When the phone rings at Home Town Restyling, in Hiawatha, Iowa, and it's a customer on the line with a question or complaint about a product, the company's full-time service manager takes the call. "We did $6 million last year and we've been in business for 24 years, so he never runs out of work," owner Wayne Winn says.

The company generally services its own jobs, but Home Town Restyling will also send a technician out to look at problems involving windows, siding, or sunrooms installed by other companies, some of which are no longer in business.

About 85% of service calls fielded at All County Exteriors, in New Jersey, involve work done by other companies. Vice president of operations Ross Marzarella says that's because the company lists "repairs" among the services it offers. Repair calls make the company first on the list for homeowners seeking bigger jobs, such as a re-roof.

Weather or Not

Service calls, owners say, often come with the weather. Three feet of wet snow in December brought a flurry of calls to Schmidt Siding & Window Co., in Mankato, Minn. Most were about ice damming over gutter protection systems the company had installed, and most were handled over the phone, with the company's representative explaining that a gutter protection system neither aggravates nor alleviates an ice dam problem, which is triggered by lack of attic ventilation or insulation. If Schmidt Siding does send someone out, it rarely charges for the visit.

Big State Remodeling, in Amarillo, Texas, gets calls every time a high wind blows up dust on the Texas Panhandle. Dust finds its way inside ? owners blame windows ? or some part of the roofing or siding tears away. Sometimes clients are more than 100 miles away, co-owner Tim Reid explains, "so we try to make it feasible with gas," and send someone out within a week to 10 days. Big State charges for calls not covered by the company's one-year labor warranty. So does Home Town Restyling. So does All County Exteriors, which operates its service department as a small-jobs profit center.

Selling Point

Prompt attention to the call, and/or a visit, when warranted, give companies something else to talk about when selling.

Winn says that last year his company began following up every service call with a phone call to owners asking whether they were satisfied with the way Home Town Restyling had handled their problem. The company also requires sales reps to hand-deliver warranties to customers. He credits those two changes with a 70% increase in paid referrals for 2009. Winn says that service costs at Home Town Restyling total about 2% of revenue. "We'd like to nudge it down, but I don't think that's possible. Service costs are marketing costs."