Guest Blog – Unique Grains vs. Flaws: Is the Customer Always Right?

Posted on 22 February 2018 by CRadmin3

By Abby Sanders of Stone Interiors

Across companies, industries and generations, one tenet of customer service has held strong almost universally: the idea that the customer is always right. Fortunately in the construction industry, at least when safety is concerned, we understand that there needs to be a compromise. Sure, the customer might demand that her dog stay in the home at all times, but we know all too well that we can’t have our installation crew tripping over a Shih Tzu while they’re navigating a home with a thousand-pound granite slab.

But what about situations that are less clear-cut? Things get especially complicated when dealing with natural stone, which is inherently unique from slab to slab. All fabricators have found themselves performing multiple home visits, ordering new slabs and even replacing an entire job after it’s completed, all to appease the whims of a client. When is the customer right, and when are they, (dare we say it), wrong?

Here are a few key questions you should ask yourself as a fabricator before scheduling your team to re-fabricate a job for a discerning customer.

Was your customer reasonably informed before they agreed to the installation?

This is a tricky one because it requires you to take an honest look at your sales process. Was your team available to answer the customer’s questions before asking them to sign anything? Were they given an opportunity to see the slab in person or, at least, see a photo of their slab before it was cut? Do your client-facing materials clearly indicate that there may be variations in the stone?

If your answers are “yes,” then you have likely done your due diligence to inform your client. But if they weren’t provided with all the information necessary to make an informed decision, they may genuinely feel that they have been misled and did not receive the product they expected.

Are you confident that the flaw doesn’t pose a safety hazard or compromise the life of the stone?

An experienced fabricator knows the difference between a fissure and a crack. But it’s important to ensure that whoever is making that call is knowledgeable enough to determine with certainty whether a flaw is purely aesthetic or not. If the job is already installed, visit the home in person to inspect the stone firsthand whenever possible (or assign an experienced, trustworthy representative to the task). Keep in mind that a determined homeowner may decide to get a second opinion and could challenge you if any representative of your company makes a false claim.

Would you be happy with the finished product in your own home?

This one should go without saying, but it doesn’t hurt to ask yourself this last question whenever a customer takes issue with your company’s work. Even if the new surface is perfectly safe and stable, you should still accept accountability if the work isn’t up to your usual standards. Even a superficial flaw may be noticeable enough that it impacts the overall look of the kitchen.

What to do when the customer is, in fact, wrong.

Plenty of customers request unnecessary or even impossible repairs. But some have a point. After considering the situation as objectively as possible, you may determine that the minor time or expense it takes to make them happy is worthwhile. If you can send a representative to answer questions and polish a new kitchen island, then you may have earned a five-star review that attracts new customers who more than make up for the additional resources you spent.

But if the time or expense is beyond what you feel is reasonable, then don’t be afraid to say “no.” In many cases, if you handle the situation in a professional, empathetic manner, you can help your customer put that small paint scratch into perspective without buying them brand new cabinets.  Prepare everyone on your team with key speaking points about the nature of natural stone and the inherent risks of an in-home construction project so that everyone feels confident speaking with disgruntled homeowners.

In the end, you have an obligation not only to your customers but to the future of your company and employees. Come up with a process that helps you determine when the customer is truly wrong, and your business will ultimately be more sustainable while still maintaining a reputation for quality and customer service.

Contrary to popular belief, the customer may occasionally be wrong after all.

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