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I'm curious how everyone handles customer complaints.

Do you evaluate the situation, and then make a decision, or do you treat every complaint as legit?
 

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Well, good question.
First off, complaints can be a good thing. Customer objections can be good if handled correctly. Sometimes someone will forget you if all goes fine, but if something goes bad, and you correct it, it can be more memorable.

I first listen to them, sometimes they just need to vent. Then I set up an inspection to determine if there is actually a problem. Then I fix the problem, or explain how it is not a problem, and then learn how to prepare clients for the same situation.

so in a way, yes, I deal as if all are legit at first because as far as the client is concerned, it is legit.
 

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Every complaint is legit in the eyes of the customer. The customer is your 'boss' and can help make you or break you.
Obviously, the complaint has to be investigated. I prefer to do this with the customer and whoever was responsible for that phase of the work. End results vary with the customer, your ability to communicate and the actual quality of the job.
If you want more work, be certain that the customer is satisfied.
Everything that you do right MAY be mentioned once, everything that you do wrong WILL be mentioned at every opportunity.
 

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Teetor not every complaint is legit in the eyes of the customer. Some times you have that customer that complains about everything and then follows up the complaint by asking for money off the bill.

I treat all complaints as legit until otherwise proven. Once proven I will act accordingly. If it is a valid complaint I act swiftly. If it is bull I will stone wall and state my opinion very frankly.

We've covered this topic a few times in depth. I'm tired of repeating myself :)
 

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Sorry Grumpy, but every complaint is valid in the eyes of a customer.
I am familiar with the customer that demands absolute perfection as that is what I sell.
My primary market is high-end kitchens and baths, both at eye level and easily scrutinized.
I'm curious as to how many people survey a roof. I have had several done, did my homework and assumed that the job was done correctly. I never 'walked the deck' as I wouldn't know right from wrong. No one ever flew back on me so I must assume that all of the work was done properly.
By the way, I live where hurricanes breeze by every once in a while and the jobs that I refer to involve thin shingles, not tile or concrete.
 

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I'm with you on this one Teetorbilt. I want 110% customer satisfaction from every customer. If the complaint is legitimate or not it has to be addressed to the best of my ability and made right in their eyes or my goal of referral marketing will be compromised.
 

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Teetor, I stand by my original statement. Some customers are scum bags looking for a freeby. They know they are making stuff up but lie about it trying to get a lower bill. This happens. It's not common but does happen.

I am not discussing the customer that is nit picky. Those are actual complaints. I am talking about the con artist scum bag that invents problems trying to get a lower bill. This happens! There are people that do this.

Live in your cookies and cream dream world thinking people don't try to take advantage of you and I will live in my real world knowing there are all sorts of people and some are scum.
 

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o.k. I see.
I can see both sides.
I think we were refereing to all customers except scum bags.
so technically not EVERY complaint is legit.
But the customers who are not trying to scam, they ARE legit untill you tell them otherwise.
 

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Complaints

I just want to completely agree with Grumpy !!!
It is truly a sad state of affairs but he is "Absolutely Correct" on this one.
There is that "Scum" factor in too many areas. Beware of "Scum"

Thats All I Have To Say About That .
 

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My 2 Cents, I am 110% with Grumpy here, I have had quite a few " Scum" that know how to play the game, and will go out of there way just to screw you.

My shop has been in business for 3 generations, we have done this not by screwing the customer. However I would say you are going to at least get 1 out of 10 with a problem. Weather its with the bill or with what was done.

I will try to solve the problem with either making a note on the bill or replacing what service was preformed.

You know I have such good customers and many, that I really hate too waste too much time on someone who is just going to put the screws to me.

You never know

Bernie
 

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Wow, it is really disheartening to see so many people jumping on the bandwagon of seeing the customer as the enemy. I guess it validates a lot of the adversarial relationships between a lot of loser contractors and a few loser customers that paint the entire industry as being filled with fly by night contractors who don't care about their work or their reputations and just want to rip off as many customers as possible. No wonder consumers look forward to dealing with contractors about as much as they do getting a root canal.

All I can say is keep your eye on the big picture. Your business success is ultimately a long journey, looking back and realizing that I might have let a few customers think they got one over me instead of squashing them like a bug is okay with me, because I tend to focus on all the good stuff along the way and realize in the big picture those few "scum bags" don't really amount to much in the cumulative bottom line.

I won't let the exception to the rule taint how I handle customers in general, because it will begin to creep into and effect how I would deal with all my customers. As soon as you start seeing your customers as the enemy you have a problem. If your business is sharp you should have systems and procedures in place to minimize the "scum bags" effect on you. We have a whole arsenal of tools at hand, contracts, payment schedules and change orders just to name a few.

A good business person should also begin to be able to spot the signs of trouble before committing themselves after awhile.

Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. :cry:
 

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Letting a customer "think" they got one over on you, and actually giving in and letting them get it over on you are two different things. I have to much respect for myself and my intelligence to allow various types of people the freedom to walk all over me.

I have an excellent customer service practice. I treat all my customers like my friends. Once a customer tries to deceive me they are no longer my friend and I let them know it.

I say this many time, every time we discuss this topic, about once a month... If I can see a customer truly believes their complaint is valid and I can see they are not the scum that is just trying to pull one over on me; I will bite the bullet and fix their problem weather it is real or not... just so long as they believe it is real.

I can see through most lies and know when the customer is trying to lie... Also when a customer brings upa complaint I casually ask a series of questions which forces them to explain the complaint, how they think it happened etc. This will truly tell if the complaint is a legit complaint or a scum bag asking for money off.

