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Checking in With Your Crew and Customers

Season 1: Episode 34


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In this episode, we speak to Rey Alaniz, third generation roofer and franchise owner of Eagle Eye Contracting Services, on what it takes to get repeat business from customers.

On the Yelp Blog: Hear more from Rey about how communication with both customers and his team helps his business build trust and earn more jobs.

EMILY: I’m Emily Washcovick, Yelp’s Small Business Expert. Every week I pick one review on Yelp and talk to the entrepreneur and the reviewer about the story and business lessons behind it. Lets see what’s behind this week’s review.

NIKI: We reached out to about three companies. You know, we’re coming out of the pandemic. We had already gone through some pretty serious renovations on our house that we did ourselves. We were just utterly exhausted. And we have this very unique project that we needed a professional eye on. Because we didn’t know for sure how to handle it.

I googled corbel garage repair and up came about five companies. And I reached out to a couple that had some really good reviews, one of which was Rey’s company. And, he got back to me probably within half an hour, which was pretty impressive. And so that’s where our connection started.

EMILY: That’s Niki, sharing how she first found out about Eagle Eye, a roofing and contracting business based in San Antonio, Texas. Let’s hear Niki’s review.

NIKI: So far, I’m incredibly impressed with Eagle Eye. From how quickly they replied to my voicemail, to starting the work. I had a unique job requiring repair of rotting corbels on my garage overhang. Within three hours, I had a reply and an estimator on my property. From there, the crew came out to confirm the scope of the job and demo began on the spot. Rey’s crew did amazing work throughout. They communicated often to ensure we were aligned and finished strong. They even went above and beyond to patch some of the faulty stonework to make the project look even better.

EMILY: Quick response time, good communication throughout the project, and going above and beyond to patch up faulty work. From start to finish Rey’s team created a positive experience for Niki and her husband. Let’s hear how owner Rey got into the contracting business to begin with.

REY: I’m a third generation roofer. My father was a roofer and his father was a roofer. And then I was actually going to be a respiratory therapist. And I didn’t want to have nothing to do with contracting. So I went to school and I got my degree and became a respiratory therapist. And then my dad said he was going to pass away and he wanted to show me all about the business before he passed away.

And I said, all right, I’ll go down there. I was living in California. And I said, I’ll go down there and I’ll learn. And, I liked it! And then that was it. I remember growing up, helping them, on commercial buildings and stuff like that. And that’s why I didn’t want anything to do with it. Because there’s just a lot of hard work. But then I came back and saw the other side, as far as not as an employee, but as a business, this owner side, and how to really make some good money while providing a service.

EMILY: I’ve had several interviews where entrepreneurs in a family business tell me they knew they were going to do something else entirely. And then they actually learned what the business was about and it completely changed their mind. Rey, for example, likes working with clients and providing them great customer service.

His quick response time was a determining factor in getting Niki’s business. And it’s something he prioritizes.

REY: I actually do most of the contacting myself. I try to return phone calls right away. Even though I have a busy day. I mean, right now with the whole COVID, believe it or not, we’re actually double the workload. We just can’t get to everybody. We’re actually losing business because we just can’t get to everybody fast enough.

I don’t have a secret. I wish someone had the secret, because it is hard. I mean, it’s extremely hard. I definitely try to get to everybody. Of course, some will slip through the cracks, unfortunately. But it is very demanding work, as far as you know, I’m a man of many hats. So I’ll answer the phone, I’ll go do the estimate and then I’m there at the job. I gotta make sure that the guys got everything that they need and make sure the customers are happy. But it’s just hard. I mean, I’m not a perfect person by far. As far as getting back to everybody, I definitely do my best.

EMILY: Juggling communications is hard! And depending on the size of your business, you may have to have an entire team that’s focused on answering calls, responding to emails, and engaging customers through social media. But regardless of if you have a hired call center, or still manage customer inquiries on your own mobile device, prioritizing customer happiness will get you far. For Rey, that’s his entire business model.

