Expectations are paramount

What do I, as a remodeling customer, expect from a remodeler? In this particular story, what do I expect from a roofing company? As a veteran remodeler, I have high expectations, because that’s the way I ran my business. Let’s see what happened after I signed the contract and work began. I’ll discuss the hand-off, the first day, and the project completion. Then I’ll critique the process and see how it could be improved. (If you missed the beginning of this story, go back one post and read it first.)

The hand-off and Day 1

First of all, the hand-off, at least in my presence, was non-existent. The salespeople did give me good information about the roofing foreman who would be working on the job. They said he was knowledgeable, easy to get along with, spoke English, and is a top-notch worker. 

Pre-job start-up: The salesperson bought the permit and came over to the house and set the permit sign in the yard. He said that the crew was ready to go and would start tomorrow. “What time?”, I asked. He replied, “Around 8 or so.” Good enough.

Day 1: I got up bright and early and moved the vehicles out of the way, had breakfast and waited. 8:00 came and went, then 8:30. No sign of the roofers, who usually like to start early in the summer. At 8:45 I called the salesperson to inquire about the missing roofers, and left a message. No reply. I tried the office – no answer. Finally I called the second salesperson. He answered. He was obviously still at home, since I heard children in the background. He said he’d check on the roofers and get right back to me. 

An hour passed and still no reply and no roofers. As you know, Day 1 is the day that a company must prove itself. How do you think I felt at the beginning of day 1? Not very happy, to put it mildly.

After an hour had passed, I called the office and this time they picked up. I asked when the roofers would arrive. She handed me off to salesperson #2 who was now at the office. He informed me that they would be there in 30 minutes. Forty-five minutes later they showed up. By now it’s just past 10:30.

What they said…

Let me fill in a few details I may have left out. In my addendum to their contract I left a blank for how long the job would take. My overly optimistic salesmen said they could do the job in 2 days. He filled in 4 days to cover himself. Secondly, the crew size was to be 5-6 people. Even with 5 people, I thought doing this in four days would be a miracle. Turns out I was right. 

Reality sets in

The roofing foreman was just as the salespeople had described him. Friendly, intelligent, and, as I came to find out, an incredible hard worker.

A lot of crews coming on the job this late in the day, especially roofing crews in the middle of the summer, would check the job out, set up a dumpster and their equipment, and get ready for a full day the next day. Not this work crew. They set up, put ladders up, and went to work. They stripped off two major sections of roof, felted it, and roofed it. They went home at 9:30 pm. A crew of three.

Next day, same crew of three, started at 9:00 and left at 9:30. This was the pattern during the whole job. I don’t see how they could stand the heat. It was very humid and sunny and just over 90 degrees. 

Long story short, this crew of three finished the job on Day 7 – consecutive days. I’m sure that every roof in their  future will be a piece of cake compared to this one. They did a great job. 

Final cleanup: I was impressed with their final cleanup. I know they were exhausted and wanted to put some distance between themselves and this roof, but that didn’t stop them from doing a thorough cleanup. They had already given the gutters a basic cleaning. Nonetheless, they put a blower on their back and walked around the perimeter of the house, blowing out the gutters as they went. Unnerving to say the least – but impressive. They ran magnets on the yard and driveway. They picked up stray scraps. And finally blew off all the porches and driveways. And then, suddenly, they were gone. The silence was deafening.

How could this process be improved? 

  1. To start with, taking the time for a Pre-Construction Conference, where the foreman is introduced to the homeowner and any unwritten details are discussed and recorded. This makes all parties accountable to each other, and usually results in higher customer satisfaction. 
  2. Show up on time. And if you can’t, be the first to tell the customer, not the other way around. A client has no business being the job supervisor. Don’t give them this opportunity in the first place. If you do, it’s guaranteed to decrease your control (and the profitability) of the project. 
  3. Be available. Make it easy to get hold of you. Open multiple channels of communication so your clients can talk to you when they need to. Teamwork Project Manager is an excellent way to keep your clients in the loop. 
  4. Set accurate expectations. Yes, expectations were set, as they should be. But erroneous expectations can be even more damaging than not setting any expectations at all. Let your new client know how long you expect the job to take and work diligently towards that goal. Give yourself some leeway. It helps to know how many people you expect to have on the job too.
  5. Clearly state the work hours. At the PCC let your client know not only when the crew will start, but when they will leave. Most clients would not be happy having workers at their home in the evenings or on the weekend. Their neighbors probably wouldn’t either. Ideal start times are at 7:30 or 8 and quitting times at 4 or 4:30. This keeps your clients happy and your crew more rested. 
  6. Last(ing) impressions: After your crew has worked for weeks on a single project, they may become complacent. They get used to having a pile of trash here and there, or dirty floors, or filthy windows. When the job is complete, it’s time to look at the job through the owner’s eyes. Step back and note all of the areas that need to be cleaned. And leave the place cleaner than it was when you started. If you dripped oil on the driveway, clean it up. Wash all the windows. Wash the floors. Dust in every nook and cranny. Wipe down light fixtures. Polish door knobs. Shine the counter tops. Make them proud of their investment and happy that they chose your company to do the work.

A good taste or bad taste?

This is the lasting impression you’ll leave with your customer – the taste you’ll leave in their mouth, so to speak. Will it be a good memory or a bad one? Be assured that it is the way they will remember you and your company, so make it a good one. 

Wishing you the best of fortune, Randall

This article was written by Randall Soules, remodeling coach, adviser, educator, and creator of the Scientific Remodeling System, showing you better ways to advance your business, raise your profits, and improve your life, through the use of superior remodeling processes. If you would like to discover better ways to run your business, click here. He also provides his uniquely customized one-on-one coaching to a select group of contractors. Feel free to contact Randall at Randall@scientificremodelingsystem.com.

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