Marketing Tips Part 3

March 20, 2003


By: Matt Michel

A contractor mentioned to me that he was having a problem with customers calling him for out-of-warranty service, and then complaining that the repair was out of warranty. His customers groused that the brands he sold were junk.

Reading the email, I was reminded of a focus group I once moderated. In the group, one respondent stated confidently that the manufacturers designed the products to fail within a year of warranty expiration. During the debrief after the group, my client was shaking his head about the comment.

“I wish we were good enough to design and build products that failed with that much precision,” he laughed.

Yet, people do tend to hold nefarious thoughts when a product fails anywhere near the warranty period. Worse, their recollection of the warranty period differs dramatically from reality. They don’t remember exactly when it was installed and tend to shave off a year or two or three when there’s a problem.

So what’s a company to do? Well, there are a couple of things you might want to try…

Contact Homeowners Before The Warranty Expires
Call or write the homeowner a month or two before the warranty period ends. Remind them when the product was installed and note that the warranty is due to expire soon. Offer to come out and perform a free inspection while the product is still under warranty so that you can fix any problems at no cost to the homeowner.

More than likely, there are no problems, but you still seem like a good guy for making the offer. If possible, find something minor that needs adjustment or cleaning, and take care if it, free of charge. You will then elevate yourself to hero status with the homeowner.

Not only will the homeowner be an enthused and loyal customer, he will become part of your unpaid marketing force, compelled to tell others about the amazing good deed you just performed. And it is amazing.

Who does this? No one! You may get a call from someone trying to sell you an extended warranty or something else, but no one offers to come out and look for problems that are covered under warranty.

Ironically, by not trying to sell, you just might sell. If you identify upgrade or add-on opportunities while you’re at the home, you have every right to point them out. Sometimes you don’t even need to point them out. The homeowner will ask about them.

You’re catching the homeowner at a point where he or she is exuberant about your company. It’s a point where they are far more likely to listen to and accept your recommendations. If those recommendations are in the homeowner’s interest, make them!

Sales aside, by reminding the homeowner dramatically that the warranty is up, you reduce the odds of complaints if the product fails soon after the warranty expires. This is the real purpose of calling or mailing to them. The homeowner may not remember exactly when the system was installed, but now there’s no question they know it’s out of warranty.

Of course, to execute this you must be organized. You should have a letter prepared in advance and search your records every month.

Cover The Labor Even If It’s Out of Warranty
Cover your part of the warranty, regardless of the warranty date, provided it’s a reasonable period of time. Remember, the homeowner may be wrong, but in his own mind, he’s right. Offer to cover your portion of the out of warranty repair, even if you cannot cover the material.

This also positions you as a good guy. Yes, you’re out some labor, but if you’ve kept a reserve against warranty callbacks, you should be covered. The money’s already set aside.

If it’s reasonable, call the manufacturer to see if they’ll cover the repair even though the warranty expired. Once a Honda dealer did this for us. Honda covered the problem despite the fact we were several months out of warranty. Why would they do something like that? Well, in our case, we bought three more cars from Honda.

If the manufacturer won’t cover it, tell the homeowner you tried and that you’ll still handle the labor. This may not endear the homeowner to the line of equipment you sell. However, it does keep you in “good guy” role. Plus, you’re fighting on the homeowner’s behalf with the evil manufacturer. You get points just for trying. And the homeowner will know the next repair’s not going to be on the house.

There Are No Silver Bullets
Some people are unreasonable. Don’t expect unreasonable people to be reasonable. It’s against their nature. However, these steps will work with most people and the first will generate some new business. Give it a try.

Source: Comanche Marketing. Reprinted by permission.
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Copyright © 2002 Matt Michel

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