The roofer's cup runneth over (or maybe he just lost my number)

No offense to the hardworking roofers out there, but most of us don't expect a lot from you. All I really need is a little honesty, some decent craftsmanship, and I'd appreciate it if you showed up within that four-hour window we talked about. Plumbers, electricians, painters, and all manner of handymen should be in this conversation too. You all provide a valuable service, work hard for your money, and do things that I can't do for myself. At the same time, some of you are sure making it hard to do business together.

How hard is it to get a quote?!
I thought I had struck the motherload when I started searching for someone to put a new roof on my home. A cool website called Improvenet had project estimators and a simple form you could fill out to get quotes. A roofer literally called me to set an appointment within one minute of hitting the "submit" button, so I was pretty psyched.

Over the next day or so, I tracked down several different companies who were willing to come out and give me a quote. I booked their visits into my calendar so I could spend a few minutes with each person and waited for the quotes to come pooring in... Four weeks later, and I finallly have someone scheduled. Well, almost. At this point, I could probably start my own roofing company (that is, if I actually knew how to roof).

Roofer 'A'
The guy who called me immediately was first on the scene. Let's call him Roofer 'A'. When I answered the door, he handed me an envelope and said, "Everything is in here. I've been doing this for 30 years, and I think you'll find we're competitive." I followed him outside and he looked up at the roof and said, "Yeah, your ridgeline is going. It will be about $7400 to replace the roof." He started heading back to his car as I followed him trying to ask questions. "It's all in the envelope," he said.

Roofer 'B'
The next guy, Roofer 'B', sent a guy named John to do the estimate. Compared to Roofer 'A', I was really impressed with John. He got up on the roof and immediately told me I only needed to do some repairs, but didn't need a new roof. John took the time to show me the problem areas and answered my questions patiently. By the time he left, I was hoping the quote from Roofer 'B' was at least competitive. Unfortunately, 10 days and a couple messages went by before I heard back from Roofer 'B'. When he did call and leave a message, he still didn't provide a quote, "Just checking in - are you still in the market?" It took a little more back and forth before I finally got a quote, more than two weeks after the visit. The quote was only $1,650 and not very thorough, so something told me I'd be in for many unpleasant surprises if I hired Roofer 'B'.

Roofer 'C'
John from Roofer 'B' was finishing up right about the time Roofer 'C' was due to come by. I went back into the house and picked up my voice mail. One message was from Roofer 'C' saying he had come by earlier that day. I was a little bummed because I wanted to meet him in person, but it wasn't the end of the world. His quote was. Roofer 'C' proposed a complete tear-down with all sorts of extras, coming in at a whopping $8900! I traded voice messages with Roofer 'C' for a few days before getting him on the phone. "Why did you propose a complete new roof while another roofer said I just needed a few repairs?" After a bit of fumbling, Roofer 'C' said I would need a new roof in 4 to 6 years, so I might as well replace it now. We discussed it a bit more before Roofer 'C' relented and agreed to furnish a quote for just the work I needed. The quote was $3,900.

Roofer 'D'
Roofer 'D' was a referal from a friend. He was pleasant and professional on the phone, but he didn't send his estimator over as promised. Fortunately, I hadn't planned to meet this guy, so it didn't interrupt my day, but I was still disappointed. I called the guy back the next day and this time he sent out Pedro within a few hours. Like John from Roofer 'B', Pedro was friendly, patient, and professional. He agreed with John's assessment that I just needed some repairs, but not a new roof. I was hoping not to repeat the delays I experienced with Roofer 'B', so I called Roofer 'D' a few days after Pedro's visit to ask for the quote. I finally got it a day or so later and even received a prompt call back when I had a question. This quote was for $3,850.

Decisions, Decisions
The roof isn't done yet, but I have told Roofer 'D' I'd like to go with him. We spoke this morning and he told me he had a full week ahead, but would call me this afternoon to schedule the job. "It's not an emergency," I said. "Just call me when you say you're going to call me and let's get this on the calendar and I'll be happy." Roofer 'D' said he could do that, so I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt.

Lessons Learned
There are many businesses out there where we don't expect much in the way of service. If you work in one of those businesses, you can really stand out by simply being responsive and keeping your promises. If you can't serve your customers at a basic level, you just may be missing out on a lot of easy sales! (Yes, Roofer 'B', I'm talking to you!)