If You Don’t Get Them on the Phone You Don’t Want Them

By Tom Grandy

If you have read my articles over the past 30+ years, you know I like to use real life situations whenever possible.  Theory is one thing but actual experience often presents a totally different perspective.

Several months back, my father-in-law died while living in an assisted living facility in North Carolina at the age of 94.  He left his small home to one of his daughters who lives in Washington state.  After the memorial service, several of the children began cleaning out, his small two-bedroom home.  Bear in mind, the home had not been lived in for over two years, with the water and gas turned off.  When the mold was taken care of, electrical repairs completed, new toilets were installed and the hot water heater was replaced, it was about time for the Washington state daughter to return home.  However, during the repair process it was noted the original roof (the house was built in 1991) had a couple leaks. 

To add to the sense of urgency, there was a major hurricane predicted to move up the coast from Florida, a week or so later.  It may or may not have hit North Carolina.  No one knew for sure at the time nor did anyone know the amount of rain that might or might not come with it.  It was time for the Washington daughter to return home but the house needed a new roof as soon as possible.

The next phase involved her sister that lived very close to her dad’s home.  She was asked by the Washington sister to secure a minimum of two bids for the roof replacement as soon as possible.

It was a holiday weekend but the North Carolina sister called several contractors anyway.  She really did not expect a response on the holiday weekend but decided to leave messages in order to be near the top of the callback list the first day back in the office.  To her great surprise, one of the contractors answered the phone.  He explained that he was out of town for the holiday but would call back at 8:00 AM the first day back in the office.

The holiday ended and sure enough he called right at 8:00 AM as promised.  An appointment was set and he came out that day.  At this point, none of the other contractors had responded to her messages.  The responding contractor accessed the situation and promised to call the Washington sister at 9:00 AM, West Coast time, the next day with details and costs.  The Washington daughter checked out the references of the contractor prior to his scheduled call.  He had an outstanding reputation and had done work for a couple of the North Carolina sister’s friends, all of whom were really pleased with his work.

Guess what?  At 9:00 AM West Coast time he called!  He provided all the details, sent pictures of different color roofs and gave her a very reasonable price.  However, being a wise customer, she still wanted a second bid.  However, none of the other contractors had yet responded and the hurricane was getting closer.  Another day went by with no additional calls being received.

After talking with friends and family she decided to go forward, without a second bid, with the responding contractor by sending overnight a check for 50% of the job.

Now for the “Dah” question.  Why did she select the contractor that responded?  In addition to responding in a timely manner, he explained what he would do and when.  It’s called honesty and integrity, which is often lacking within the trades industry.  Even if another contractor had eventually called (no one EVER did, days and weeks later) the responding contractor would have gotten the job.  Could she trust another contractor to do the work when it took days or weeks to respond?  As the title of the article says, “If you can’t get them on the phone, you don’t want them”!

For the past 33 years I have consistently told contractors it only takes three things to be very successful.

1.    Do quality work

2.    Do what you said you would do

3.    Do it WHEN you said you would do it (show up on time)

The above is still true but there is one more thing, that should not have to be mentioned.  Answer your phone and respond to messages!

In today’s world there is no reason not to answer your phone.  You can transfer the office phone to your cell phone, utilize a live answering service or at least have an answering machine in your office.  When the call is received, in whatever format, respond.  It would “seem” to be common sense.  However, as one of the staff members told me at the assisted living facility where my father-in-law was “Common sense isn’t so common anymore.”

Communication is a key element when it comes to building a successful business.  It is a direct reflection to the customer, of the quality of work they might expect.  Good communication is also a sign of respect and it should be just good old common sense.

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