Some people celebrate an anniversary with roses and champagne. Tri-State Home Improvement, in Branford, Conn., celebrates with an inspection. On the fifth anniversary of job completion, the home improvement contractor gives every past customer a free once-over, with the promise that Tri-State will fix any problem.

Five More Years Tri-State began the five-year inspection program last summer, and owner Brad Pompilli is confident the effort will result in repeat business. “It makes people more comfortable and separates us from the typical home improvement guy,” he says. In addition, “it helps the salespeople.”

The inspection plays a key role in the sales presentation, which touts Tri-State's professionalism and reliability. “People shouldn't be scared of the outcome,” Pompilli explains. He adds that taking away the fear that the work won't hold up over time makes a sale more likely.

The promise of a five-year inspection, though, is more than just a talking point. Customers get a certificate, embossed in gold and printed on heavy paper stock. It comes with a package of information, including guarantees, contact information, references, and certification of insurance. The idea helps sell the company, even before salespeople discuss product information.

White Glove Treatment Tri-State already offers an unofficial one-year inspection. A tickler file generates cards that are sent out a year after a job, thanking customers for their business and reminding them of the company's work in siding, windows, trim, gutter caps, and — soon to be added — sunrooms. “Some of the smarter salespeople follow up by going out to visit,” Pompilli says. The closing rate on leads generated from such appointments is double that for cold call leads. If the one-year inspection uncovers anything wrong related to workmanship or installation, Tri-State fixes it for free.

“By doing that, we have the happiest customers in the world,” Pompilli says. “They don't expect us to fix the problem, so they tell their friends.”

Salespeople, equipped with a checklist, will also perform the five-year inspections. In addition, they're instructed to ask for referrals and other home improvements the homeowner might be interested in. Coming back for the periodic inspections reminds customers of the company, Pompilli says. “We don't want them to forget how good we are.”