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Is The Customer Always Right?

Of course! (and pretty much never)

Nahanni July18 1

It’s always wise to make your metal fabrication product more appealing to the customer, right? But, as we've created metal roofing products, we've learned some important lessons along the way. And we discovered that what best serves the customer is not always what they ask for.

Roofing consumers make their purchase decisions with the installer, not the manufacturer. So our company has two customers to keep happy. Our business-to-consumer website explains the benefits of our brand. But the roofing company interacts with the customer directly, so their guidance affects the decision tremendously.

Customer Needs

The needs of the customer are clear: they want a product that looks great and lasts nearly forever. But any well-made metal roofing shingle should be able to do that. So we turned our attention to another stakeholder: the installer. We brought in the roofers. Not just the company owners, but the Installers who climb the ladders. What’s the biggest complaint about this metal product or that one?

Extra parts, tabs that snap off, two-piece trim. These small things that the end-customer never knew about could slow down a job and over-complicate the installation process.

But who cares, right? The roofer is inconvenienced but the customer is just as happy. But this is the real world. Every extra challenge for the installer is an opportunity for human error. Slow down the process and they’ll cut corners to speed it up. Remember, these guys are paid by the job, not by the hour.

So we created our panels from a heavier gauge of steel. Stronger material means longer life and less bending over time from sun and wind exposure. Higher tolerances mean they fit together more easily. We integrated the tabs to save the installer having to keep track of loose tabs, and to prevent them from skipping one or two in the interest of time.

Long story short, make every major decision (except color) with the installer in mind. Making it easier for the roofer put us miles ahead of our competition, who focused solely on the homeowner. Here’s the interesting part: return visits dropped like a stone. When you install it perfectly the first time, there’s no need to go back. And isn’t that what the customer actually wants in the first place? Happy accident.

Creating a panel specifically to appeal to the installer means it goes up faster. This saves them money which helps the bottom line. And there’s no need to discount because a faster, perfect installation is good for the customer too. If anything, it justifies a higher price.

Our research uncovered that virtually every example of a metal roof being replaced under warranty could be traced back to a mistake or cut corner on installation day. By focusing our attention not on the consumer, but on the installer means that our customer wins now, and over time. Because once it’s up, and installed correctly, we know it’ll last for 50 years.

So it turns out the customer isn’t always right. But when you make the right decisions, they still win in the end. Of course the customer needs to be satisfied. But extra steps for the technician in the field ultimately hurt the customer, even if he or she never knows it.

This never enters into our marketing to consumers, of course. But we hope our colleagues in the industry can benefit from the lessons we learned in our journey to creating an effective metal roofing solution.

Matthew Burns is the marketing director for Brampton, Ontario, Canada-based Nahanni Steel Products Inc., manufacturer of Armadura Metal Roofs. To learn more, call (647) 991-5681 or e-mail m.burns@nahannisteel.com.