If you’ve been in business for a few years, you’ve probably had a situation where the client calls you a year after installation to tell you something’s gone wrong with one of their products. Maybe the sofa cushion is stained, or the rug is frayed, or there’s a chip in the table. But suddenly, it’s YOUR problem. Or is it?
If this hasn’t happened to you yet, trust me, it will! Clients see you as the problem solver for their homes, so they turn to you. But do you really have any liability? There’s one important way to tell:
Get It In Writing
My first reaction to this issue would be to ask you what’s in your client contract. Because that’s the first line of defense against a problem like this! You should have a limited liability clause in your contract, spelling out that once the manufacturer’s warranty has expired, YOU as the designer are not liable for any issues. I also like to include a line or two about normal wear-and-tear, because for some reason clients don’t seem to understand that their pets and kids can cause a lot of destruction. And that has nothing to do with the quality of furnishings you purchased for them! So if you don’t have this in your contract, think about adding it ASAP.
What’s the 411?
I give my clients a maintenance binder at the end of a project. It gives them a lot of information on how to care for the products I’ve installed. Not only is that great info to have, it’s also a great way to head a problem off at the pass! I also include any warranties from vendors and manufacturers in that binder, so it’s handy and easy to find. So when a client calls me a year later, I can ask them to refer to their binder!
Great Customer Service
Let’s say you’ve done all of that, and the customer is still upset. Well, you have a decision to make. If it truly is something that should not have fallen apart or broken after a year, I will sometimes contact the manufacturer or vendor myself to see what can be done. That’s especially important if this is a returning client (or one that I would like to do business with in the future). That’s not saying I take on the liability! I just want to operate in good faith and try to resolve the problem. If the cost is minimal, it might be worth it to me to pay it rather than cause an issue with a fantastic client.
Yes, dealing with client issues – especially a year later – can be a pain! But if you’ve got the right processes and forms in place, you should be protected from major liability. If you need help, I have just the thing for you! My Return on Interiors system takes all the pain out of the design business, by giving you the forms and process you need to run your company. And that includes the maintenance binder!Click Here to Download the ROI Sampler