So says Bill Kerns, President of Kerns Carpet One Floor & Home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. And it's a missed opportunity to build a relationship with customers, as well as reduce claims and complaints.
According to Kerns, 40% of manufacturer claims are maintenance related. Help a consumer understand how to protect her investment and you will have a customer for life.
Powerful words and actions.
Annette Smith and I recently spoke with Bill Kerns and Tony Marotta, his carpet maintenance expert. We wanted to understand how Kerns Carpet One Floor & Home - a family run retailer in business over 70 years - goes about educating the consumer, particularly in view of new cleaning requirements that went into effect Jan. 1, 2007 and further ones that went live on Jan. 1, 2008. Not following these requirement can nullify carpet warranties.
More specifically according to Janet Herlihy's 5/5/2008 FCW writeup titled "Cleaning requirements raise awareness," the major carpet mills - Shaw, Mohawk, Beaulieu, Blue Ridge and Tai Ping Options - "announced that to maintain warranties on certain residential carpet, they would have to be cleaned according to a schedule using cleaning products and equipment with the Carpet & Rug Institute's [CRI] Seal of Approval [SOA]."
Most of the cleaning schedules range from 12 to 24 months, with some in the 12 to 18 months range. Please be sure to check your warranty requirements! [Note: the Wear-Dated warranty requires professional cleaning every 24 months.]
Effective Jan. 1, 2008 - according to FCN's Sarah Zimmerman in "Carpet maintenance and cleaning allocated by mills" from 5/19-20/2008 - a new requirement has gone into effect: to only allow professional carpet cleaning from IICRC [the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification] accredited and certified carpet cleaners.
The genesis of all of these new requirements and regulations: diminishing consumer satisfaction with carpet because of the level of incompetence demonstrated by so many installers and carpet cleaners. "In fact, CRI found in a study done on chemical cleaning agents nearly 80% of the products on the market were as effective as water, and many heightened resoiling" which led to the SOA program, and the Green Label vacuum program. The IICRC addition helps guarantee consistent high-quality workmanship.
Says Kerns: "It means that consumers won't be at the mercy of fly-by-night operations. They can count on approved cleaning solutions, methods, and technicians." However, consumer education is paramount, as without knowing about these stipulations, consumers might easily void the terms of their warranties. "What a way to burn bridges with consumers!" he adds.
Kerns Carpet One Floor & Home has trained its salespeople, giving them talking points to bring up with consumers, and demonstrating to them how best to maintain carpet. Tony gets personally involved in these demonstrations. After all, the Kerns organization takes carpet maintenance seriously!
They refer to teeth and hair to help illustrate the importance of carpet maintenance: Why brush teeth? To maintain the longevity and health of teeth and mouth. It's the same with carpet. Maintaining it extends the life expectancy of carpet. Proper maintenance means fully removing soap after cleaning otherwise it attracts more dirt. It's best to rinse with non-soap. Just like washing hair. And, it's important to reapply factory protectors for stain and soil resistance.
Now, let's put things into perspective. Kerns Carpet One Floor & Home takes cleaning so seriously that it has established an IICRC certified cleaning service: Kerns Carpet Cleaning, which also offers upholstery and area rug cleaning services.
Kerns explains that it's important to talk about maintaining floor coverings. It's an expensive investment and needs to be cared for. So, the organization takes a lead on this front by offering carpet cleaning services. On selected items, Kerns Carpet One Floor & Home offers a $100 carpet cleaning gift card to new customers. This entitles the customer to 150 square feet of free cleaning or a spot cleaning during the first year of ownership of their new carpeting. It's a marvelous reason to followup on if there's been no redemption within that first year and helps to reinforce that they are there to help. They also offer a free spot cleaning bottle at the time of the order.
How best to maintain a carpet:
+ Vacuum frequently.
+ Immediately clean stains and spots by spot cleaning.
+ Professionally clean carpet using an IICRC certified cleaner and CRI approved cleaning products every 12 to 24 months depending on the carpet manufacturer's warranty requirements [can range from 12 to 18 months].
Cleaning frequency varies with households. A house with animals and kids will experience more soiling and may require cleaning twice a year, whereas one without may find that yearly cleaning with traffic lanes done more often works well.
Kerns and Tony explained the IICRC cleaning methodology:
- pre-vacuum to remove 80% of the soil
- with CRI solutions, agitate, rinse, groom, then with an air-mover dry the carpet
Tony says that he routinely cleans a room in salespeople's homes so they understand and feel comfortable recommending the service. It's effective and generates customers for life. Per Kerns, "we see a customer every 7 to 12 years for carpet replacement, but every year because of the relationship we've built through the cleaning service."
NOTE: Prior to a claims-related inspection, a customer must have their carpet cleaned within 30 days before opening a claim if the concern is stain/soil. Please refer to the warranty terms for details. Customers have an obligation to maintain their carpet.
"Carpet is safer than hard surface. It's a lot easier to maintain than hard surface. It's a beautiful product that offers so many benefits - including stylishness - to a consumer. Why not make sure that consumers understand how to care for carpet? That way we ensure they are totally satisfied, we prevent them from voiding warranties and give them a reason to come back for more carpet," states Kerns.
"Carpet is also expensive and by providing the proper maintenance information and offering a cleaning service we can help the customer preserve the investment they are making in their home. This added touch helps us forge a long term relationship with the customer and provides us with more opportunities in the future," adds Kerns.
Thank you, Bill and Tony, for explaining how best to maintain a beautiful carpet. It's a complicated subject and the better a consumer understands her obligations under the warranty terms, the happier and more satisfied she will be. And the better her carpet will look over time.
Note: if you have shag carpet, please do NOT use a beater bar. Instead, use a suction-only vacuum cleaner. See Shaw/Tuftex Care & Maintenance of Shag Carpet.
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