Butch Welsch
Butch Welsch

Last summer, a significant issue occurred in the air conditioning industry. It appeared initially to be a problem with thermal expansion valves and, then, after further review, was traced to a problem with the rust inhibitor used during the manufacturing of compressors. My purpose is not to argue the issues as much to address the real cause of the problem. How do we, as contractors, handle an issue such as this? It’s important we know and understand how to handle a problem that is more significant than our normal warranty responsibility.

Endure and Conquer

This is not the first time, nor will it be the last time, there has been such an occurrence. Through the years, I’ve seen many such issues, and most were more far-reaching. A couple that come to mind are gas air conditioning units and the first 85 percent efficiency furnaces. As manufacturers attempt to stretch the envelope and find a “better mousetrap,” in many cases, their innovation turns out to be a major industry problem. Again, the issue for us, as contractors, is how we handle the problem.

As contractors, if we’ve done a proper job of selling, we’ve convinced the homeowner — regardless of the brand of equipment they are buying from us — that we are the experts. That means, when a problem like this occurs, in the customer’s mind, we have to take responsibility. We have to determine the source of the problem and move as quickly as possible to solve it. This does not mean hiding behind the fact the problem is really a manufacturing problem. The customer bought the equipment from us, because of us, and they expect us to back up our installation and the products installed.

Now, before every contractor out there thinks I am letting the manufacturers off the hook by assuming responsibility for such problems, let me assure you that couldn’t be further from the truth. What I’m saying is, as far as the customer is concerned, we are the ones who are ultimately responsible for any problem that occurs with the installation we completed. However, behind the scenes, out of the customer’s eyes, it then becomes our responsibility to deal with the particular manufacturer who is having the problem. I firmly believe the person(s) who cause a problem are the ones who should be financially liable for solving that problem. That means if our installers make a mistake during an installation, it is our responsibility, as the contractor, to correct that mistake. Similarly, if we encounter a rash of problems that are far in excess of our normal warranty responsibility due to an error from a particular manufacturer, then that manufacturer should bear the financial responsibility for correcting the problem.

It is times like this when you discover how important it is to have established a good, fair relationship with your manufacturer and its distribution channel. When we’ve dealt fairly with a manufacturer and it comes time to settle up regarding major issues, we have a much better chance of obtaining the fair amount for which we are due. If we haven’t been fair in our previous dealings and have always wanted everything to be our way, it is not nearly as likely we will receive a fair settlement. For this reason, it’s important to keep issues like this in mind as you are dealing with your vendors on a day-to-day basis.

Through the years, nearly every major manufacturer has encountered some type of a major issue like this. Remember, like automobile manufacturers, furnace and air conditioner manufacturers are assemblers. They take a myriad of parts from many, many sources and assemble them into furnaces and air conditioners. While, through thorough testing, etc., they attempt to avoid major problems, these issues sometimes occur. For that reason, I encourage you, as contractors, to develop as strong of a relationship with your equipment suppliers as possible.

Issues like this test our quality as contractors. Remember, our responsibility is to take care of the customer first and foremost, and, then, in the background, work out the financial solution with our suppliers. It’s during this background work the relationship you’ve developed with your supplier will show its value. Remember: customer first, details in the background.

Publication date: 4/6/2015 

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