Ever since he opened the doors at Bee Windows in Indianapolis 23 years ago, co-owner George Faerber has put his home phone number on every single contract. Faerber knows that other home improvement company owners probably think he's crazy, but the practice has paid off in several ways, he says.

First, it assures good customer service. “I'm working on what for most people is their largest investment — their home,” Faerber says. “The customer needs to be able to contact the person who owns the business.” Customers don't abuse the privilege of calling the owner by flooding Faerber with calls about every little thing that goes wrong on a job. In fact, he figures he takes between one and three calls a week.

Insider Info In addition, the calls give Faerber a good read on what's important to customers and what kind of problems the company must deal with. “I get it straight from the horse's mouth,” he jokes.

Faerber, whose operation consists of three separate companies, including a Renewal by Andersen franchise, says the calls he takes at home tend to concern communication issues rather than product quality. He points out that it's easy for a contractor to forget how much the customer needs to know about the procedure of installing windows, siding, or a sun-room. “Sometimes we take the process for granted,” Faerber says. “We do so many jobs, but it's the first time for them.” Thus, he's learned how important it is to spell out timelines and to make clear who is the point person for questions at any given time in selling, installing, or servicing.

Long-Term Care The majority of Faerber's callers apologize for phoning the owner at home and are grateful that they're able to talk to him directly at all. “Most people just want you to deliver on what you said you would do,” Faerber says. “Why wouldn't you want to use every means available to do that?”

Granted, some callers are angry. “But there is never anything negative that comes out of talking to a customer,” Faerber points out. If someone at Bee has dropped the ball, Faerber tells callers, “I would feel exactly as you do.” He's also careful to make sure the problem is solved. “If you follow up and earn their trust, they'll buy from you for the rest of their lives.”