Don’t Become Stumped by Homeowners’ Questions

Having prompt and thorough answers for customers will keep them from doubting your ability to get the job done.

No matter what trade you are in, you should know enough about your work to explain what you are doing to your customer. You should also be able to answer any questions, and if you don’t know, tell them you will find out and get back to them about the information they are seeking. Sounds pretty simple, right? Well, it’s not always practiced in real life.

We recently sent a new employee out with one of our customers to get some field experience. The installer we sent him with assured us that he’d provide him with “real-world field experience.” I’m afraid the “real-world field experience” we envisioned and what the new employee received were two different things. This customer was trained by another lining supplier years ago but converted to buying materials from us. Our objective was to see how competitive systems worked with our materials and while some of the processes he used didn’t meet the specifications of lateral lining, the most disturbing part of the “real-world field experience” was his inability to answer his customers’ questions.

The first question was about the durability and life expectancy of the liner. His answer, “it lasts a long time,” wasn’t the settling answer his customer expected. When probed, the installer asked how long the customer planned on living in the house. The customer said maybe another 10 years, and the installer said it would probably last beyond that. My new employee knew that testing had been done showing the liner would last at least 50 years and possibly longer. So all that would have needed to be said was that it meets the same design life as new pipe. The customer would have felt good, and the installer would have looked good.

The homeowner’s next concern was whether the smaller inside diameter of the pipe would cause a problem with blockages or would the pipe drain normally. I don’t know if the installer was never told about flow studies or capacities — or if he’d forgotten — but the right answer would have been the lining material actually increases flow capacity due to the smoother finish of the pipe as compared to the old clay pipe being lined. These studies have been completed by independent third-party testing labs and the information is readily available. The answer, “we’ve never seen a problem,” again left the customer wondering.

The final red flag was the question about a permit. Had the installer gotten the proper permit to do the work? His response was that the permit just adds cost to the job, and besides this was just a repair that didn’t require a permit. My new employee wasn’t sure about this and asked me about it later when he returned to the shop. Knowing where the job was performed, I told him the city they were working in does require a permit for this type of work. Some agencies look at this type of work as “repair” and don’t require permits, while others have dollar flooring or a percentage of the material repaired. My new employee learned a lot from this installer’s “real-world field experience.” Most learning comes from mistakes. Hopefully we can get this installer schooled in what he’s doing so that he can answer his customers’ questions intelligently, and in the process provide an above-average job in the end.

Folks, know your trade. The more you know, the more value you carry with you. People want to hire those who know the most about what they are doing, the idea being that if you hire someone who knows more, they will do a better job. And most of the time it works out that way.

About the Author
John Heisler is the owner of Pipe Lining Supply and Quik-Lining Systems Inc. He has 20 years of experience in the CIPP lining industry and over 40 years in the underground construction industry.


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