I went with a client to see a customer who had concerns about the siding installation recently completed on his home. I don't usually make such visits, but because this company is known nationwide for its outstanding work, I was curious to see the finished product. We arrived, and after being introduced, I walked around the home by myself.

WHAT YOU PROMISED What I saw was a top-quality siding installation, by industry standards.

But the salesperson had assured the customer a perfect job. He didn't say this to make the sale; he said it because he believed it. He didn't mean “perfect” in the strict sense of the word; he was describing the excellent quality of his company's installation. And this was an excellent job. But the customer expected perfect, as promised. Perfect miters, perfect cleanup, perfect everything.

A promise was made to the customer to install the siding and thus to improve his most valuable investment, his home. That was this company's part of the bargain; its contractual obligation was to deliver the finished product.

Acting on this promise, the customer gave a deposit and agreed to pay the balance upon job completion. That was his part of the bargain, his contractual obligation. However, his idea of “perfect,” as promised, was not met, and he withheld the final payment.

PROMISES TO KEEP Was the homeowner being unreasonable? That depends on how you look at it. The salesperson said “perfect” but meant “excellent.” The company delivered “excellent,” but not “perfect.”

My client patiently explained to the homeowner why some issues could not be addressed, but agreed to address other concerns to the customer's satisfaction.

The customer expects every promise made, written or oral, to be kept. And, in most states, he has the legal right to withhold payment until the job is finished as promised on the contract. A clear understanding of what the customer expects to receive and what the company plans to deliver is imperative. —Chuck Anton is a sales and marketing consultant who specializes in the home improvement industry; www.chuckanton.com.