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Distributors’ perspective: Complaints, claims are opportunties to shine

by Harvey Johnson

One of the areas where retailers, distributors and manufacturers have the opportunity to shine is when complaints are voiced by the consumer. First, let’s get our terminology clear and correct. Consumers call retailers to register complaints. Too often, we call these complaints claims; however, they are not claims until there is a determination of a real problem, be it installation or product related.

Complaints from the consumer come for many reasons, and they often are not from defects or defective flooring products.

Handling the complaint

At Mastercraft, we ask our retailers to follow a process to address the customer’s concerns and resolve issues as quickly as possible. First, we ask the dealer to make the initial inspection. Often the complaint can be settled at that time. Second, if the retailer feels there is a manufacturer defect involved, we ask our sales representative to make an inspection with a representative from the retailer. We will not make this inspection without the retailer, as too often this kind of situation can lead to a he-said-she-said scenario.

Our salespeople are not there to make a determination, but to observe and send a report to the proper department to do that. We discuss with the retailer before making the inspection: At no time will they make admissions or denials of a defect but acknowledge what the consumer points out as her concerns. Observation tools include a device to record the room temperature, humidity, the moisture content of the floor and subfloor if possible, and a camera to record areas the consumer feels are objectionable.

It is always important to obtain a sample that shows the projected concern, and if this is not available a sample of the material which may have been left after installation. We always suggest the retailer leave a limited amount of material for possible future use (damaged floors, defects, etc.) with the consumer. His or her report will be submitted the same day as the inspection and forwarded to our company claims department, and as needed, forwarded to the manufacturer.

If there is an indication of a possible product defect, some manufacturers require an independent inspection. Some manufacturers allow the distributor and retailer—up to a predetermined monetary amount—to settle the complaint, now a claim.

At this point, the value of the distributor becomes evident. Most often the wholesaler is able to mediate an agreeable solution to the claim.

In many cases, the distributor may even help in the settlement and certainly carries the burden of certain expenses which otherwise would have fallen on the retailer.

In every situation, consumer complaints become an opportunity to shine. The consumer will tell everyone when she feels her concerns were not properly addressed. Grow your business by handling complaints positively and quickly. It is the best advertising you will ever do.

We in distribution build on our experience and product knowledge. Use us to build consumer satisfaction and grow a more profitable business.