Tips for Maximizing Field Inspections

As a rep, I visit job sites for various reasons. Some dealers enjoy showing me their innovative and beautiful projects; a number of them like to share design and construction suggestions. Still others need my assistance in making a field inspection.

Field inspections are often the result of unresolved matters involving quality and installation issues. From time to time, a dealer will need to request a field inspection by the rep to help facilitate a resolution to the consumer's concerns. The goal of the field inspection is to end up with a completed job and a happy customer. Better understanding the rep's role in this will help make possible this desired result.
When that job comes along and you need to call in the rep, I have a few pre-visit suggestions.

First, fully inform your rep of the situation. Give him or her as much detail as possible before the visit to the job takes place. This is important because it allows the rep to research the issues and walk in already knowing options and solutions. Tell the rep everything from how the customers were to work with to how much money they still owe you. Your rep wants to know the issues and the type of personalities that he or she is dealing with. If you and the rep can visit a job prepared, you can resolve the issues quickly and confidently and impart a professional experience to the customer.
If one of my customers tells me that the drawers are binding when opened and closed, as a rep, I know to check out the drawer issue with the factory prior to the visit. If the drawers are binding, chances are that when I call into the factory, they will have already seen a similar occurrence and have a ready solution. If it's a new issue, it gives the manufacturer time to research it and advise me as to what path we'll need to follow in trying to find a solution. It's important to show up prepared.

Another suggestion, as a "to do" before the field inspection, is to have already ordered the small replacements, touch-ups and missing items for the job. When the visit occurs, it instills confidence in your customers that you're able to tell them that A, B and C are on their way, and that everyone is working to resolve the remaining issues. Be organized and have solutions to the minor concerns.

Four tenets
Once the pre-visit goals are accomplished, I believe that a rep should focus on four tenets. They are as follows:

1. Never come between the dealer and the customer. When asked to visit a job site, a rep should only do so if someone representing the dealer accompanies him or her. The rep wants the dealer representative to see and hear everything that is discussed to ensure that everyone is working with the same information.

This tenet includes not only job site visits but phone calls and e-mail communications with the consumer. Consumers are sometimes looking for answers different than the ones supplied by the dealer, and will want to speak directly with the rep. As a rep, I do my best to avoid this. It's important for the dealer to hear everything that the rep says to the customer so that there are no misunderstandings.

2. Remember that the rep is there to represent the manufacturer. When a rep visits a job site, his or her focus is on the rep's product and whether or not it conforms to the manufacturer's standards. If a customer is concerned about warped doors, the rep will show up with a level.
He or she will look for shims and see if it was installed properly. If the complaint is cabinets out of square, the rep will walk in the door with a square in hand. He or she will be prepared to find and report quality issues that are genuinely attributable to the manufacturer.

The rep should report issues small and large that concern his or her product, but if the complaints are based on other products or poor installation, it's the rep's responsibility to report that as well, and to fairly represent the manufacturer.

3. The rep is not carrying a checkbook. There are many times that a rep walks into the job site and can immediately see that the consumer is thinking that the rep is carrying the checkbook of a mega corporation in his or her back pocket. The consumer points out every perceived imperfection in the kitchen, thinking the rep is going to write a check for each one.

That is not what the rep is there for.
The rep is there to record what he or she observes in the kitchen. If quality issues are
identified that are attributable to the manufacturer, the rep should work to resolve the situation by making the product right. There's good reason for this: It's much more beneficial to the manufac- turer to have a satisfied customer than it is to have the customer live with a cabinet that he or she is not happy with, but has received a credit for.

4. We are all on the same team. When I visit the site, as a rep, I consider the dealer, the installer and the contractor to be my teammates. We all want the issues resolved, and we all want to get paid. It's important for the dealer to remind installers and contractors of this as well.

I have been in situations where I've walked in with the dealer and found the installer or contractor inadvertently work- ing against us. If we aren't all working on the same team, it makes it much more difficult to find a happy resolution to problems. Additionally, the longer the job drags out, the longer all involved have to go before being paid. Everyone wants the customer to be happy, and to complete the job and get paid. It is in everyone's interests to work together and be good teammates.

Unresolved matters involving quality issues and other concerns precipitate the need for a field inspection by the rep. Sharing as much information as possible, better understanding your rep's role and working as teammates will go a long way toward completing that job and ending up with a happy customer.

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This article originally appeared in Kitchen and Bath Design News 10/2002

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