If you are trying to start or grow a true service department and are struggling, I have some tips for you. These tips are based on my experiences over the last ten years working as a trainer. I teach best practices to commercial roofing contractors who want to grow their service departments. What I’ve discovered is the successful companies have some “approaches” to their work that are common. Those that struggle are not taking the same approaches! Let me share with you two of the biggest differences.
The number one thing that has to happen for a service department to grow is this: The owner of the roofing company, “the boss”, must be actively engaged and committed to that process. The staff put in place to run and manage the service operations, the people you need to make day-to-day operations run effectively are, by disposition and skill sets, the wrong people to grow it! For instance, one of the things that really makes them effective in their roles includes: a desire and need for “routine”. Growth requires change. Change is never routine. Therefore, your staff resists growth initiatives, even when they claim they don’t. (There are other reasons, but all support my contention: The people that are well suited to running your department are not well suited to growing it). Are their exceptions? Sure. But if you are struggling to grow your department, you are not an exception! The owner must be actively engaged.
The second major thing that should happen is to understand that the service department is about “service”, doing what is best for your customers. The mindset that makes you successful at doing production work (new roofs) effectively, when applied to service work, rarely works well. Construction contracts tend to be structured in such a way that they foster adversarial relationships. You need to be able to assertively (and at times aggressively) tell a GC to “stuff it” when he asks you to do something stupid. That same approach does not work in a service department, where you must build cooperative relationships with customers. While you may understand that difference clearly enough, what we see roofing contractors actually do is to staff their service departments with people who have fair or even poor “customer service” skills. Hire for customer service skills. Teach them the roofing part. Don’t try to do it the other way around!
You address these two things and you will make quicker progress!