I have had a terrible time getting my brand new roof to not leak. Almost two years ago we had a new roof put on, which was guaranteed for materials and labor for 15 years. Three months after the roof was finished I was walking down the hallway on the third floor to the master bedroom and got wet; the roofer had shredded the plywood while installing the new sheeting and shingles. Even though they were authorized to replace the plywood, they didn’t.


I gave them a call as the water came into the third floor hallway. This was Thursday afternoon in the midst of a heavy summer rainstorm. “We can come by next Tuesday sometime in the afternoon.” Was the response from the contractor. My response: “No you will have someone here in the next couple of hours or the damage will be severe.” Their comment? “Well you know we make good on all repairs that result from problems.” Now of course I couldn’t see the guy on the other end of the call but I did pull the phone back and look at it like I couldn’t believe he had just said that! I didn’t want to have to have the attic dried out, insulation replaced, ceiling re-plastered, carpet dried out and/or replaced … you get the picture. I was convinced they didn’t.


To say I was insistent that someone come immediately and that I “won” is to put it mildly. The contractor sent someone, who went into the attic to check the roof … and found that the plywood resembled a piece of shredded wheat cereal that has soaked in the milk for too long. He placed plastic throughout the attic and over the access panel, then promised to return in a week or so to fix it. “They stand behind their work. Customer service and the customer satisfaction is the most important thing they do.”


A week goes by and they came and ended up redoing a third of the roof, removing the shingles, and sheeting, flashing around skylights and replacing the plywood base. You think all would be good. New roof, repaired and replaced and so no leaks, right?


Unfortunately no. Next came the leaks around the chimney and on the cathedral ceiling. Another call. Another statement that we “stand behind our work” and “the owner’s number one priority is customer satisfaction.”


They were here again last week. Four different representatives of the contractor and subcontractor said “It can’t possibly be leaking from our work. We only found one little place where the shingles, sheeting, and flashing weren’t covering the plywood. It couldn’t possibly be the leak unless it was raining heavily and the wind was blowing.” Sounds just like a heavy rainstorm … which we have had a number of times.


They gave me the same rhetoric again: “We are committed to making it right. The owner’s number one priority is customer satisfaction. We’ll keep coming back until we get it fixed. Then once we get it to stop leaking—whatever that takes—we’ll send someone to put Kilz on the stains … and we will fix the dry wall … and touch up the paint … and, and, and we are committed to your satisfaction. Just last week we were at this other client house and he wanted us to fix this wall that we didn’t even do any work on or touch … and he is convinced that one of the contractors did X to it, and even though we didn’t do anything to the wall we are committed to customer satisfaction and we are going to fix that wall. We don’t have to, but he thinks we did the damage, so we are going to fix it. We’ve been back there like three times or more and we will keep going back until he is happy. We are committed to making the customer happy and we will keep coming back until we get this fixed…”


How about fixing it right the FIRST time? Or if something happens, as we all make mistakes, fixing it right the second time? So far this contractor has been back seven times to deal with the new roof. The company has been fortunate that I am not a litigious person. But the crew will keep coming back until it is fixed to my satisfaction – which means REALLY fixed: no leaks, no stains, no miss matched paint, no damaged wallboard.


When I can look at my ceiling once again because I am relaxing on my sofa reading a good book in front of the fireplace, and not monitoring the spread of the leak that reminds me of an ink blot test then I will be convinced that they are committed to customer satisfaction. It takes action and results – not words repeated like a liturgy.


Methinks that words are cheap … and actions speak louder than words. Remember this when you are working with your customers.


Author: Lea A. Strickland, MBA CMA CFM CBM GMC

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