Dealing with Furniture Store Service Departments
Dealing with a furniture store service department requires some basic knowledge to properly gain service and resolve problems. It is important to remember that the technological age has only just begun to penetrate the furniture industry.
Advances in production processes are still limited by the fact that furniture is still hand and man made. Many times the materials used in the production of furniture are natural and contain certain inherent characteristics that may appear to be a flaw but in reality are acceptable.
It is our opinion that most furniture stores are genuinely interested in solving your furniture problems. They are very interested in retaining you as a repeat customer. Read on to learn more about dealing with a service department.
Follow These Guidelines to Receive the Best Service Possible
When to Inspect
The absolute best time to inspect your merchandise is at the time of delivery or pickup. Furniture stores often use contract delivery services that are held accountable for damage or handling problems. If the delivery company asks you to sign off that your product is in good condition, then you must inspect it carefully. A signed acknowledgement that every thing is okay may limit your ability to receive service.
The inspection process when picking up your product at the furniture store is equally important. The time spent at the loading dock confirming the quality of your product could save you countless hours of phone calls and inconvenience.
When to Call
If you discover a problem with your product, it behooves you to call during business hours. The temptation to call the salesperson immediately is legitimate but ill advised. It is better to call when you can speak directly with some one in the customer service department.
The fewer times you have to tell your story, the better your chances of a speedy resolution. Before you call, reference your original paperwork to determine special service department hours and possible people to contact.
What to Say
The method by which you describe your concern is critical to a proper resolution. Explain the problem in as much detail as possible. If the area is the " size of a quarter" then say so. Specifics will quickly gain the attention of the service representative. Generalized statements like " It is not comfortable " or " I don't like the way it looks " can send the message that your concern may not be valid or at the least sound highly subjective.
If appropriate, indicate that you think it came from the factory that way. It is important that your description be accurate and product related. Leave your emotions out of the conversation.
What to Ask
If you are unclear of the warranty on the product or the service process, then ask. The service representative or the technician should be able to explain the process for receiving service. Verify in advance what happens if you are not satisfied. Discuss any costs that may be incurred by you during this process.
The questions you pose will better educate you as well as protect you from hidden surprises. Presuming that the salesperson told you about the service process, one should verify that the process from the service department will match up with what the salesperson told you.
Does Your Furniture Have Structural or Cosmetic Problems?
The difference between structural and cosmetic problems is significant. Loose joints, broken boards, wobbly arms, etc are certainly more important than the cosmetic issues. The ability to properly correct structural problems in your home is severely limited.
Cosmetic problems ( missing stain, dull spots, loose fabric, etc.) are usually quite correctable by an in home service technician. If you suspect a structural issue exists, it is recommended that you contact the manufacturer.
What Should Your Attitude Be When You Call?
The temptation to go in with " guns a blazing" will be hard to resist. Furniture is a very personal item that is usually purchased from a base of emotions. The furniture you buy represents more than just function, it represents you and your home. It is strongly suggested that you adopt a firm but factual approach while explaining your concerns.
It is important to remain calm and polite. Retain your composure and listen carefully to the options presented to you. It is our experience that most service departments want you to "be happy". It does not benefit you to create an adversarial environment.
What About a Bad Attitude from the Service Department?
Furniture stores are filled with frustrations. The products they sell are hand made, man made, and subject to natural imperfections. The process of selling furniture and getting it delivered in good condition can be difficult and tenuous.
The consumers in today's world are diverse, harried, and demanding. The attitude of the service department may be one of skepticism or possible irritation. If this occurs, then simply ask to speak to their supervisor. In most cases, this will shock them back to reality and their desire to serve you will quickly improve.
If the initial approach you take is firm, factual, and friendly, it is unlikely that you will encounter a bad attitude.
Should I Ask for an Exchange or a Repair?
The decision to ask for an exchange versus a repair is difficult. If you can clearly determine that the problem is structural, then the exchange is the answer. Cosmetic or minor problems are usually corrected by a service call to your home.
Remember that furniture is man made and hand made out of natural products. It is possible that the piece you have is as good if not better than the one they may exchange for you. A properly trained furniture repair technician can do incredible things with wood and fabric.
Minor mechanical adjustments can be made. Squeaks can be quieted. Fabrics can be tightened and adjusted. The process of having an exchange is not pleasant for you, the furniture, or the furniture store. Unless the situation is very clear, avoid the exchange.
Should I Allow Them to Order a Replacement Part?
If your new car had a broken windshield wiper, would you demand a new car? Furniture manufacturers are very open and generous with replacement parts. The furniture technician will indicate if the problem will be corrected by using a replacement part.
The reality exists that certain parts on your furniture can be easily replaced. A new drawer for that dresser can be ordered. The handle on the recliner is replaceable. The door of the china cabinet can be removed and replaced.
Replacement cushions, foam cores, and pillows are easily ordered and installed. In fact, many parts can be sent directly to your home. Furniture stores will quickly commit to ordering parts and install them for free. Parts are parts, do not fear this process.
What About Financial Compensation for my Problem?
Furniture stores and furniture manufacturers do not want to lose your business. They do not want to deal with exchanged and returned merchandise. The cost of liquidation for returned or exchanged merchandise is very high. If you have a legitimate problem but feel that you could probably "live with it", then you may want to suggest some form of compensation to keep the item or items as they are.
The furniture store will many times pursue reimbursement from the manufacturer for this process. The furniture store may often be willing to make their own financial adjustment. The costs associated with sending trucks and technicians to your home are high. The decision is yours! If the problem is tolerable in your opinion, then suggest a financial settlement.
The best leverage is to ask for a store credit towards other merchandise. The furniture store sees this as a win win situation. The flexibility in this scenario is greatly improved. Be advised that you may be asked to sign a waiver of future service as a result of this agreement. Be honest! Be fair!
What If I Bought My Items "As is"?
If you bought items on closeout/ clearance and agreed to take them "as is", your options may be limited. If you signed a statement stating this, then your recourse is limited. It is assumed that you bought these items at substantial discount with complete awareness of the condition. If you discover something that you were not aware of, it never hurts to ask. However, be prepared to hear a firm but polite "no".
When Should I Go "Up the Ladder" For Help?
If you feel you have been fair and patient but do not feel satisfied with the results of your service process, then you may need to seek a higher authority. The same approach suggested earlier (firm , fair , and factual) is still the best way to go. It is the experience of the staff at Furniturebrains that managers really want you happy.
The next level manager does not want you to have to go higher. Lay out in careful detail all of the steps taken up to this point and your concerns. If you have some suggestions to resolve the situation, by all means vocalize these to the manager.
Remind the manager (in a non threatening way) that you want to speak positively about your experiences to your family, friends, and co-workers. As a consumer in this competitive world, you wield a large stick. A simple non-threatening reminder will move many a manager to quick action.
What Do I Do When All Else Fails?
We sincerely hope that it never gets to this point. Life is way to short ! However, if it you reach an impasse and feel your are in the "right", we suggest you start with the Better Business Bureau in your area.
Television and radio "consumer troubleshooters" usually get quick response. Be assured that the furniture store does not want bad publicity in the market place. Lawyers and legal processes are always there as a last resort.