It’s not just the cost of returning to a job that’s expensive — callbacks can prevent you from landing a referral. For many exterior remodeling companies, referrals are essential.
Terry Stamman, co-founder of Twin Cities Siding Professionals, agrees, “We get 30% of our new business from referrals. Satisfied customers, and often times their neighbors, are more than willing to sing our praises. We can’t afford not to keep our customers happy.”
Here are nine tips on how to reduce customer complaints to keep your customers happy, avoid callbacks, and mitigate the losses when callbacks do occur.
Train Your Installers
The most obvious way to avoid callbacks is to make sure your installers are experts at working with every product you sell. Take advantage of in-person or online training courses offered by your manufacturers. Also, the fewer products you offer the easier it is to keep your crews educated. Offering four different window lines and a dozen siding products may seem like a sales advantage, but it can be a callback liability. Stick with just a few products you trust and can sell with confidence.
Monitor Job Progress
Most jobs will have unique challenges that require decisions to be made by a project manager. “We heavily manage our jobs,” says Stamman. “Our project managers try to visit every project every day. They each have a 67-point checklist that gets filled out as the project progresses. The job is not done until the checklist is complete.”
Create a System to Handle Callbacks
No matter how diligent you are, mistakes are going to happen. You need to be prepared when they do. Here are some key procedures every callback system should include:
• Respond immediately and set an appointment as soon as possible. Telling a discontented customer that “you might have a service tech in their area next Thursday” is not good enough. Treat your customers like their time is as important as yours, which it is.
• Put one person in charge of service so the customer doesn’t have to explain their problem to several different people and so they can put a face or voice to the person that is taking responsibility to address their concerns.
• Keep good records. Every project file should include as much information about the job as possible, including correspondences with the homeowners.
Schedule a Walkthrough
You can eliminate the majority of callbacks by spotting problems and addressing your customer’s concerns before the job is done. Stamman explains, “Before we ever get paid, our project manager completes a thorough walkthrough side-by-side with the homeowner. Every wall and surface are closely inspected.”
It’s impossible to over-communicate with your customers. There should be no surprises at any stage of the project. Your customers should know who will be working on their house and who to call in case they have a question. It should be perfectly clear what products are being installed and why those products were chosen. They should always know when the project will begin, when it’s likely to end, and what to expect at every stage of the process.
Stamman points out that, “Our in-house communication is every bit as important as communication with our customers, and it starts at the top. Every single employee here at Twin Cities Siding Professionals knows that customer satisfaction is not our goal—it’s our mission."
Use Simple Language
Don’t assume your customers share your particular expertise. Most homeowners don’t know the difference between fascia and frieze board, and why should they? The idea is to communicate with your customers, not to trick or confuse them. “Our CFO is a genius with numbers, but she doesn’t know a lot about the technical side of construction installation,” Stamman professes. “One of her jobs is to read every work order. If there are words or phrases that don’t makes sense to her, she will simplify the language before the work order is presented to the customer.”
Let Customers Visualize the Completed Project
Most design-related callbacks and change orders can be eliminated with a visualizer app. Without seeing exactly how it’s going to look on their own house, it’s hard for many homeowners to make decisions like whether to choose straight-lined wall shingles vs staggered shingles, or how high to install the stone on the garage return-walls. Stamman and his team utilize a product called Renoworks to ensure that the finished product meets the homeowner’s exact expectations.
Avoid Inferior Materials
It’s impossible to walk away from a job feeling confident if you’re not 100% convinced that the products that were just installed are going to last. A company that makes superior products is likely to have a better warranty and customer service. For the better part of 25 years Stamman’s company has installed just one brand of roofing, windows and siding. “We use James Hardie siding because it’s the best product available and because they furiously protect the reputation of their brand.”
If you're looking for more proof, discover how this company used James Hardie® products for their "nicest siding job yet."
Capitalize on Callbacks When They do Happen
With a well-trained team, a proactive process, and communication overkill, the number of callbacks can be greatly reduced. But we don’t live in a perfect world, and accidents and mistakes happen. But Stamman is confident that, if handled properly, a callback can result in a positive outcome. “We’ve received several emails from folks who had a concern but ended up referring our company to a friend or neighbor because they were so impressed by our response.”