|Contractors who do any remodeling
work or make service calls may have customers who ask “Is it safe?
…What will happen?” How they answer could be the deciding factor
in convincing the customer to “do it right.”|
We all come across some Code violations in the
course of our career. It's practically a given because the
electrical trade has so many specific Code requirements. We stumble
upon violations, which range from a missing staple to some glaring
safety hazard requiring immediate attention, while doing
installations, performing maintenance or doing walk-throughs.
Many contractors don't report violations to
the customer for fear of being thought of as an opportunist or
carpetbagger. Isn't it ironic how knowledgeable and observant
professionals can be thought of so differently as soon as they open
their mouth? If the mention of these violations is not tactfully
done and carefully worded, it often evokes a facial expression
reserved for used car salesmen (no offense intended). Despite the
possible ramifications, only one proper course of action should be
followed — making the customer aware of any violations or hazards.
To better understand the consumer's point of
view, it may be worth noting that many of today's Code requirements
did not exist years ago.
Some violations are not necessarily safety
hazards themselves. Instead, they are violations because they may
eventually cause a problem or in some cases fail to prevent one. For
example, GFCI protection for swimming pool pumps has been an NE Code
requirement for many years, but that wasn't always the case. Would
its absence actually cause an injury? No. Its installation could
prevent injury or death, but only under certain circumstances.
Therefore, GFCI installation would fall somewhere into the same
category as buying insurance. It's something that really serves no
practical purpose until it's needed — and then literally may be
something that you can't live without.
The fact is that many of today's cautious
consumers want and need more than their contractor to say, “It's
the Code,” before spending a lot of their money to rewire
something that seemed to work OK before.
Human nature being what it is, it's
understandable that the likelihood of some types of violations or
hazards being corrected decreases dramatically along with the
consumer's perception of the severity of the threat. It's surprising
how many homeowners have no knowledge of GFCIs or how they prevent
damage or injury. Electricity continues to be a mystery to the
average consumer. If sound explanations aren't offered, many will
trust the cheap “piece of cake” solutions that can work well
How do we convince the consumer that a problem
exists or that extra work is needed to make an installation safe? It
may take some practice to perfect a pitch that works for you. If you
can get it right, you can increase sales and build your reputation
as a true professional.
The first step would be making sure that you
are up on all the latest Code rules and clear on how they apply to
the type of work that you do. Any additional information on causes,
possible dangers involved or the inner workings of specific
equipment or devices puts you in a better position to answer
questions like, ‘Is it safe?’ or ‘What will happen?’ Lastly,
being able to take the consumer's perspective will help you decide
which approach will help you sell the job.
For most areas of the country, spring and
summer are the peak seasons of construction activity and many trade
organizations are already deep into their safety campaigns. We have
a great opportunity to do our part to increase consumer awareness by
supporting their efforts and helping to spread the word.
A wealth of information is available from a
variety of sources on major consumer safety issues and remedies.
Some organizations will allow you to reprint information for
distribution to your customers. You may also be able to obtain
pamphlets on a particular topic to pass out. With this simple
effort, you would be performing a public service and enhancing your
reputation as a dedicated and informed professional.
Electrical Contractor Network
Reprinted with permission from CEE News, July
2001. Copyright 2001.