Building a Better Business: Managing callbacks

Colin Jaffe
According to reports from the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), the United States added 189,000 construction jobs between May 2012 and May 2013.1 In a continually competitive marketplace, reputation and word-of-mouth marketing are a must for maintaining a competitive edge and establishing a business that can endure fluctuating economic cycles. As many professionals have experienced over the last few years, job wins do not just happen on their own. To earn new projects—and benefit from the construction industry’s momentum—professionals have to mix marketing tactics with operational efficiency to drive revenue and eliminate unnecessary overhead.

As callbacks can be a pesky source of unnecessary overhead, professionals generally strive to eliminate them and their cascading effect on budgets and time. Eliminating or limiting future callbacks is crucial for maintaining a steady stream of projects, reducing labor costs, and increasing customer satisfaction. The following tips, with a focus on paint projects, examine business best practices to reduce callbacks, increase overall efficiency, and ensure client satisfaction.

Establish and manage shared expectations
A big part of avoiding callbacks is ongoing communication. Before the start of a project, the scope of work and desired outcome must be outlined to ensure everyone is on the same page. Similar to most projects or jobs, comprehensive lists should be created to manage project tasks with regular updates delivered to the client detailing preparations, benchmarks, and timelines for the work to be completed. A detailed list of the paint (or any other products) being used (including color and finish) must be provided, along with an explanation of the extent of the prep work to be performed and how identified problem areas (e.g. water stains) will be treated. This is the chance to be clear with clients and the team, including project architects and designers, on exactly what prep and products can and cannot solve problems.

Proper preparation
It is important to carefully ensure the surfaces are carefully prepared for results that stand the test of time. The entire area—including walls, ceilings, and floors—must be clean and free of dust, dirt, salt (if in coastal regions), and debris. Surfaces should be carefully cleaned by hand or power-washing, loose and/or peeling paint removed, and, in many cases, surfaces sanded for a smooth texture. Prepping and protecting surfaces carefully and thoroughly upfront is a critical to keep working at pace, while minimizing cleanup, touch-up time, and potential paint failures—such as an uneven finish or poor paint adhesion.

Lessons learned from the painting industry on keeping clients happy can also be applied to other facets of the design/construction industry. Photo courtesy Behr
Lessons learned from the painting industry on keeping clients happy can also be applied to other facets of the design/construction industry.
Photo courtesy Behr

Quality matters
As a professional, it is important to not overlook the benefits of using high-quality products. Specifying the right material is essential for any project’s success. Selecting high-quality materials—such as premium primers, stains, and paints—may appear to be costly on the front-end, but can prove to be more cost-effective and less time-consuming than returning to redo a job.

In the world of painting, when using high-quality paints, one can expect to have the benefits of added hide, coverage, and durability, which means fewer coats are typically required and the surface is better protected from harsh weather elements and daily wear and tear. For paint projects, it is important to educate clients on the advantages of using quality products offering superior ultraviolet (UV) protection for longer-lasting color, a non-stick surface for higher degree of dirt resistance, and by a manufacturer lifetime guarantee for peace of mind.

Always provide excellent customer service
In the instance a callback occurs, meeting face-to-face with the client can help identify what they are unhappy with. Word-of-mouth marketing goes a long way, so even if the result is having the team return to do a few touchups, a satisfied customer can save money in the long run.

Record and review callbacks
Project complaints and the causes for callback requests must be meticulously documented because this allows you to analyze how callbacks have affected your bottom line, while helping to troubleshoot and reduce potential issues in future projects. If there is a recurring problem, it is a sure sign you need to make a change in how you are addressing that type of issue. Be sure to use your paint manufacturer rep for added insight. For other projects, one should not be afraid to use the appropriate manufacturers and retailers as a resource.

1 For more, see “Construction Unemployment Drops to 10.8 percent.”

Colin Jaffe is the senior vice president of pro sales for Behr Process Corporation. For nearly 30 years, he has worked across many different departments as a sales service representative, operations manager, vice president of sales, and senior vice president of sales operations. Jaffe can be via BehrPro’s hotline at 877-776-3961.

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