Get on the Same Page as Your Customer

Make sure the customer’s thinking lines up with yours before a job begins. Otherwise you could be paying the price in lost revenue and a damaged reputation.

Are you always on the same page as your customer when it comes to your lateral lining jobs? Consider this story from one contractor as an example of what can happen when you aren’t.

This photo was a still picture of a portion of the customer's pipe. If you’ve been cleaning sewer pipes for any time at all, you’ve seen similar pipe conditions.

The contractor proposed fixing the pipe, offering three options: dig it up, pipe burst, or line. A portion of the pipe farther down the line had not been fully cleaned, but was in a similar condition. The contractor was pretty sure that additional cleaning of this line would cause it to collapse and he wanted to line the pipe while he still had a round hole.

The homeowner, on the other hand, thought that as long as the contractor got the pipe open and free of most of the roots, it’d be good for another couple of years. He was planning on selling the place and didn’t want to put the money into the sewer.

The dilemma facing the contractor was whether his attempt to clean the pipe as best he could would lead to a collapse or if he’d get away with “one more cleaning.” To further complicate things, the city he worked in mandated that cleaning contractors inform the city if they encountered pipes that were in imminent danger of a collapse. The city would then direct the homeowner to fix the problem.

The contractor was weighing his options. What would you do?

The contractor cleaned the pipe, but his initial assessment ended up being right. The additional cleaning of the downstream portion resulted in a collapse. When asked by the city why he cleaned the pipe, he had to paint a picture that the pipe was so fragile that his preparation for lining was what caused the collapse and not just a continued cleaning.

The customer fired the contractor, blaming him for the cause of the collapse. He hired an excavating contractor who brought in a backhoe and replaced the line. To add insult to injury, the contractor received a bill from the customer for the entire cost of excavating and replacing the pipe. Needless to say, lawyers got involved and no one left happy.

The contractor had to hire an attorney to defend himself in the lawsuit to compensate the customer, and never did get a dime for the work he’d done up to the point of collapse. The excavator who had replaced the pipe wasn’t happy, as he hired an attorney to file a lien due to non-payment by the customer. The customer wasn’t happy, as in his mind the contractor should have been more insistent that the pipe would collapse. He ultimately paid an attorney to file suit, had a lien placed on his property and had to settle with the excavator. Finally, the city wasn’t happy, as they had doubt that the contractor was open and honest about the pipe condition before continuing cleaning operations.

The lesson learned in this is to fully get on the same page as your customer. Anything less will cost you money and your reputation.

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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