Brian Altmann
Dutchess Building Specialists
Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
Big50 2003

The first thing I do is assure the customer that I'm not going to go back and tell the employee that “Mrs. Jones said you didn't clean up adequately.” That might make the customer uncomfortable, particularly if the job isn't finished yet.

If it's something that I've heard about a certain employee more than once or twice, I'll sit down and have a meeting with him. I use constructive criticism, and I'm not condescending. Also, I try to speak in more general terms about who lodged the complaint, rather than singling out one or two specific clients.

If the complaint is something that I hear from several different clients who work with different employees, I'll incorporate it into an office-wide meeting, kind of like a reminder. I'll ask them to make sure that we tell our clients if we're going to be an hour late, for instance, which is part of our policy anyway. That way, I don't have to single anyone out.

Scott Watson
Taylor-Watson Construction
St. Louis
Big50 2002

When we have a complaint about an employee, I make a point to talk to the homeowner in person. I won't talk over the phone unless it's something really minor. The first thing I do is set an appointment to meet with them.

Then, I contact the employee and anyone who works with that person, to get both sides of the story. I am then prepared to meet with the client to smooth out the issue.

When I meet with the customers, I listen to the complaint, and I assure them that complaints about our employees are rare and that this could quite possibly be a misunderstanding.

Usually, this is enough to work things out, but if the customers are still unhappy, I ask them what they would like me to do. I'll remove a person from a job if I have to, though thankfully, I haven't had to yet.

Michael Roy Nagel
Remodel One
Roselle, Ill.
Big50 1993

When customers lodge a complaint, the employee and I go right to them. We review the situation with them, and we make any apologies, corrections, or concessions necessary to remedy the problem. Then, I deal with the employee in an appropriate fashion, depending on the situation and the employment history of that particular person.

Tom Luce
Luce Custom Remodeling & Design
Melbourne, Fla.
Big50 2001

When there is a complaint, I turn it over to the employee. It's then up to him to apologize and to solve any issues the homeowner has. If this fails to satisfy the client, I'll try to bring the client and employee together, with me acting as mediator. We'll resolve the issue then, even if it means replacing the employee on that job.

Gary Eichhorst
Eichhorst & Co. Remodeling and Design
Richmond, Ill.
Big50 2001

I ask clients for a complete explanation of why they are unhappy with my employee, and I don't take sides until I've spoken to that employee, too. However, I will apologize for whatever happened, and I tell them I will speak with the person. Once I've talked to everyone involved, I decide on a course of action regarding either my client or my employee.

The one thing I've learned — the one piece of advice I'd give — is that there are three sides to every story: what he said; what she said; and what really happened.