Diamond Certified Blog

Posts by Joy Lanzaro

Is there a “Right Way” to Give Feedback?

Delivering feedback isn’t always easy. Before deciding to speak up, you may wrestle with competing goals of personal and social responsibility versus a desire to avoid conflict. At some point, every service provider has needed constructive feedback to better serve their customers. In speaking to thousands of consumers over the years, I’ve found that some people prefer to silently move on and not use that company’s services again. In those cases, everyone loses. Armed with the following tips, you may feel empowered to turn an unsatisfactory situation around and experience increased goodwill and satisfaction.

Talk to management before posting on social media.

Bob had a puzzling exchange with an electrical technician who charged him to flip a breaker. Bob and the technician couldn’t reach an agreement. After paying his bill, Bob posted a lengthy narrative of his experience on Yelp. He also contacted Diamond Certified and the Better Business Bureau. Continue reading “Is there a “Right Way” to Give Feedback?” »

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Posted in Consumers, Customer Service | Tags: ,

How To Choose a Contractor

Here are eight steps you can take to hire a reputable remodeling contractor:

1. Obtain multiple bids (if possible). Getting multiple bids is a great way to ensure you’re making an informed choice. If you sign a contract, you have exactly three days to rescind in writing. Upon rescission, the contractor must return your deposit. If your area has been declared a disaster area, the three-day Right of Rescission extends to seven days.

2. Check license information. By law, anyone who undertakes to improve your home or property must have a contractor’s license if the cost from start to completion will exceed $500. You can check contractors’ licenses at cslb.ca.gov. Continue reading “How To Choose a Contractor” »

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Posted in Consumer Events, Consumer News, Consumers, Customer Service, Diamond Certified News, Home improvement, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , ,

Dealing with Foundation Problems

Abrew Repair and Construction recognized that this fireplace mantel was a warning sign that the home’s foundation was uneven.

Recently, I spoke to a homeowner who hired a contractor to demolish and re-build a chimney, as well as repair cracks to stucco and drywall. That contractor abandoned the job. The homeowner then hired a Diamond Certified company to patch cracks in the stucco and reinstall the mantel, which the homeowner had removed from around the fireplace.

What went wrong?
When the incoming contractor remounted the fireplace mantel, it looked crooked. The contractor explained that the problem wasn’t the mantel—the house was uneven. This explanation was not received well. Continue reading “Dealing with Foundation Problems” »

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Posted in Consumers, Home improvement, Home Tips | Tags: , , , , ,

Five Steps for Negotiating a Speedy Partial Refund

Have you ever hired a service provider to perform a repair and found that while certain elements of the performance were acceptable, other elements weren’t performed correctly? Here are some tips for speaking with the manager/owner to request a partial refund.

1. Prepare your mind
Be rational when asking for a partial refund—it shows the other party that you’re realistic and makes an implicit promise that a speedy fix is within sight. Separate what you know to be true (the service contract, industry requirements) from what you believe to be true (your subjective assessment and intuition).

2. Temper your approach
Try to gradually escalate pressure in your tone, language and body language. In order to achieve this, you have to be deliberately relaxed in the beginning. Breathe and be cordial. State what your expectations were before work began and clearly explain where they fell short. Continue reading “Five Steps for Negotiating a Speedy Partial Refund” »

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Posted in Customer Service, Savvy Tips | Tags: , , ,

Preparing for Design

When planning a kitchen remodel, it’s important to pay attention to detail. Photo: HOUSEworks, Inc. (2015)

When planning a kitchen remodel, it’s important to pay attention to detail. Photo: HOUSEworks, Inc. (2015)

Remodels can add style, function, and safety by way of updating electrical and plumbing systems to current building codes. Not only can this enhance your enjoyment of your home, it can also add value to your house upon resale. The most popular rooms to remodel are kitchens and bathrooms—they’re the most used rooms in the house and the spaces where we interface the most with materials, so they require the most planning and attention to detail. It’s your designer’s job to take the information you provide and develop a plan that targets your needs and budget.

Serious customers prepare for satisfaction.
Here’s a simple formula: if you get what you want, you’ll be satisfied. Over the years, design professionals have learned that it’s in everyone’s best interest to work with serious customers. Continue reading “Preparing for Design” »

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Posted in Consumers, Home improvement | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Mediator Tip: Provide Two Ways to Reach You

Problem resolution is much easier if you provide a company with easy ways to contact you.

Problem resolution is much easier if you provide a company with easy ways to contact you.

A couple of weeks ago, a customer contacted us by email to report a complaint about a company. She explained that a Diamond Certified arborist did not follow industry standards, and because of their negligence, she was certain her trees would be lost. She was reasonably angry and intended to report the company to multiple agencies. She said we needed to contact her, so we did. I sent her two emails, one with our complaint form and a second to inform her that the company she was reporting was not Diamond Certified. She didn’t provide a telephone number. So, I waited…

Continue reading “Mediator Tip: Provide Two Ways to Reach You” »

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Posted in Customer Service, Personal Stories | Tags: , , , ,

How to Give the Right Feedback

Delivering feedback to a company is like landing an airplane on an old runway—it can be bumpy or smooth depending on how much work has been put into maintaining the area. Without the proper approach, asking a company if you can give some feedback can prompt a defensiveness that redirects your desired change into the weeds.

