Nobody likes getting called back to a completed project to fix something. And yet, those calls do come in, and how you handle them can make a huge impact on your company’s success.
“Getting callbacks only costs the contractor money—money they don’t have anymore because they’ve already spent it,” says Louis Krokover, president and CEO of NewDay Development Inc. in Sherman Oaks, California. But for Krokover, there’s also a very personal reason for avoiding callbacks: maintaining the family’s reputation. Krokover’s grandfather started the company in Beverly Hills, California, in 1912, and the business has been known for top-quality work ever since.
To avoid callbacks, Krokover focuses on quality control. “I didn’t know my grandfather—he passed away in World War II—but my dad taught me what he learned from his father. And I learned from my father’s partners and associates and subcontractors that it’s easier to address anything up front than after the fact,” Krokover says.
Of course, there’s no substitute for experience. “The owner of the company has to have a real knowledge of the industry,” Krokover says, noting that many contractors care little about the quality of their work. “They just have a license. They don’t know the trade. To them it’s all about how quickly they can get in and out and what their profit margin is.”
Another key to avoiding callbacks, Krokover says, is hiring good people. “That means I have to pay more,” he says. “But I have very talented people who learn to look for what I want, and they know the quality standards that I set—and my standards are much higher than those of my clients.” Having qualified personnel who are his eyes and ears when he’s not on-site goes a long way toward alleviating problems. “Probably 95 percent of the problems are dealt with very early up front,” Krokover says.
Thomas Kearin, chief operations officer for Heidbreder Building Group LLC in Vernon Hills, Illinois, is in substantial agreement. “You can avoid callbacks just by doing things right the first time,” he says, “but I actually welcome it sometimes if somebody has a complaint. There’s an old saying that the customer who complains is still a customer.” Because his company looks at the whole process as a relationship, employees welcome such calls as feedback on the relationship.
“We look at our company more as a customer service business that happens to do construction,” Kearin says. Glenn Heidbreder, the company president and Kearin like being customers themselves, so they focus more on the relationship with their clients, Kearin says. “We like to treat our clients as customers too, not just consumers of what we have to offer,” he says.
In that spirit, Kearin says he has taken clients’ dogs to the vet and helped out in numerous other ways. “Whatever it takes, that’s what we do,” he says. “And in a lot of ways that avoids negative callbacks. You might still get a call when something’s not working, or you forgot to do this little thing. But it’s never in a negative sense. It’s more of a friendly reminder.”
In short, the emphasis shouldn’t be on avoiding callbacks so much as anticipating them, so they are fewer and less intense. “Things will go wrong—they always do,” Kearin says. “So it’s just a matter of how you handle it and when you handle it.”
Be sure to join the Lowe’s ProServices LinkedIn Group to read additional content and interact with other Construction/Trade and MRO professionals.