There have been a few jobs where a customer has complained. The complaint wasn't a real problem but I gave into the complaint because I could tell they truly felt bad about the problem.

I'm not a bad guy. I don't hate the customer. I love my customers. I hate con men.
 

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Complaints

Cheers to Grumpy !!! Well said.
It would be nice if only one out of ten customers were trying to get professional services for "Nothing !!!"
The reality seems to be much greater than that for us, at least here in So. Cal. there seems to be far too many "Scumbags" trying to get their projects for free.
Even when the contractor does what is reasonable and true, the customer always has the Right to Small Claims suit. Some people do this for the "Entertainment" of it all. Trust me on this, I know all about it.
Sounds like Grumpy knows what he is talking about too.
 

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My average is about one 'scumbag' a year and this is split between two businesses, marine and remodeling. So far, none in the window treatment business, perhaps this is because these contracts can be written tighter (fewer variables).
A professional 'scumbag' knows how much it will cost you to take him to court and will stay just under that limit in his demands. In the marine business, you show up and the boat is gone and may be in another country. The fact is you never know who these people are, I've been whacked by famous Hollywood producers, sports figures and actors. They are the exception and not the norm.
The vast majority of my customers are retired business people and fully understand how the game is played. Most of them walk into whatever I have done and are enthralled, nit-picking comes a few weeks later as they have the time to closely examine the work. Many times they are correct but there is little that can be done with a granite backsplash against a wall that has a 1/2" bow in it, it is going to show somewhere and they were notified prior to installation.
I guess the upshot of all of this is; Will you have scumbags? Yes. Will you have customers contest the quality of your work? Yes. Will you end up eating some jobs? Yes. This is what business people deal with everyday and what has to be reflected in your pricing. It's like Social Security, everybody has to pay a little bit extra to make up for the ones that can't/don't pay.
 

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The way I see it..
Lets take 2 clients.. ones a scumbag and ones a decent person. The jobs are 20 miles apart. Both are getting close to being done. Both come to you and state that there is a problem with the flashing - let's say it's the wrong color.
How do you know which is legit and which isn't? You have to treat both complaints as legit.. until such a time you can grab the contract and research it. In my opinion all complaints are legit until researched and proven to be non-legit. And even then it may be a mistake on the clients part.
How do you identify a scumbag? You can't until they prove themselves to be a scumbag. Until that time - you have to treat them just like any other client and assume the complaint to be legit.
 

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Teetor said:
I guess the upshot of all of this is; Will you have scumbags? Yes. Will you have customers contest the quality of your work? Yes. Will you end up eating some jobs? Yes. This is what business people deal with everyday and what has to be reflected in your pricing. It's like Social Security, everybody has to pay a little bit extra to make up for the ones that can't/don't pay.
There it is in a nutshell. Well said.
 

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One more comment about the scum bags... They really tend to eat up all my time. Isn't there some kind of 80/20 rule? 20% of your customers will take 80% of your time.

Hatchet how do I know which one is legit? I look at my contract to see what color is to be installed and I either go to the job site, or I have someone on the job site with a brain tell me what color was actually installed. I also check my shipping records and invoices to make sure the right color was ordered.

How do you identify a scum bag? Good question.

Customer calls me and says the deck wasn't protected and now it needs to be popwer washed. I said no material fell on the deck, I was there personally and we were carrying the garbage to the other slope. While you are right there should have been some kind of protection the roof tear off was more than 75% done and I decided it was too late. All that was on yoru porch were a few small scraps of tar paper. customer says but they also scuffed the deck with their shoes, all the foot traffic damaged my deck, we need it power washed. Nothing unusual, just normal wear and tear.

Here I identified that this person is looking for a free power wash. She also claims we "broke" her light bulbs inside her house. The lights no longer worked, I had a workman check it out and the bulbs were dead... inside her kitchen. How is this my fault? Lightbulbs burn out every day!

Nothing lasts forever!

Every time she has a complaint it revolves around having something fixed for free or asking for money off the bill. We did work for her in the past so I knew how she would be... Last time we did a repair and when we were done they said we overbid and wanted money off the bill. I said the time for negotiation is BEFORE you signthe contract.

This time they said a sheet of plywood costs $20 at the store why can we justify asking $45. We don't think it's fair to pay $45. I asked why they didn't bring this up before they signed the contract... Then I explained I have to pay someone to remove the old damaged plywood, I have to pay someone to take that plywood to the dump. I have to pay the dump to take the plywood from me. I have to pay someone to pick up new plywood. I have to pay someone to cut that plywood to size. I have to pay someone to bring that plywood onto the roof. I have to pay someone to install that plywood properly so it doesnt buckle in a year or two.

This person is the type of person that likes to negotiate before during and after the job. I know without a doubt they will be asking for moeny off the bill because they already told me they are not going to pay full price for the plywood and want compensation for one damaged flower, and I already changed 5 lightbulbs.

Scumbag yes or no?
 

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Your mistake started right here:

Grumpy said:
We did work for her in the past so I knew how she would be...
Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. You already know the customer is not worth working for from prior experience. I would have told her we we're not taking any new work and passed on her job and saved my crew, myself and my employer the headaches. I don't know why you would take on a second job with this customer, greed, ego - thinking you know what she is about so you will be able to handle her this time? Whatever possessed you to take on a second helping of this woman I don't know, but you fully knew what she was about going in the second time so you got what you deserve.
 
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