Robert Freeman has discovered a simple equation for success: Happy Employees = Happy Customers. And based on his achievements it’s hard to argue with that formula. Above Roofing has received Angie’s List’s Super Service Award seven years in a row and won the Better Business Bureau’s Torch Award for Ethics.
But to really illustrate the power of this equation, Freeman tells the story of the “roof Nazi.” This was a former roofing foreman whose exacting tactics started out producing good customer service ratings. But the longer he worked, the worse the ratings became.
“The average roofer would love to have the roof Nazi,” Freeman says. “But after a while, his team started to feel unappreciated. Any ideas they had were just overlooked and then there was a feeling like you can never do a good enough job. That just made a negative work environment. We’re not willing to hire someone smart or hardworking and have it destroy our culture.”
-- To create his company culture, Freeman wrote down characters and values of employees who embodied what he wanted. He then used that list to hire all future employees. “If you don’t put your stake in the ground and say, ‘These are the behaviors I want,’ you’re going to get someone else’s stake in the ground,” he says. “Before you know it, salespeople are selling things they’re not supposed to; repair techs are doing things not specified by the manufacturer. It can get away from an owner really fast. As you grow and mature, if you don’t have it written down, it’s going to be harder to reel it back in.”
-- Freeman talks about customers as having homes, not houses. He says the distinction is key to his customer service, company culture, and consistently high customer service rankings. “When you go into a person’s home, they’re making memories there. They might be raising kids,” he says. “There’s a sense of security and belonging, and we’re being invited into this very special place as a guest.”
-- Freeman views technology as another way to improve customer service, and takes a no-nonsense approach. For example, rather than use a pricy project software system, Freeman bootstrapped a Google Calendar/Dropbox system that connects the team, reduces paperwork, and minimizes office visits. All that has resulted in 10 percent faster job completion times. “Tech is great, but tech without a purpose is like, ‘Eh,’” he says. “The purpose is to get that salesperson in front of a homeowner and provide consistency.”