Rick Yelton, Editor-in-Chief
Rick Yelton, Editor-in-Chief

I recently read a business consultant's comments on customer service. She stated that, on average, only 10% of the unsatisfied customers ever register a complaint. This rule-of-thumb seems correct. I, like most dissatisfied folks, commonly feel it's just easier to move on with life rather than to try and solve a momentary wrong.

If something really bothers me, I use the “silent revenge” approach. For example, when I suffered a rash of field test results that just didn't make sense, I suffered through the project. But when it was time to select the testing lab for my next job, I simply picked another vendor. If I couldn't hire another lab and had to suffer through the same one again, I'd have the estimator tack on a service fee to my bid.

One way or another, the building owner eventually paid the price for poor quality. I wonder just how much poor quality testing, along with any other silent revenge practices, is actually costing our industry. There's the real cost of jobsite reconciliation. But then there's the opportunity cost to market growth when engineers and architects avoid masonry and adopt another building system.

Solving poor quality is on my target list of how to save the world. Two months ago, I wrote that I believe that poor field testing procedures are affecting the economic well-being of our industry. I received a flurry of notes and comments that we will print in an upcoming issue. I also spoke with several contractors who agreed with my position.

From their comments, I believe that it's time for mason contractors to become more proactive in developing and monitoring quality standards. You'll have such an opportunity later this month. The two main ASTM committees that affect your everyday business are meeting in Norfolk, June 25 – 28.

During this busy period, subcommittee members of C12 and C15 will be discussing and approving more than 50 changes to standards regarding product, workmanship, and design. These committees desperately need contractor involvement.

Currently, the combined ASTM committee membership roster shows only nine mason contractors involved in their work. These guys need to be pretty smart because they are representing more than 15,000 firms, and a probable universe of about 50,000 key individuals. True, there are several associations like MCAA providing staff that helps monitor standard development. But there's no substitute for practical experience.

Why would a contractor want to be involved in tedious committee work? It's because these committees develop answers to questions that dominate your daily work life. Wouldn't you want a say on a question such as, “How heavy should a block be before it's considered heavyweight?” And I'm sure you have an opinion on, “How many chips should be on a brick face before it's said to be out of spec?”

You get the idea. All the meetings are open to the public. But it wouldn't hurt to contact John Melander, chairperson of C12, and/or Diane Throop, chairperson of C-15, to let them know of your interest. You can find information on these committees by visiting www.astm.org.

While ASTM is a great source for information, there's an even a bigger world of masonry out there. In this month's issue, we are supplying you with the best our world has to offer. In these pages, you'll discover the pride we have in your employees who participated in our various skills competitions at the World of Masonry in Las Vegas, and the investment in products and services offered by the industry's manufacturers.

One of these days, I'll give that business consultant a call to discuss customer dissatisfaction. I'd like to see if that 10% ratio is lower in masonry construction. I'm sure the combination of a skilled workforce, quality products, and good leadership has helped lower our number.

Rick Yelton,