Smoke Odors and the Satisfied Customer
Sometimes a homeowner meets us and immediately begins complaining (ask any adjuster). So, over the years we have gathered strategies to defuse anger, give the client a sense of control and keep the job moving forward.
We start by giving a gift basket to the homeowner upon our arrival. We have spoken to the agent who sold them the policy, and we tell the owner that the basket is from the agent (in fact his/her business card is in the basket with a note on the back that says something like, “Don’t worry, I’m only a phone call away).” That way he looks good, we look good, and there is a good chance at a policy renewal.
If a customer says, “You call that clean? The comforter on the kids’ bed smells like a campfire!”
We answer with, “Well that won’t work for anyone! Let’s see what we can do.” We could have legitimately responded with, “Well ma’am, we have the most advanced smoke odor removal system in the field. Your comforter was cleaned and deodorized to well beyond the IICRC’s highest standards…” etc. Or something similar, but we don’t. Arguing slows things down and builds resentment.
Any contents pro can tell you there are at least 6 different things we can do about smoke odors on a comforter (we will share some of them in another article in this edition). We let the customer talk, we listen all the way through without interruption, often we will even agree with him if we can, then we offer a couple of alternatives for him to choose from – he begins to feel in charge of his life again (even if we know he is flat out, dead wrong).
When we bring the comforter back, sometimes we’ll even heat seal it in plastic and invite the customer out to one of our trucks to be present for the “unveiling.” We break the seal, have the customer breathe in the fresh fragrance, and upon approval we move it into the home.
A few days later we contact the owners again to see how they are enjoying their specially restored comforter. Please understand, we aren’t just talking about a single textile, we do the same thing for most complaints – as nearly as is practical, we turn angry skeptics into cheerleaders by making it easy to see us as allies instead of intruders.
Remember the “smoky” comforter from our first article? Sometimes a client just needs to feel in charge and creates what some experts call, “Psychological Smoke.”
For such cases we simply use whatever process seems best, then invite the insured to come outside – before we bring the textile back in the home. Often that is all it takes.
If we seal it in plastic, that also helps dispel the illusion that the comforter (sheets, pillows, etc.) are contaminated.
We have on-site hydroxyl chambers, ozone generators, encapsulating smoke and odor- removing solutions that we can use in washing machines, and even specialty washing
machines that use varying processes to extract smoke from both soft and hard contents.
The one thing we don’t do is to cover up smoke odors with strong citrus or pine fragrances. Such things might work for a day, but after that the client will have a real reason to complain!
Another way we help a family return to a feeling of normalcy is to have them gather up enough clothing needed for a coming week or two, then clean, deodorize and return them as soon as is humanly possible. It also helps them to slowly begin to trust us. The more courtesies we can show them, the more rapport we build.
Exceeding Your Expectations is Just Good Business
Some people wonder why we are constantly looking for ways to get policy renewals for the agents with whom we work. Or, find ways to make the adjuster look very good to his (her) boss – with testimonials from the insureds, proof that he has saved significant sums on any given job, etc. And even performing services and supports for the homeowners or business owners that never appear on any invoice.
Our reasoning is just this – if we perform beyond the anticipations of those with whom we work, we gain your trust. And we believe that the company you come to trust is the one you want to have on your next assignment. The one you trust, is the one you hire. We want to be that company.
Using Heat To Clean The Air
Restoration researcher Michael A. Pinto, CSP, SMS, CMP, CFO, has written articles about many methods for removing smoke odors and VOCs, and recently has added several that mentioned using heat to release trapped smells.
In one he wrote, “…heat has been used to warm surfaces so they release trapped odors more quickly than through natural off-gassing.” And he points to a protocol in which we can “…pull the contaminated air through a high-temperature furnace, (and) essentially incinerate the contaminants.”
He mentioned that not everyone agrees in the efficacy of this procedure, but adds, “Such air cleaners were first developed in Europe and are now available around the globe.” So, we look forward to a day when we can use such concepts to pull odors from wood, soft contents, and even the air. When we know its limits, you will be among the first we tell about our new technology!
Wedding Dress Unexpectedly Cleaned
We just ran across a true story that has been passed around the restoration community (it isn’t one of ours) which told about a contents team who put a wedding dress, that had wine stains on it for four years, into an ultrasonics cleaning machine.
Ultrasonics machines are normally used to clean hard contents (think silverware, fine China, plastic items, etc.) and it does a terrific job on such things. But this time, the cavitation process broke down the wine stains, removed them and didn’t so much as fray a single thread!
The same team tells how they remove the ground-in grime on the trains of wedding dresses that were used in forest, mountain, or beach weddings. What won’t they think of next?