December Newsletter 2016


Checking It Twice: Using Cameras Within Your Business

By Scott Ring

In business, we spend our efforts, time, and money to properly train our staff to identify rugs, cleaning risks, and pre-existing conditions that are evident at the time of check-in or pick-up. We develop our invoicing and paperwork to paint a clear picture of what the previously-mentioned looks like in writing. We are responsible for the communication to make certain the client understands what they have, the pricing, condition of the piece, and the cleaning risks and historical outcome of cleaning. What happens when all the above does not acclimate with the customer and you are accused of damaging their rug, or your client states that the pre-existing condition(s) that they already signed for did not exist before cleaning?


This is the time for you to use your "Plan B," which is camera footage from the check-in floor. Some companies take overhead photos of every rug while others have DVR or cloud-based camera systems that record everything that happens from check-in to production. Our company, Woodard, happens to utilize the latter. We have a DVR-based system that records all the activity in our check-in area, most of the areas in production, and a few areas in the exterior of our building where our dumpsters are located and where we purposely park our vans at night.

Walking through the process, we start by checking paperwork. We currently use CEO software for our work orders and invoicing. Our next step would be to check the time stamp on the original paperwork so we can look up the footage on our DVR as well as verify the qualifications regarding cleaning risks and listed pre-existing conditions.

Now that you have verified that you have the footage, what do you do with it and/or how do you present it to the customer? Most of the time there is glaring evidence protecting your interests in the matter. Unfortunately, you cannot present this evidence to the customer with a loud, "Ha! There it is - I told you so!" It needs to be communicated with personalized professionalism to not point out fault, but rather a possible lapse in memory or recollection. Freud stated, "We now know that memories are selective, and that they're constantly being rewritten each time they're recalled. People retain memories of events not as they happened, but rather in the way they are active when memories are being reformed." After all, I truly believe that most customers are not trying to purposely blame us for these issues. Let us also remember that the core of our business is to help people get back to their lives, as they are not interested in dealing with the cleaning or restoration of their rugs.

Now for some specific examples of cameras in action. I recently encountered a customer who stated that we caused the corner of the fringe on their Karastan rug to become crooked in cleaning. After following the process listed above, I retained a copy of their original paperwork as well as the security footage which clearly shows the pre-existing condition on their rug.

I introduced myself to the customer via email and told them about the excellent quality of Karastan rugs and the common issues that we have with them with regard to the binding underneath the serging shrinking as well as torn and crooked corners. I reminded them of the signed paperwork with "crooked corner of fringe" listed and told them for their convenience that I was inserting a photo of the check-in security footage. I then told them that we valued their business and offered to repair the corner at no additional charge. It was important to me to retain the credibility that we performed our job correctly and that the customer did not have the perception that we damaged their rug in cleaning.

We use our DVR camera system regularly, and as I write this article we are budgeting to go to a universal cloud-based system in 2017. The camera system has helped us to review safety issues in the production areas of our facility as well as review footage inside & outside the building. The system has also been used to review descriptions of rugs when trying to identify them to pull for the next day's delivery routes when we've noticed a paperwork error.

Most importantly, I have personally used our camera system to walk through situations with clients that have accused us of changing the color of their rug in cleaning, tearing off fringe (infamous smiley faced rug ends) during cleaning, creasing rugs in cleaning, or removing wool from a rug during cleaning. My least favorite circumstance was having to address with a customer how traumatic it must be that her pets actually damaged her axminster rug and creased it, when she accused us of doing so. She accused us of not letting them access the rear check in area to go over their rug. We did, in fact, have footage of the customer and our technician in this same area going over the rug that they had folded in half and put in their convertible to bring to us. Had we not had this footage the conversation could have gone differently, but we worked it out gracefully with this customer because we had put the tools in place to protect our interests and reputation.

You don't have to spend thousands of dollars to install one of these systems. Technology is rapidly changing and prices are dropping as technology improves. You can purchase a DVR-based system for as little as $300 online or in store. These systems can be installed on a slow day in a matter of hours. Other options are to purchase a system directly from a security company and have them install it for you, then train yourself and your team to use it. Most people also carry a smartphone these days, and your entire back-up could be based on before photos taken at drop-off or pick-up.

No matter which method you choose, it is time to realize that the world we live in today is much different from the past. No longer can we all agree to shake hands and make things happen. Customers are being taught to expect immediate gratification on most tangible items as well as services. No matter if you clean 5000 rugs per year or 100, the client's expectations and memory recollection remain the same. Now is the time to use the technology that is available to protect your exposure to these issues as well as your company's reputation.