HOW EXTERIOR CONTRACTORS AVOID COMMON COMPLAINTS
Some people have successful experiences when they hire a roofer or other exterior contractor. But other customers report that their experience quickly became a nightmare. Why such a stark difference?
Unhappy customers often cite the same complaints about contractors over and over again. “They don’t show up when they promised to.” “There were hidden costs.” “They didn’t finish the work on time.” “They left a huge mess.” “They don’t return our calls.” But the worst grievance is almost certainly: “The work was sub-par.”
You might think the difference between an excellent home-improvement contractor and a poor one is the way they handle complaints like these. But the truth is, great roofing contractors and great exterior contracting companies don’t hear many complaints to begin with.That’s because they provide superior service simply as a matter of course. These home improvement contractor complaints never come up in the first place.
Excellent customer service focuses on preventing customer problems before they happen.
THE MOST FREQUENT COMPLAINTS ABOUT EXTERIOR CONTRACTORS
Let’s look at each of the common complaints we listed above and see how excellent roofing and exterior contractors head them off by meeting or exceeding expectations.
Complaint 1: “They don’t show up on time.”
Some contractors habitually show up late and provide no explanation. This is a classic case of failing to meet expectations.Expectations about the day and time the team will arrive are usually set by the contractor, not the customer. Great contractors set realistic arrival times that factor in traffic, weather and road conditions as much as possible.
Occasionally, something unexpected happens — such as equipment breaking down — that causes a contractor to be late. The best contractors immediately call the customer to explain the problem and provide a new estimated arrival time. Customers appreciate that the contractor cares enough to keep them updated, causing less disappointment and frustration.
Complaint 2: “There were all kinds of hidden costs.”
This complaint is not about the price of the work — it’s about how the customer was treated throughout the process.
The entire relationship between the customer and the provider of goods or services can last for many years. In a McKinsey study about the front-end of the customer journey, the buying experience — that is, how customers felt about the experience — was shaped not by price or quality, but instead by how the customers were treated. If the experience became negative, more than 70% pulled back from using the service. If it was positive, more than 85% of customers upped their interaction and purchasing power.
Although we seem to be discussing monetary costs here, we’re really talking about expectations again. Nothing establishes expectations like a price quote. When all the predictable costs aren’t included up front, customers feel ambushed.
Great home-improvement contractors understand that customers demand and deserve “full disclosure.”
These contractors tend to:
Use written contracts:Great contractors will offer a written contract that details exactly what the contractor will do. It lists what materials will be used and at what price. It will also clearly explain how the payment schedule works. This kind of contract protects both the customer and the contractor.Customers will give more leeway to contractors who provide a total cost estimate in writing.
Create written change orders: During a project, scope and resource requirements can change. Document this with a change order. The more clearly and fully the change and its impact on costs and completion schedule are spelled out, the greater protection both parties enjoy.
Following these techniques changes the conversation from price to agreed-upon expectations. That’s exactly what a good contractor should do to guide customers through the exterior renovation process.
Complaint 3: “They didn’t finish the work on time.”
Great contractors don’t make promises they can’t keep — including unrealistic completion dates.
Sometimes a project can’t be finished according to schedule because the weather isn’t cooperating or because a key supplier didn’t come through on time or because of any number of other problems beyond the contractor’s ability to solve immediately.
If the contractor has been transparent and has built a foundation of trust with the customer throughout the process by communicating openly and setting expectations, customers are more likely to be understanding when “circumstances out of their control” do happen.This is especially true if they are notified and can plan for a new and agreed-upon timeline.
Complaint 4: “They left a big mess.”
Excellent exterior contractors and interior contractors clean up all materials at the end of each workday. Good cleanup is so important in pleasing customers that it should be discussed in the written agreement between customer and contractor. Here are some points to include in the contract:
The work site must be cleaned daily.
Dirt, dust, scraps and debris must be removed.
Tools should be stored safely in a space designated by the owner.
All materials should be stored neatly and out of the way.
Any top contractor should have a similar cleanup clause in the contract, or if not, will be happy to include them.
Complaint 5: “They don’t communicate.”
Communication is necessary in any business relationship, but effective communication in construction settings is especially important. Poor or no communication at the worksite can cause costly delays and serious injuries. Not being on the same page with the homeowner when discussing schedules and budgets can result in frustrated and furious customers who may hold up payment and even take the contractor to court.
Great home improvement contractors realize that even short of those extreme outcomes, poor communication with the customer can simply drive business away. They also understand that real communication can’t happen when one person doesn’t believe what the other person is saying.
The first meeting with the customer is crucial. Great contractors:
Behave in a friendly and open manner: They answer all the customer’s questions honestly, fully, and without hesitation.
Don’t use industry jargon: Technical terms make the message and the job hard to understand. Industry jargon may also come across to the customer as arrogance or an attempt to intimidate.
Offer transparency: Customers should feel that they know exactly what is going on in the project at all times. There should be no surprises.
