Embrace the dreaded call-back and your business could benefit
It’s Monday morning. You’re facing a pile of work and are just about to start digging into a new asphalt shingle installation project. Then, the phone rings. A client is asking you to return to the job site to look at something that’s not quite right with their new roofing system.
It’s the dreaded call-back. Every roofing contractor gets them and even the best roofers can’t eliminate them completely. But the good news is, with careful planning and patience, you can reduce the number of call-backs you get from clients – and cut down on the time and resources that go into each one.
Here’s what we recommend.
A number of call-backs are related to unrealistic expectations or confusion about a roofer’s job.
By sitting down with your client before you begin installing, you can carefully go over these expectations and create a contract you both agree on. This will help the client understand exactly where your work starts and stops, how long that work is under limited warranty and give you the chance to explain what the homeowner can expect from their new roof.
If you choose, you may also want to create a specification or “spec,” detailing which asphalt roofing shingles you will use and other products you plan to incorporate into the roofing components. This exercise will also help you develop an accurate estimate for the job.
(See the Roofing Contractors Association of British Columbia’s advice to homeowners on choosing a roofing contractor, and consider how you can incorporate their best practices into your own work. Source: ‘Consumer Guide to Roofing’ Page 7. You can also visit the National Roofing Contractors Association for their advice on why it’s a good idea to choose a professional NRCA contractor.)
How this can prevent call-backs: Defining your scope of work before you begin is one of the single strongest steps towards creating a successful customer relationship. It will give the homeowner a clear picture of your role in providing high-quality roofing components and can help cut down on complaints that are out of your scope, or unrealistic.
Every roofer knows the basics to installing a roof . But a great roofer should take this a step further and develop a process roadmap based on past experience and industry best practices.
Of course, no roof plan should be considered one-size-fits-all. Your process will change according to the weather conditions, schedule, location, budget, size and type of roof. But the fundamentals of smart scheduling and project coordination remain constant.
For example, after installing each different component of the roof, make time for an inspection checkpoint. That will greatly reduce any chance for improper installation – on everything from crucial foundational tasks such as applying underlayment, to tricky parts, such as installing roof vents or flashing around chimneys.
Whether it’s a series of checklists or a more formal project management document, create a system that allows you to plan for success every time.
Be sure your plan incorporates all relevant legislation requirements, technical standards (e.g. trade association manuals), codes of practices and roofing product manufacturer recommendations. In an international study of ways to improve roofing, experts from countries across the world recommend this as one of the top ways to improve roof reliability. (Source: Tenets of Reliable Roofing, page 5.)
And, whether you are just starting out as a roofer, or have been in the game for decades, it’s always important to be current on these standards through formal training and your own research.
How this can prevent call-backs: Following a well-defined process allows you to ensure you haven’t missed any steps. It will give you a great way to check in with your client along the way, so at any given point, they can see what steps you’ve completed, how these have been inspected, and what step is next.
In a perfect world, every roof would be easy to install, the materials would be universal and trouble spots like eaves, valleys and penetrations would be a cinch to protect from the elements. But the reality is not so: every roof is different, which means every shingle project usually brings with it a curve ball or two. A good roofer will continue to work on perfecting his technique over the years so the number of call-backs related to technique continue to drop.
As they say, practice makes perfect – and training doesn’t hurt either. If you find yourself struggling with a particular area of installation, don’t be afraid to work with a mentor or take a refresher course so you can feel confident you’re giving your client the best service for a long-lasting roof.
Here are some common trouble areas to take into special consideration when continuously improving your installation technique.
Decking: Your roof deck is an important foundational layer for the rest of the roofing materials. And unfortunately, underlayment and shingles won’t cover up an improperly installed or flawed sheathing system. For example, if not properly installed, the deck could expand in the heat and start to buckle under the underlayment and shingles. (See here or here for more tips on sheathing installation, including proper spacing.) The roof deck surface should also be smooth and even, and if it isn’t, may require shimming (or, adjustment) to give you a proper foundation for the roof’s layers.