REY: Well, it’s really important. I mean, I’ve got to make sure that they’re happy. You know, I definitely want a happy customer because I believe that having a customer happy, they’re going to call me again to do more work. So definitely, if they want to. Hey Rey, I want to get to this part of the project, and then I’ll take over from there, I mean, we’ve got no problem. I priced it out where it’s a fair price for everybody and everybody’s happy at the end of the day. But yeah, I mean, as far as trying to satisfy a customer, I do 99% of the time. I don’t ask for any money up front. Actually I have customers that have put on my reviews that they’re hunting me to pay me because I didn’t even get to them to go pick up the check. I am just so busy where I don’t even pick up money two or three weeks down the road. That’s how busy I get, but I definitely want a happy customer, because I definitely want to get paid as well. But yeah, definitely customer service I try to give and make sure my employees do the same.

I’ll tell them make sure before you get too far, make sure you go over there, and ask them if they want to double check your work. And they’re happy with that before we get too deep into the project and it works out great that way.

NIKI: His crew was fantastic. They were very easy to communicate with when they were here, but it was nice to always have that direct line with him as far as, you know, they’re trying out this and they would get to a point even, and they would tell us, the boss wanted us to talk to you when we got to this point to see, is this what you like before we move forward? So even the crew would come and check in with me in person, knock on my door to see if I liked where they were before they went to the next step and to the next step. So that was impressive. And then every time one of those steps was completed, Rey would come by and check the work himself.

EMILY: Having open communication with the customer, especially in a service based business, is a great way to ensure their expectations are being met and they’re satisfied with the work or service. It helps avoid frustration and unhappiness with the outcome, if the customer is brought into the process along the way.

Similarly Rey finds it helpful to check in frequently with his crew members.

REY: Well, I call in. Believe it or not, I call every crew and I bug him. They hate me bugging them. But yeah, I call them, make sure, “Hey, did you talk to so-and-so?” And they’ll tell me yes or no.

And I’ll say, “Okay well then it’s time for you to go talk.” And that’s how I keep on them. I never let go on the gas. I wake up five in the morning and I’m calling everybody by six where y’all at? Waking everybody up.

So they can’t get enough of me, all day. It’s just communication with everybody. Everybody gets a phone call. Everybody lets me know how it’s going, you know? And, it helps me out as far as, you know, they need materials. I make sure that I get that delivered. Or if there’s an issue with a customer, I go show up personally and try to square things away.

EMILY: Rey runs a successful business, but he’s still always looking for ways to improve and better himself through education.

REY: Well, I’ve always told my mom that I definitely want to learn, you know, be a great salesman. That was always my key. I’m far from it, but I feel that I’ve always had that thing that I want to improve.

I’m always taking classes. I’m always watching videos, anything that helps me be a better business person. Reading books or listening to audio, any self-improvement, things that I can get on when I’m on the road. I listened to that all the time, you know? And I think that’s what helps me out a lot, as far as just listening to different audio and seeing both sides of the spectrum as far as what customers expect. And then of course, you know how to deliver that service to be a better business.

I definitely want to grow the business.

EMILY: Rey’s commitment to educating himself also benefits his customers and the community. He shares that knowledge and expertise because he knows that things like high quality craftsmanship matter when you’re in the contracting business. And consumers don’t always know how to go about finding or hiring a reputable contractor.

REY: For me to provide something different to the customer, I go after that education. I’ve come out on the TV talk shows in the morning, I’ve done those interviews. Make sure that they’re licensed, that they’re bonded for the project, and that they got insurance. Make sure that they’re part of the BBB. So you can try to track them down and make sure they have a web presence. So you can find them, look at the reviews to see if they’re good or bad, you can make a choice off of that. The basic stuff people should know.

