A remodeling company that takes care of its customers after the job is done is sure to get great referrals. That's why Classic Remodeling & Construction of Charleston, S.C., uses its handyman service to generate goodwill. The service is normally billed out at a rate of $80 to $100 per hour, but the company will sometimes drop the hourly rate for past clients, and in some cases it will do work for free.

“Some of my colleagues say it's a mistake not to charge the usual labor rate,” says company Bob Fleming. “But we high-end client base, and look at it as a marketing expense. It's usually only a couple of hours, and it represents a fraction of the cost of getting a new lead in the door.”

Because of this work's marketing value, the company's project managers often do it themselves. For instance, one PM went to the home of a high-end client who needed a picture hung for a party that night. In another instance, a couple of PMs got calls from out-of-town customers as a hurricane approached, and ended up boarding up windows on a Saturday at a rate of $35 to $40 per hour.

“The culture of our company is based on making clients happy without necessarily getting management involved,” says Mike Stansell, selections coordinator for Classic Remodeling. “The way I look at it, if you don't do that small repair, then someone else will do it, and the next time a big job comes around, that someone else will probably get it.”

Charlie Wardell is a freelance writer in Vineyard Haven, Mass.