Because the roof deck is the primary layer, repairing it after you’ve installed anything over it is costly and time-consuming – so put as much time and attention into this first layer as you do into your shingles.
Flashing: Flashing provides protection between wall and roof planes, around roof penetrations, including skylights, vents and chimneys. For full protection from the elements, these areas need multiple layers of protection, including underlayment, self-adhering membrane, asphalt plastic cement, and, lastly, aluminum flashing on top as a final defense and water deterrent. If not installed properly, flashing can loosen or fall away, leading to – you guessed it – a call-back.
Fastening: A good way to promote a long roof life is to be obsessed with your shingle fastening technique. That means following shingle manufacturer guidelines, and carefully and patiently installing each one using the right number of nails, in the right spot, with enough power to penetrate the shingle, underlayment and the roof decking below, while also being careful to avoid over-driving the nails.
For example, if you’re using architectural shingles, nails placed too high will not penetrate both pieces of the laminated shingle, which can lead to the nail heads pulling through the single layer possibly leading to a blow-off. Being careful and thorough when you’re shingling may take longer, but will help ensure your shingles are solid and secure – providing both aesthetic appeal and practical protection to the roof.
Ventilation: Part of your project scope may include installing roof vents. But even if you are repairing or improving an existing roof which already has ventilation units installed, be sure there is enough ventilation to accommodate the new roof design. Roofs are far too often under-ventilated, which can lead to all sorts of trouble inside and outside the home and threaten the longevity of the roofing materials.
How this prevents call-backs: Doing the job well is fundamental to preventing customer complaints – especially when related to these common trouble areas. If you require extra training or practice, don’t be afraid to ask!
Because all components of a roof work together you don’t want to skimp on any one roofing product. A roofer should also always insist on using high-grade roofing products, from the wood decking to underlayment to waterproofing to asphalt shingles to flashing – even the nails you use. Using materials from a roofing product manufacturer that you trust and who has a solid reputation in the industry is a great way to make your hard work look good and for your roof project to stand up against the elements over time. For example, offering premium-grade, heavier asphalt shingles has allowed IKO to establish itself as a trusted provider of quality materials in the industry.
How this prevents call-backs: Although budget is a necessary consideration, the long-term effects of using reliable (and yes, sometimes more expensive) materials will give you high marks from happy customers who will be sure to recommend you to their friends as their roof proves reliable over time.
Although it may seem a little counterintuitive, if you schedule a call-back with your client ahead of time, you can actually reduce the number of total calls for service, especially for questions that are out of scope or just common signs of a new roof settling. During this after-service appointment, go through an inspection checklist to ensure the roof looks hearty and healthy. You can also choose to incorporate the cost of this call-back in your total roof price.
How this will prevent call-backs: By scheduling a call-back in advance you are communicating to the client that you are not just hitting the road once the work is done, but are committed to giving them a roof that lasts and are willing to stand by your work. This peace of mind will help give the homeowner confidence, which can only lead to more referrals. The scheduled call-back also gives you one last opportunity to triple-check your work to ensure it’s performing as expected after a week or two of real-world testing.
Just as a football player will replay his game-day videos, you should use past call-backs to tweak your performance and learn valuable lessons for future projects.
Keep a record of your call-backs, including the initial complaint and how you resolved it. From here you will be able to see patterns that will help you adjust your methods or processes in the future.
Though these calls cost time and money, they won’t be a resource drain if you use them as a learning tool. Plus, they give you a chance to showcase your customer service abilities. If you nail a callback and resolve it to the client’s liking, that just adds to the chance you’ll get a golden recommendation.
Ultimately, no roofer can get his or her call-backs down to zero. But you can build excellent customer relationships and reduce your time getting called back on site by:
Eventually, like this one happy roofer shared, you’ll find your call-backs transform into calls back – for more projects down the road.
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