challenging Client?


Quote:
Originally Posted by RCR View Post
Built a deck this January for a new client. I felt like I bent over backwards for this one since work was slow. He asked for probably 10 variations on materials and pricing before finally green lighting the project (10x20 floating deck at ground level).

He was always a huge struggle to get onto the property for work, always had a reason we couldn't get access to the property. When the job was done, we walked the jobsite, he signed off on all work, and then he asked if he could delay payment for a few months which I kindly declined.

A week after payment he asked about my warranty policy. I don't warranty my work, but do a final walkthrough and any complaints within a week of the job are addressed immediately. I did ask if anything was wrong at this point and he said no. Now, 3 months later he's saying that there are some things he doesn't like and that the work has a 1 year warranty on it through Home Depot (referral from them). To my knowledge, he is completely wrong about this. I don't think Home Depot will be sending people out to adjust deck boards.

So, I guess my questions are varied:
1. How many contractors warranty every job they do? I know this is applicable for home builds but I haven't considered it for reasons just like this (one of the complaints are that the trex boards swelled and aren't perfectly even at the edge of the deck anymore. I don't consider this poor installation, just material fluctuations. We're talking off by mm's)

2. How much time do you put into a needy/problematic client before you just move on? What kind of wording have you had success with when drawing those lines?

Thanks!
Red flag right there. He wouldn't have gotten a quote from me.
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Old 04-08-2019, 05:43 AM   #14
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Re: How To Handle A Challenging Client?


Even if you don't offer any "warranty", every state has statutes about "workman like manner", meaning you have to do the work in an acceptable manner, or face liability. Workman like manner in Oklahoma can be held out to 10 years, but I have only seen it used in the first year.
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Old 04-11-2019, 09:19 PM   #15
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Re: How To Handle A Challenging Client?


Did you install it to Trex specs? If so, give your local rep a call. MAKE him come out. If it's a product issue they need to make it right, if it's your install then you need to make it right (bad news spreads FAST, and if it's a normal weather related expansion and contraction the rep will let you and the homeowner know.

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