There isn’t a company in existence that hasn’t dealt with questionable
work or services. A company’s character and reputation is determined by
job performance and customer relationships. Many problems are not black
and white. It may be a disgruntled owner, not fully aware of the results
they should receive. Possibly the client has unusually high expectations
or a demanding personality. Larger contracts create additional work to
be evaluated, and more likelihood some of the work might be questioned.
The goal of lowering customer complaints is something we all want to
achieve. Company success, including employee morale, is improved by
doing so. The following sales and customer relationship concepts help
reduce many potential job issues.
Provide precise proposals (RFP’s) with specific (verifiable)
descriptions of work to be performed. List all possible exclusions not
covered or warranted. Example: Bird-baths no deeper than a nickel are
within industry standards. All filled cracks will return at an
not over-sell or play down issues which may later turn out to become
problematic. Statements made about absolute success and excellent
results increases the buyer’s expectations.
Stay in touch with the customer. Get feedback, including negative
responses. Evaluate the job to see if adjustments to work are warranted.
If the customer has valid concerns, take time to assure him/her that
proper steps and normal procedures are being applied.
Bid jobs with adequate profit margins. Lowering margins creates pressure
to reduce labor or materials. Don’t adjust the hours or materials needed
even if it means making less money than originally projected.
Ask yourself, “If I were standing in their shoes, would I be happy with
Sometimes poor results turn into more serious warranty issues. Job
decisions, including unpredictable consequences, can lead to
sub-standard outcomes. Like driving a car, accidents can occur even to
good drivers. When this happens there is no choice but to take the
necessary steps to correct faulty or unacceptable results. Your personal
character and integrity is on the line. Sometimes significant financial
costs including litigation can occur.
The following is an example of a potentially damaging job outcome. My
company had a tennis court construction job that became very
problematic. Unpredictably high winds developed midway through a
post-tensioned concrete pour. The courts were being built on a site that
lacked surrounding vegetation or trees. Dust blew onto the pads while we
were placing and finishing the slabs. It was like the dust bowl from
days of old. Since wind causes the surface of the concrete to set up
rapidly, we had no choice but to finish the slab as quickly as possible.
Unfortunately the riding trowel with finishing pans dug into an area
where the concrete was still wet. Because we had to continue applying
the final finish to the rest of the slab, the non finished area was left
rough and uneven. The slab also had more visible troughs or high areas
due to the lack of sufficient time to fine-tune the top before applying
the necessary broom finish. As the owner of the company responsible for
the pour, I left the job site knowing it had been a very difficult and
challenging day, yet grateful that my concrete sub had the experience
and skill to pour and finish the concrete surface under such adverse
Early the next morning a call came from the general contractor who
had just met with a very irate project manager who represented the
owner. I was asked to meet at the site immediately. It was a very
unsettling meeting. I listened to the project manager’s venting and
angry comments including the statement the courts we had just poured
would likely need to be removed and replaced. It was a shock that
the job might not be accepted and that it could turn into a major
I felt confident the surface wasn’t as bad as perceived. The
questionable areas were repairable. I defended the work and said we
would grind off and level the areas of concern. My concrete sub, who
attended the meeting, suggested he would provide a flatness test.
The test (around $500) provided F numbers representing floor
flatness. The testing agency that was hired used the “dipstick”
method where a stick with two legs was walked diagonally across the
court area from two corners to the opposite corners. The two small
dipstick legs registered uneven (high or low) areas on a
computerized graph. Although most of the slab was above the minimum
standard, the combined score for the slab was a couple of points
below the benchmark norm for “cast in place concrete.” The
post-tensioned concrete construction specifications stated no more
than a ± ¼ inch deviation (½ inch total) for 10 lineal feet.
Fortunately, there were only a few areas that exceeded ½-inch. After
receiving results of the flatness test, most of owner’s concerns
diminished. We were given the green light to grind off areas that
needed to be leveled. To better identify uneven areas, I drove to
the site early one morning before sunrise. I beamed a flashlight
across the slab near the surface exposing surface flaws, including
small bumps and ridges. This “light at night” process magnified the
troughs and high areas. After walking over the entire pad, I was
able to pinpoint the worse areas using a can of spray paint. These
identified areas were ground down (around 30 man hours) to the
correct the surface irregularities.
To check the repairs, a 10 foot magnesium straight edge was moved
across the surface to assess any “gaps” beneath the straight edge at
all questionable areas. This was done as directed by the attending
general contractor and the owner’s project manager. The few
remaining areas, where space beneath the straight edge exceeded
1/4th inch, were marked and subsequently corrected. Although another
flatness test was offered, we were informed it wasn’t necessary. To
provide a final evaluation, we flooded the courts. With the owner
and project manager present, this last test revealed only a couple
of very small puddles. Water drained off extremely well. It was
clear our leveling materials and surface coatings would be able to
fill and cover any remaining low spots. Within the same contract we
poured additional courts that had excellent planarity and finish.
I am very proud of these courts. So are the owner and G.C. Because
pro-active steps were taken to satisfy everyone’s concerns, a
serious financial issue, including major replacement costs and
potential legal fees was avoided. My company’s reputation was not
adversely-affected. Respect was established with those involved.
Once the initial complaint was established, and positive steps were
taken, we were able to dismiss all concerns or negative opinions
about the quality of our company’s work.