After the sale, service can be one of your most effective lead generators and sales tools or it can be a major problem. How you handle the job — from the beginning to the end — is the key.

It starts with a clear understanding of the customer's expectations and what you're planning to deliver, and then ensuring that those two things are the same.

It proceeds from there to the salesperson writing a complete, clear agreement and work order; that work order being understood in its entirety by the installation department; then making certain that the customer receives what he was promised. After all, a well-installed job will result in fewer service issues.

WORKING TOGETHER Key to accomplishing this is interaction between the sales and service departments. Consider having the salesperson on site when the installation begins to ensure that there is no misunderstanding about what the project entails.

While he's there, teach him to obtain homeowner referrals. Also consider having the installation crews give out business cards to curious neighbors, and offer a cash bonus for every job generated by their actions.

When the job is done, the salesperson can stop by to make sure the homeowner is completely satisfied. He can then obtain more referrals or visit with the neighbors who showed interest. To motivate salespeople to do this, offer them a bonus for collecting the check and getting the completion statement signed. This will result in more satisfied customers and more self-generated leads and sales.

RATINGS This proactive approach will also help eliminate service issues due to poor installation. When the completion statement is signed, have the homeowner rate the crew on a 1-to-5 scale for specific areas of performance. If they get all 5s, they get a bonus; if they don't, then no bonus. This should result in neater, more respectful crews and better installations that minimize service calls due to installer error.

Do these things, and everyone goes home in a limousine.

—Chuck Anton is a sales and marketing consultant who specializes in the home improvement industry;