Track Callbacks to Improve Your Business

You have probably gotten that telephone call. You know the one — the call from a customer complaining, sometimes rudely, about some part of the job that requires additional effort to correct a mistake or to complete something that was never finished.

Your ability to properly handle callbacks and make good on unfinished business will positively impact your reputation and relationships with clients. Your ability to track and measure your callbacks will allow you to better identify why they happen and hopefully reduce their frequency in the future.

How to track callbacks

Keep a running history of callbacks so you can track frequency over time. An increased frequency over the course of a few weeks or months can indicate that you have problems in completing work right the first time.

Separate from your callbacks history, you should also track callbacks on a Customer Callback sheet that includes the sections described below.

Date/time callback first received. The actual calendar date and the time of day in which the callback was received can help you to more quickly assess when the work was performed and by what crew of workers. If you have repeat business with customers the time it takes for them to call you back to a job can tell you how demanding and particular the customer is. Depending on your specialty of work, the length of time between the completion of the job and the callback could impact what action you take to make the needed improvement.

Reason for callback. The reason for callbacks should be correctly captured. If your company is showing a trend of returning to customers for the same reasons then you must address those reasons quickly and appropriately. Tracking the callback reasons provides you with a way in which to monitor how effective and detailed your crew leadership is performing, or how educated or skilled your workers are.

Response time. Most customers want mistakes corrected quickly. By recording the time it takes for your company to respond to the callback, you can begin to understand the state of “readiness” your crews are in. True, while some callbacks may take longer to respond to because of the complexity of the work involved, you should strive to have work crews primed and prepared for periodic change of schedule. (Obviously, your goal should be to eliminate all customer callbacks because of performing quality work the first time. History teaches us however that callbacks are part of most contractors’ life. Therefore, measuring the response time to fulfill a customer’s callback can educate your workers to the need of performing near flawless work the first time.)

Time to complete actual work on callback. Time is money! Therefore, you should measure the time spent performing the customer callback, as this too will provide some information as to the speed in which your workers can work. It is not uncommon to have the workers who originally performed work for a customer to be less than enthusiastic about returning to fix something that they should have completed right first time. The total time to complete the callback can be used with the costs arrived at with the next component to show a ratio of dollars to hours. Consider the following example:

If a callback incurred a total cost of $1,200, taking three hours to complete the callback, you could show the per hour expense of $400 per hour as a cost. If you have determined that you need to make approximately $500-$1,000 an hour to be profitable, a cost of $400 per hour will set you back.

Your employees need to realize this as well as understand that in most situations, customer callbacks, because of our inefficiencies or quality problems, is our cost. If you do not get paid for performing callbacks, you need to make sure your employees understand this.

Labor, materials, equipment, etc. costs to complete callback. You should be keeping these costs anyway but some contracts will often forget to keep the same costs for callbacks. Do not be lazy about keeping accurate costs associated with customer callbacks. Without knowing what such callbacks are costing you in dollars and time, you may be letting profits go right down the toilet.

Customer callbacks are not new for most contractors, but keeping accurate accounting on callbacks might be. If this kind of tracking is new to you, develop your own Customer Callback Cost Sheet and make the accurate completion of this form mandatory. The information recorded here can in time provide you with greater clarity as to where your problems are, what methods and processes need to be improved, and whether you have the right people to make such improvements.

Brad Humphrey is president of Pinnacle Development Group, a management/consulting company committed to the construction industry. Visit Brad’s firm at www.pinnacledg.com.

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