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Protect Your Reputation and Minimize Warranty Issues

by Darrel Snyder, CTCB, Mid-American Courtworks

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.

  1. 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 undetermined time).

  2. Do 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. Ask yourself, “If I were standing in their shoes, would I be happy with the work?”

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 site conditions.

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 problem.

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.

© 2011 American Sports Builders Association 

8480 Baltimore National Pike #307 • Ellicott City, MD 21043 • 410-730-9595 •

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