No matter what business you’re in, customers are going to complain. It’s inevitable. You can’t stop it, but you can learn to manage complaints effectively so they don’t hurt your business.
One way to cut down on the number of complaints is to try to make sure the clients know what to expect ahead of time. Just because you outline your services in your contract doesn’t mean they remember — or even read — the information. So it’s best you go over it at the time of the signing.
You want to hit all the major points, but if you’re just starting out, you may have to guess at what these are. After a few months or years in business, you will notice patterns. Customers may be angry that termite inspection isn’t included. So you might want to tell them up front if your state allows only licensed termite inspectors to perform this service.
Problems Home Inspectors Miss
Home inspectors get the most complaints about problems with the house that they did not discover when they did the inspection. It is important to inform the clients ahead of time about the depth of a home inspection.
If, however, you find that you are getting many complaints about problems with the house that you should have noticed — pipes leaking under the sink, a hole in the roof, a dangerous circuit breaker box — maybe you should revisit your procedures and spend a little more time on each inspection.
But once you get a complaint, what should you do?
Is the Complaint Reasonable?
First, you should evaluate it for legitimacy. Is the customer livid that you didn’t include the cracked toilet paper dispenser in your report? This seems like an overreaction. Are they mad because you didn’t notice the signs of raw sewage seeping into the basement? This complaint sounds more valid.
Regardless, every complaint should be treated seriously. Listen to the homeowner carefully and make notes on whatever they tell you. Thank them for letting you know about the problem and tell them you need to check your report and will call them back.
An article in the ASHI Reporter advises home inspectors to always give a window of time you will call back — say within 24 hours — and call back sooner than that. Being late, careless or evasive won’t help you correct the problem.
Sometimes the complaint is about something out of the scope of the job of the home inspector. If there are a chimney and fireplace, you will check to see that the chimney is clear and the damper works, but you are not an expert on the levels of creosote buildup. If they start a fire in the fireplace and the chimney catches fire, that’s not something you could have predicted.
In these instances, don’t just harshly tell them that’s not part of the inspection. Tell them you are sorry for their trouble, and that it is not possible to be an expert on 100 percent of the parts of every home.
Homeowner Didn’t Read the Report
Oftentimes the issue the homeowner is complaining about — say gutters pulling away from the home, causing the basement to flood — is documented in the report. When you call them back, tell them this and offer to send them a copy of that section of the report. Even if it’s difficult, avoid being smug, and tell them you’re sorry about the problem they are having.
Sometimes when you go out to a home to address the homeowner’s complaint, you find they are either mistaken or they caused the problem themselves. The mold they discovered on the windows, walls, and carpeting in their bedroom may be caused by the fact they are running a humidifier in their bedroom 24/7 and the ceiling and walls are dripping with steam.
If you find out that you indeed did miss an important matter and the homeowner is right, it is up to you to decide how to handle it. But taking steps beforehand — asking questions, rereading the report, visiting the home, etc. — can often resolve matters before they get out of hand.
Home Inspection Training Courses
At ICA School, our home inspection training courses teach you everything you need to know about being an efficient inspector. The more knowledge you have, the fewer complaints you will get. Even if your state doesn’t require home inspectors to be licensed, earning a certificate provides you with a better education on home systems and lends you more credibility in the eyes of your clients.