A few months ago Atlanta Area Window and Door Co., in Marietta, Ga., started using e-mail to confirm sales appointments. “We're finding,” owner Mark Jamerson says, “that more and more people prefer it.” Jamerson is one of a growing number of contractors who are making e-mail a primary communications tool with customers.

NO MORE NO-SHOWS Obtaining a customer's e-mail address opens the door to a world of convenient and cost-effective marketing, and helps manage customer expectations throughout the project.

Just as important, e-mail provides documentation that a phone call never could. “We say that we would like to confirm the appointment by e-mail so the customer has a record of it,” says Scott Barr, owner of Southwest Exteriors in San Antonio.

Rarely can a contractor win if a customer wants to argue about a no-show. However, using e-mail confirmation, “there's no miscommunication,” Jamerson says.

CONSTANT CONTACT At All States Windows & Siding, in Wichita, Kan., owner Cris Keeter confirms appointments with letters or phone calls but uses e-mail to stay in touch with customers between signing and job start. “We keep them informed regarding the process so they don't sign a contract and then six weeks go by and they haven't heard anything,” he says.

Even so, some contractors prefer phone confirmations because they offer one more chance to interact with the customer.

On many leads, such as those from the Internet, “we want to confirm as much information as possible,” says Steve Calopy, owner of America's Remodeler in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. “E-mail is great when you know they're interested in 10 windows.” When clients are less certain, America's Remodeler lets them know via e-mail what it will and won't do. “We want to remove the doubt on our side,” Calopy says.

A MATTER OF TRUST Homeowners are divided when it comes to yielding their e-mail address. Some are eager to supply it; others are absolutely loathe to. Keeter finds that customers who hesitate to give their e-mail address when they first call for a bid will readily provide it once they decide to buy. “I think it's a trust factor,” he says.