Perhaps most importantly, great contractors are active listeners. When the customer says something the contractor isn’t sure they understand, the contractor asks questions. Then, the contractor paraphrases the concern back to the customer: “I think you’re saying that you’re worried about how long asphalt shingles might last in this climate. You want to hear more about metal roofs. Is that right?”
Complaint 6: “The work is sub-par.”
Of course, this is the worst complaint of all — but it’s not one that great contractors have to deal with much because they rarely hear it. That’s because these elite organizations create a culture that fosters the finest craftsmanship along with five-star service.
So far, we’ve talked about the “hows” of avoiding contractor customer complaints and we’ve described specific actions that the best contractors take to make sure they meet or exceed expectations. But no organization can consistently outperform expectations without a culture that demands, facilitates and rewards sustained high performance from each and every employee.
The best contractors succeed because they have built a company culture that rewards excellence. The first interaction with any customer is the easiest, but if you don’t over-deliver on that first interaction to impress the client, any continued work will be a wasted effort.
The best contractors really believe that the quality their team delivers is their most important asset. Great contractors understand that their employees are on the front lines and create profit — not cost — and act accordingly.
HOW HOMEOWNERS CAN FIND A GREAT CONTRACTOR
It’s important for homeowners to do their due diligence when selecting an exterior contractor. It takes time and effort — but after all, the beauty and safety of their home are at stake. The best way for them to do this is to interview several contractors and ask them lots of questions:
• Are you licensed? They won’t want to do business with anyone who isn’t.
• Do you carry general liability insurance? This insurance will protect them if the contractor damages property in any way.
• Do you use day laborers for your installations? If the contractor does, they probably can’t vouch for the employees the way somebody who uses only full-time employees can.
• Do you guarantee your work? Customers shouldn’t settle for just a “yes.” They need to understand exactly what’s being guaranteed and for how long. Hearing this guarantee or knowing a contractor can guarantee work for at least 10 years is a huge benefit.
• Will you provide written references? Make sure you have recent references.
• What percentage of your business is repeat or referral business? The more the better.
• How many projects like mine have you completed in the past year? Again, the more the better.
As a contractor, you can improve your chances of being hired for a job and keeping a client if you answer these questions patiently, and thoroughly, or offer the information before the homeowner even thinks to ask.
EXCELLENT ROOFING CONTRACTORS MEET AND EXCEED EXPECTATIONS
Top companies understand that complaints come about when customers’ expectations aren’t being met. These contractors prevent complaints by listening carefully to customers and giving them what they want, plus a little more whenever possible. In fact, it’s the “little more” that often distinguishes the best home improvement contractors from the rest.
Customer satisfaction means finding out what customers expect and then providing it. This is absolutely necessary to build and maintain your customer base. While necessary, it’s not always sufficient. Satisfactory performance is not the same as exemplary performance. Satisfaction doesn’t mean a guarantee that someone will continue their business relationship with you, especially if a family member or colleague were to make another suggestion.
Great contractors go to great lengths to understand and meet customer expectations and to exceed them whenever possible. Our president, Ryan Hoke, firmly believes that customers should expect superior experience from an exterior contractor in terms of craftsmanship, materials and services.
THE BENEFIT OF HIRING A GREAT EXTERIOR CONTRACTING COMPANY
Exceptional exterior contractors are recognized for excellence in several other ways, such as through partnerships, industry ratings and testimonials:
• Suppliers: Manufacturers reward the best of the best by guaranteeing not only the quality of the products but also the craftsmanship of the contractors who install them. We’re proud to say that TEC has achieved that “bonded” status with shingle manufacturers GAF and Owens Corning. Only 3% of roofing contractors in the United States have been awarded GAF’s Master Elite Status and only 1% have qualified as Owens Corning Platinum Preferred Contractors.
• Industry Recognition: GuildQuality is a customer survey organization that serves only remodelers, home builders, and home improvement contractors. Through scientific polling, it allows contractors to “see themselves through their customers’ eyes.” Great contractors have strong GuildQuality ratings. We’re proud to report that TEC currently has a 93% GuildQuality rating.
• Testimonials: You’ll find a large selection of TEC testimonials on our website. We’re proud of all of them, but we’re proudest of those that tell us we’ve exceeded customer expectations. Here’s one of those: “I couldn’t be any happier with The Exterior Company. My wife and I have always dreaded home improvements, but needless to say, your company’s customer service and professionalism made our experience one-of-a-kind!”
Our culture was built on the premise that if we keep the focus on our team and our service, we’ll build a great home improvement company and customer experience in the process. Here’s how we do it:
• We bring on only driven, team-oriented, skilled individuals who like to work hard.
• We continuously train our staff on the latest materials, methods and ways to connect with customers.
• Our labor crew has a base pay of 10% to 15% more than the competition.
• All our employees have milestones to achieve both for their own development and the company’s progress. As they reach these milestones, they’re rewarded both in compensation and in perks. We have given our best employees everything from iPhones to group Las Vegas trips.
We hope this article has helped you understand how great roofing and exterior contractors avoid common complaints and exceed customer expectations. We also hope it has encouraged you to consider TEC for your roofing and other exterior home improvement needs. Please contact us today for a free quote.