Quality Customer Service

By: Mark Clement , Contributing Writer
In: Old Houses, Home Improvement Tips

In my career as a contractor I’ve tried to live by a few mottos, one of them being “leave it better than I find it.”

I can proudly report I’ve mostly lived up to that challenge. I can also report (not proudly) that many contractors I’ve worked with (or hired as subs on my projects) don’t exactly see it the same way I do. That’s why, when I do find a good contractor, I sink my figurative teeth into them and don’t even bother with anybody else.

But when I interview them or work with new contractors I of course start with price and references or reputation, but I look beyond that whenever possible. I’m looking for what NFL commentators call “intangibles,” the qualities beyond stats that make a player stand out.

Home Improvement Intangibles

What’s a home improvement intangible? Well, if I see a customer’s newspaper on the walk up to their front door I pick it up–then don’t make a big stinkin’ show about it. A jobsite left clean and orderly at the end of every day is nice. Trash that is removed–not left for me to manage–is great.

The list is endless. But what got me started is that I got some good intangible work from my electrician last time he was wiring a job for me. He had to rough-in (i.e. run new wire to) some new lights, both on a porch and in a basement. Typically–and infuriatingly I hasten to add–he’d leave the wires capped and curled neatly in the box awaiting the final light fixture to arrive when all other work was completed. This time, he hardwired a few basket lights similar to these instead of leaving me in the dark. He also energized a few plugs so I could plug tools in instead of running cords all over the place. This saved me hours over the course of the project.

He didn’t have to and he didn’t charge me extra. But if you’re looking for service, look past price to the intangibles: they may be hard to quantify but they sure do add up.


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  1. 4 Responses  to “Quality Customer Service”

  2. Aug 29, 2011
    Great blog and post. I have started working with a new site (and local publication) that was started mainly because finding contractors with the "intangibles" is so hit or miss. I know I have more then one contractor friend that I am sorry to say I would not hire for a job at my home so I found there approach refreshing. They actually research recent customers to assess essentially is this a firm you would be comfortable recommending to friends and family. Beyond having a solid methodology for qualifying companies they also have started a nice home improvement tip section for users tips section. With locating many contractors for a job so much easier now on the web etc, providing good customer service will be vital to a companies long term success.
  3. Aug 29, 2011
    This is a great point; I have been a tile contractor in Spokane, Wa for about 15 years. I have worked with large and small contractors on residential and commercial projects. Some of the time I see workers for the larger services be very sloppy and others be very meticulous. It is difficult to say why people approach a job with a just get it done fast attitude, while others feel that if it is worth doing at all then it is worth doing right. Often times you can tell when they first walk up if they are going to be someone you can work with. All I can say is go with your first impression; it will probably be the best guide. Look for the little things and if it does not look right then act accordingly. I always look at it from the client’s perspective they are in need of some guidance and they need information to remedy their issues. If you feel pressured or the contractor is using scare words then I would call someone else. Beware of the fast talking know it all that says he can have it done today. Always get a couple of quotes and make a decision on your own and not with the pressure of quick buck artist. Please visit me at www.precisiongrout.com for any tile, grout or caulk questions and I will do my best to answer them.
  4. Aug 29, 2011
    Lisa--Many contractors would love to have you as the client! That you're even thinking quality and professional service aren't simply the cheapest available is refreshing. Thank you!
  5. Lisa Scofield
    Aug 29, 2011
    This is such a great thing to hear from the perspective of the contractor. Most believe that contractors are simply out for money--i.e. do the job at the least cost without thought to staying power. I think many homeowners would consent to higher fees if they know the job is going to be done right the first time.