The wrong way to provide good customer service

This is the post I’ve been talking about and it’s here because of a bad customer service experience that could have been prevented by the vendor in about 10 minutes.

Chris and I decided to get our carpets replaced with laminate after 4 years of living in this condo. So we made a few calls, talked to some people, and settled on a company to both provide the floor and do the work.

The deal was this:

  • The company was to supply underlay to meet our condo spec and the flooring itself
  • They would also:
    •  remove and dispose of the carpet
    • lift and re-install (not replace) the existing baseboards
    • lift and re-install the closet doors & track
    • remove and dispose of the electric fireplace

All of which they did, 100%.

Chris met with their rep for the original estimate, drove to Burnaby with the deposit and arranged everything. Yes, he’s good like that.

This is around the time of the core mistake in their customer service plan (if they have one) – Customer Education.

Having any kind of renovation done comes with some side-effects. For the floors, the big one is dust/dirt. Tearing up the old carpet and cutting the flooring are messy jobs. Ages old dust & contaminants are kicked up, carpet fibers go flying and a ton of saw dust is created. It’s at this early point – say during the estimating process – that you would want to educate your customer about what they should expect, so nobody is surprised later on.

“Say Chris, since you’ve never been through a reno before, let me tell you what happens and a bit about what to expect.”

  • Along with moving everything off the areas to be floored, cover important belongings with drop-cloths to avoid dust (Better yet, provide drop cloths or tarps to the installers)
  • Expect dust, we do our best, but since we have to cut inside the condo, there’s going to be a lot of dust and it gets everywhere.
  • Since we’re not replacing or repairing the baseboards, expect some minor damage to them in the course of removal
  • Here’s the installer’s phone number so you can touch base 2/3 of the way through the job

And two-to-five minutes later we’re done with that. Maybe longer if the customer has questions – which they should!

Second “mistake” – Hire good staff who care about the entire process and the customers.

Let’s assume that the customer is educated about what to expect. That means you have to deliver on those promises, which means having smart, dedicated staff doing the work. It means everyone respecting that the customer has given over not just money, but trust to you and they expect to be treated well.

Specifically for us – returning the home to owner in the condition in which it was left or agreed to.

What we got that was outside the expected:

  • Purple putty on the wall near the entrance
  • Baseboard split in two
  • Baseboards damaged by removal
  • Bathroom used as a workroom – dust, dirt and chunks of wood on the floor & in the mats
  • A huge bag of garbage because the installer could “only take one bag away”
  • Glue spots on the tile
  • Glue and/or putty smears in about 8-10 places on the wood floor
  • Curtains left stained & puddled in dust
  • Floors barely swept of dust

We’re not unreasonable. We expected sawdust in a lot of places and that we’d have to sweep & Swiffer and wash some windows etc. In fact, we haven’t complained about that part at all. We figure some of that comes with the territory.

The list above, we felt, shouldn’t happen in a normal installation where the company cares about their customers.

But it happened. So? How do we deal with this and what do we do next.

First – We took a lot of pictures right away. Just in case.

Second – We sent the company an email and offered them the chance to fix things.

Here’s the email:

Hi guys:

First, let me say that we are very, very happy with the installation of our new laminate floors. I think they’ve changed the way our home looks and feels. Thank you for getting them done, basically the day after we confirmed our order! Very quick service.
Unfortunately, there’s a downside that was unexpected.
Rami (I think that was his name) seemed somewhat unconcerned with the details of the way he finished his job. Below are list of surprises, and you should find several photographs attached as well.
  1. Immediately upon entering the condo, there are several pieces of putty on the wall
  2. Dried glue on the tile near the front door
  3. Putty or glue smears on the floor in several places
  4. Garbage, chunks of floor and general mess in the bathroom, where no work was expected to take place. Our toothbrushes were covered in dust, and the bathtub was full as well
  5. Broken baseboard and hole in the drywall where he could clearly see an unpainted screw had been used, but he still used a crowbar, causing the damage pictured
  6. Baseboards damaged across the tops
  7. Baseboards with nails pointed down, laid across mattresses (no damage, but shows a lack of care)
  8. A bag of garbage was left, the installer said he could only take away 1 bag, the other was ours to deal with
  9. Bedroom curtains were left puddling in dust, leaving the bottom 3-4 inches filthy and discolored
We expected some dust & cleanup when we came home, but the state in which the house was left was much worse than we imagined, and that actual damage done was more than a little shocking.
If any of this is considered “Normal”, perhaps advising the customer what to expect before the commit to the job, would help. Providing drop-cloths or plastic tarps to installers to cover belongings, or mention at the start of the job “You might want to cover anything that’s important” etc.
We returned home to check in at 1:30pm and the installer was nowhere to be found. Our condo was locked up and quiet. At this point, it appeared that all the carpet & underlay had been removed and taken away. The installer indicated at the beginning of the day, that he would be done about 3:30pm. We tried calling him several times, but he never answered his phone. A webcam we had on a counter, but not monitoring the house, provided audio that indicated he was here working (hammering etc) and we could hear his phone loudly ringing.
Generally, although the installer did a decent job installing the floors, it seems he lacks the general care to finish his job thoroughly and professionally. We did ask that he stay and finish rather than returning the next day as we were told it was a one-day job and we couldn’t be here the next day. He ended up leaving at about 6:30, having started at 10:30. Most of the issues above could have been easily resolved with a bit more ongoing care, and 10 minutes of cleanup at the end.
These issues may seem small to you, but your response to these issues will color our conversations and recommendations with friends and co-workers. We hope that you can help us get some of these problems cleared up.
So, quick recap if you’re still with me. Chris and I aren’t happy with the way the final details of the job were handled, and it basically comes down to the installer not caring about his work, and the company not educating the customer.
Quick fixes – Educate the customer, Help your installers care.
So, how DID they respond to our letter? That’s the key here isn’t it – and you can probably guess by the title how it went.
Stay tuned.