Unfortunately, some people’s definition of “feedback” is simply venting without consideration of the receiver’s good intentions. On the other hand, accurate and timely consumer feedback can be a company’s free ticket to a competitive advantage in the market. Here are some tips for ensuring the feedback you provide for a company reflects your desire to be a valuable consumer.

Make sure your feedback is timely. Timeliness communicates two things: the intention to avoid a widening conflict and an emphasis on factual information while it’s still fresh in everybody’s minds.

Focus on the problem, not the person. Instead of speaking about the intentions of the other person, address the problem factually and objectively. Continue reading “How to Give the Right Feedback” »

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Posted in Customer Service | Tags: , ,

Three Things You Want On Your Home Improvement Contract

The California State Licensing Board (CSLB) wants consumers to know that all home improvement contracts are required to contain certain language. If you aren’t aware of this prerequisite, the CSLB’s website has plenty of information that will get you acquainted with the elements of a proper contract. In addition, you can prevent stress and conflict during a construction project by tactfully requesting that your contract contain the following three elements:

A payment schedule with a task-by-task breakdown. The easier it is for you to read and understand your contract, the better. If the payment schedule is broken down by “percentage of job completed,” ask for a task-by-task breakdown instead so you can verify the work that has actually been done.

A date of commencement and date of completion. It’s important to make sure your contractor commits to both a start and finish date, but it’s also important to forgive him/her for uncontrollable delays. Any change to the scope of work should be handled with a “change order,” which identifies the type of change, how much it will impact the project cost and what it will do to the timeline. You can also ask for a credit of $100 per day if the project goes over schedule because of delays that are under the contractor’s control.

Lien releases. Following every progress payment, ask for a lien release form—it reduces the amount of lien that can be imposed by the contractor by the proportion of the work paid for and completed. You can read more about the different types of lien releases at http://1.usa.gov/dYAmig.

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Posted in Home Tips | Tags: , , ,

What to Do When the Contractor’s Bid Hasn’t Arrived

The complaint often looks like this: “How long should I wait for my contractor to provide an estimate? The estimator seemed really nice and keeps promising a bid, but it’s been weeks! I try to only hire locally but I’m tired of waiting and wasting my time. If they didn’t want my business, why not just tell me and stop stringing me along? I would never try to do business with them again and will tell my friends not to do business with them. Just thought you should know…”

Waiting for a company to provide an estimate can be nerve rattling and cause you to doubt your decision. You might even declare the company isn’t worth your time and write them off, thereby risking hiring a less qualified contractor for no other reason than their timeliness. Be careful about these types of assumptions, as they can often lead to erroneous conclusions. Here are 5 common reasons why the estimate hasn’t reached you yet:

 Remodeling? Check out our Remodeling Resource Page for more useful tips and guidance. 

5. Waiting on a subcontractor for a price
If you have a landscaping project that involves masonry, decking, lighting and plantings, the general contractor may delegate certain parts of the project to a trade specialist. In that case, the contractor may have to wait for the specialist’s portion of the bid to arrive before sending you a complete bid. Continue reading “What to Do When the Contractor’s Bid Hasn’t Arrived” »

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Posted in Home Tips | Tags: , ,

Three Signs That Your Project is in Trouble

Even the most reputable contractors can find themselves in financial trouble without warning. I knew of one who lost everything when his son died unexpectedly. His son’s hospital bills and funeral/burial costs became too much, and while he had every intention of maintaining high standards for his clients, he eventually lost the liquidity necessary to keep their projects running ahead of their payments. That’s why it’s such a bad idea to allow payments to get ahead of progress…no matter what. To determine if your project is in trouble, look for the following warning signs:

  • The contractor starts asking for progress payments ahead of progress, saying things like, “I need you to pay x amount of money so I can order something.” While this may be common for securing pre-fab orders like kitchen cabinets, it’s not the case with other materials. Tell your contractor you’ll only pay upon delivery and installation.
  • Different subcontractors finish another subcontractor’s work. This could mean the former subcontractor wasn’t paid for acceptable work, which indicates your contractor is having financial troubles. It could also cause trouble if that subcontractor comes after you for payment. Ask what happened to the former contractor and check if the contractor has given you a California 20-Day Preliminary Notice. A subcontractor must provide clients with a 20-day notice in order to have the right to file a lien for non-payment.
  • There’s a lack of reliability around scheduling and commitments. The contractor misses deadlines or makes promises without putting them in writing. If you have a written contract, get written change orders, too. If you want to be sure something will get done, make sure it’s in writing with a timeline and cost.

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