A hot topic among affiliates recently is the question of whether to load purchases for customers, with most refusing to help customers load large purchases they made from the ReStore. At the forefront of the debate is the concern over potential for injury/liability, and how this should be handled from a customer service standpoint.
While the majority of instances where assistance is given result in a happy customer and nothing else to report, the unfortunate reality is there’s a risk of injury anytime a purchase is loaded, along with a risk of damage to the customer’s vehicle. In fact, the Habitat Affiliate Insurance Program has received several claims in this area over the years.
Although you may not be able to totally eliminate all risk, your ReStore can minimize or reduce the risk of an incident occurring and help foster a safe environment, while also placing priority on the customers’ needs. At the end of the day, insurance claims can be costly, but a reputation for poor customer service can also detrimentally affect your ReStore.
Therefore, if your ReStore has staff available to assist with loading, ensure they’re sufficiently trained ahead of time (i.e. upon hiring and via periodic refresher training) on proper lifting techniques, how to properly load large items, etc. (see the Habitat affiliate website, www.hfhaffiliateinsurance.com, for free training material on proper lifting techniques along with other safety-related topics). In addition, ensure your ReStore staff has the proper safety equipment for the job, such as thick gloves and sturdy boots. When accomplished without incident, this assistance can make a great impression from a customer service standpoint. *Note, avoid using clerical staff for loading, as this may affect their Workers Comp. classification.
Alternatively, if your ReStore does not have staff available to assist with loading, train your existing staff on how to politely decline and/or discuss with the customer that you just don’t have the resources to assist at this time. In addition, consider the following options:
- Hold the customer’s purchase for a few days AFTER the item has been paid for in full. This isn’t always the best option, especially if you have a very small ReStore with high donation intake.
- Have the names and numbers of vetted delivery companies to whom you could outsource the loading and delivery for your customers.
- Have the names and numbers of truck rental places if a customer needs a large vehicle to load up their purchase correctly.
- Always have rope, straps, ties, red flags, etc. for customers to use (or purchase) if they need equipment to secure their purchase.
- Use cardboard or other packing material as a cushion to avoid damage.
These options don’t provide the same level of customer service, but they do further reduce the risk of injury to your staff.
Keep in mind that despite your best efforts or polite declination of assistance, there is still the possibility an incident may occur and a customer will make a claim against Habitat. In the event of such a scenario, please be aware you are required under your insurance policy to timely report the matter to your insurance carrier (Chubb). This generally means reporting as soon as you become aware of an incident – even if it initially appears that the individual involved is ok or there is no significant property damage. Failure to do so could at a minimum have a detrimental effect on the investigation of the claim, and in some cases, result in a denial of coverage.
We appreciate your focus on safety at your ReStore, and in particular reducing the risk of injuries and/or property damage. Should you have any comments or questions regarding this topic or future ReStore topics of interest, we welcome your input. Please contact the Habitat Affiliate Insurance Program at (888) 553-9002, or Jeremy Keen, HFHI ReStore Support Group at (229) 924-6935, ext. 5020.