Edwin Fotheringham

Last year, I experienced firsthand what many clients dread: a poor-quality job and the company’s failure to respond to requests to fix it. A home improvement company completed a siding and gutter job for my parents, but water ran behind the gutters in some places during heavy rain. However, the trouble really started when my father called and pointed this out to the salesperson.

Based on my parents’ experience, I’d like to offer remodelers these reminders:

  • When a client calls about a problem, take it seriously and investigate it carefully. In my parents’ case, the company sent out someone determined to spend as little time as he could on the problem. After I inspected the work and had had many discussions over the phone, they sent out someone else who declared upon arriving at the house — before even climbing a ladder — that the gutters were correctly installed and he didn’t see a problem.
  • Communicate internally so the client doesn’t have to repeatedly explain the problem afresh each time someone comes to the site.
Tim Faller
Sharpe + Harrell Photography Tim Faller

When a client calls your organization, the person fielding the call should take careful notes and relay all the information to the person responding to the call so that the problem and how to fix it are clear before that person arrives at the site. It’s your job to troubleshoot your work.

  • Return phone calls that day if possible, at most within 24 hours — even if the conversation will be uncomfortable. When I started calling the company, no one would return my calls. I finally reached someone in a head office in Florida who conferenced in the branch manager.

Only ask for your money when the client is satisfied. While the company was dragging its feet on fixing the problem, the collections department kept calling and even threatened my father with receivership if he didn’t pay. (Once fixed, though not to our total satisfaction, we paid.)
This taste of reality helps me really appreciate the remodelers who are truly customer-service oriented.

—Tim Faller is president of Field Training Services and author ofThe Lead Carpenter Handbook.