Heavy rains may seem like a dream come true for basement waterproofing contractors who are eager to grow. Yet veterans of this lucrative service industry say that the opportunity can soon turn into a nightmare if the crisis isn’t properly managed. Or the short-term financial gains may quickly evaporate if contractors have not used the storm to also solidify the foundation for long-term success: excellent work habits, which invariably lead to a first-rate reputation.
In September 2009, Troy Murrell of Murrell’s Waterproofing in Atlanta GA., found himself in the middle of the proverbial “500 Year Flood.” The deluge put large portions of the city – highways and neighborhoods – under water. Homeowners who in the past might have expected a few inches of water in their basements following a big rain storm now were contending with five to six feet of water.
The conditions were so dire that it looked as though the region had been hit by a hurricane. Yet the real problem, according to meteorologists interviewed by CNN, was the persistence of the downpour. Steady rains over weeks and then months created a dilemma of Biblical proportions – and an ongoing management challenge for basement waterproofing contractors.
“We couldn’t answer the phones. The lines locked down with people calling. The busy signal was constant. You can’t do business that way,” Murrell says.
Murrell had a complex problem to solve. He needed to help as many residents as possible without capsizing his business by making promises he couldn’t keep. In the end, the waterproofing company took unusual steps to survive. The logic was simple but powerful: “Some may see this as an opportunity to make a lot of money. But we see it as a way to build a solid reputation and work habits. You can’t change who you are just because it rains hard.”
Improve Phone Service
When the staff could no longer handle the volume of incoming calls, Murrell Waterproofing hired an answering service that added another 13 operators. When this proved insufficient, the Atlanta firm quickly upgraded to a company that provided 30 operators.
But simply having more people answering the phone was not enough. The Murrell staff also created a list of eight to 10 questions operators could use to pre-qualify callers. This was essential because Murrell’s reputation is built on reliable service. If they didn’t first take care of existing customers, some of whom might have warranty issues, Murrell ran the risk of tarnishing long-term relationships.
“Some competitors thought we were crazy when we said let’s keep the people who brought us here happy. Why take on new customers and anger all the people we already have? But we weren’t crazy. We were consistent.”
Use Email or Social Media Alerts
Murrell’s staff didn’t ignore callers inquiring about services. They sent more than 800 e-mails to prospective clients explaining that Murrells would not take any more calls or e-mails for six months. The only exception was for callers who had been referred to Murrell by an existing customer.
That’s crazy, right? Murrells was turning its back on new money, right? Wrong. As it turned out, very few existing customers had a legitimate warranty issue. Instead, the 500 Year Flood had created new problems that demanded a broader service plan. In other words, Murrell created new revenue by servicing loyal clients who already trusted the firm to do the right thing.
During a rain storm, some basement waterproofing contractors propose the same product for every customer. It may come as no surprise that the package is expensive and extensive. An extensive repair – if absolutely necessary – is the way to go. It may save the homeowner money and headaches in years to come. But in a crisis, a one-size-fits-all strategy may prove unwieldy.
As a rule, Murrell’s Waterproofing treats the specific problem because it saves time. For example, initially installing a sump pump to remove water resulting from a rising water table or a damaged brick wall may be all that is needed. A simple remedy allows Murrell staff to move on to the next homeowner. If the pump installation turns out not to be a long-term solution, Murrell returns for a more extensive repair – hopefully after the regional crisis has waned.
“Our company is different from competitors, 95 percent of whom sell a system – no matter what. We don’t do that. I write a prescription that is specific for your job. Again, we’re not here to only make money. We want to be here the next time the sky opens and the rain falls.”