It Shouldn't Be The Exception

I think that all businesses, whether they be home repair, screw machine shops, banks, you name it, need to know that exceeding customer expectations is the key to success. If you promise a delivery, meet it. If you say you can do a job, do it. These simple things should be the rule and not the exception.

Recently we had some major work done on our home—well, major by my standards anyway. My family and I live in a 50-something-year-old, two-story brick on block house that, while very well built, needed some fixing up.

The job was replacing the roof. The roof was already pretty tired and weak, partly due to the ravages of time and partly due to some amazingly destructive raccoons. Heavy rainstorms pushed the issue when the first drips of water violated the ceiling of my upstairs bathroom.

I patched and pitched to the best of my ability, trying to postpone the inevitable. In spite of my efforts, a 2-foot diameter section of plaster and insulation gave way under the erosive effects of the dripping, revealing an unprecedented view of the house's rafters.

Needless to say this unintended skylight got the attention of my wife. Even though she took it well, and has been very tolerant of the black plastic and duct tape cover I cobbled up to close the hole, it was made clear that action on the roof was no longer among our future plans.

Thankfully, my wife has become quite skilled at finding good people to come in and fix things. So once again, she got the phone duty to call roofers for estimates on our house. I tend to be at least a bit cynical and certainly suspicious of the home repair trades. It's their general image of unreliability fostered by all the horror stories friends have passed on that makes me nervous about dealing with such folks. It's an image problem that seems to be fairly universal.

Soon, the interviews for a roofer began. For several evenings we talked roofs with experts. We decided to go with a small, family owned company called Trusty. My biases were roused as I pondered the irony of the company's name.

Our young, articulate salesperson, son of the owner, told us it would go like this: materials would be delivered 2 weeks from the contract date. The next day, weather permitting (I cynically thought, a ha! there's an out), a crew of 15 would descend on the house and complete the job that day.

"What about down payment," I asked, expecting 20 percent should postpone the job until winter at least. To my surprise, there was no down payment requirement. My young salesperson said, "you pay nothing until the job is done and you're happy with the work." At this point I'm pinching myself to confirm consciousness.

Sure enough, 2 weeks to the day, a pallet of shingles was dropped on my driveway. I checked the weather forecast, which called for warm and sunny the next day. Still a disbeliever, I prepared for confirmation of my doubts. Next day, I came home for lunch and as I suspected, there were no 15 workers descending on my roof. No one had shown up.

I went back to the office, smug in the knowledge that once again, the construction trades had confirmed my negative opinion. Later that afternoon, I went home at the end of work and pulled up to my house to see what I can best describe as ants swarming over an anthill. There were roofers all over the place.

I asked the lead man what time they had arrived and he told me about 1:30 p.m. It was then about 5 p.m., and shingling was almost finished.

The crow I dined on that night had a dual taste of happiness that I had a much needed new roof and embarrassment that I had been so jaded and narrow as to paint an entire business with such a broad and prejudiced brush. I happily wrote the check to Trusty and reflected that the name was, indeed, reflective of my experience.

I think that all businesses, whether they be home repair, screw machine shops, banks, you name it, need to know that exceeding customer expectations is the key to success. If you promise a delivery, meet it. If you say you can do a job, do it. These simple things should be the rule and not the exception.