EMILY: All of these factors have resulted in Rey getting a lot of callbacks…or repeat business. Many entrepreneurs consider repeat business the best business. Depending on your industry you probably have return customers at varying frequencies. For a nail salon, maybe every 2-4 weeks. For a hair salon, every few months. For Rey, it’s all about making customers happy, so they think of his team for other jobs.

REY: Yeah, I mean, we definitely want to give great work to the customer in hopes that they do call us back.

We do great work. I don’t believe in doing bad work. I’ve seen other contractors do bad work. And I always say, why do the bad work instead of doing something good so they can call you back. I have just been lucky. I could just say that everybody’s happy with the work and I always get called back.

Believe it or not this year, about half of the work is nothing but callbacks and I don’t have to do very much, paying for leads or anything. It’s crazy. You know, come when it slows down, like in the winter time, most of my calls are callbacks, saying “Rey hey, we’ve got another project for you.” This week I probably had four callbacks that they want additional work done to their house, but I can’t get to them. I tell her, I can’t get to you til a month from now. I’m swamped.

EMILY: To Rey it was important to have a foundation of education and certification for his trade. For Niki, that mattered! And she also pointed out how tricky it can be for homeowners.

NIKI: I understand the hard position that homeowners are in. You know, same with a car owner trying to find a trustworthy mechanic. It’s almost just as difficult to find a trustworthy carpenter, contractor, roofer, plumber, or whatever it may be. But you know, the honesty and integrity that I mentioned earlier, the energy of a situation means a lot to me. And the interaction from the very start with Rey was just so positive and the honesty of yeah, we know we don’t really want to do that because that’s not our specialty, you know? No, no, no. Don’t pay us yet because we want to make sure you’re happy. There was just a very different and honest approach that is very hard to come by in humanity, much less with a contractor. So just kudos to him and the integrity he has behind his company. It’s pretty impeccable.

EMILY: Niki cares about supporting local business and she also cares about sharing those experiences online. Here’s Niki sharing a bit on what motivates her to review.

NIKI: So for me, it really is a lot about just the energy of an interaction and it can be the lack of energy, you know? It could be a super positive energy like it was with Rey’s company or it could be something super negative. And it’s usually that something stands out. Either I read reviews and they’re really high and I don’t agree or they’re really low and I just don’t agree. That’s a big motivating factor. Whenever I do my reviews, I would say about 30- 40% are me saying, I don’t understand why everybody’s so upset at this place, it’s amazing! Or whatever it may be. So it really is just the energy of an experience, whether it’s physical presence being there, or conversation, or response time—it could be any combination of things that motivate me.

And I just felt like with this company in particular, he didn’t have a Yelp presence. He was there, but he had no reviews. And I was like, well, that’s not good. Like, I look at Yelp first all the time, so I wanted to get them off to a positive start and hopefully launch him in the direction of his other review sources as well; that were all five stars.

EMILY: For Rey, reviews can be complicated.

REY: The reviews. I actually hated reviews you know. I didn’t want my business to be known because I didn’t want anybody to leave me a bad review, because I don’t feel that it’s fair.

So the thing is that’s where it comes down to reviews. So if I get into a person like that, that’s in the wrong, you know, they can leave me a bad review. And people will believe that and not know my side of the story and don’t really care because they automatically take the side of the customer.  And I don’t believe that’s right. That’s why I don’t really like reviews and in my sense they’re really hard to get.

EMILY: Rey’s feelings about reviews are so honest. And I’m sure a lot of you can relate! It’s really tough to get reviews, because as humans, most of us don’t have it in our nature to write online reviews for all the businesses we patronize. But there are those customers like Niki. So you want to make sure you’re always creating a memorable experience, worth reviewing!

Rey also mentioned wishing consumers could hear his side, and in a way they can. On Yelp, business owners can respond to reviews both publicly and privately. Though I will say, you often don’t want to use review responses to get into a back and forth dialogue with the reviewer. You want to use it as a way to address their review and maybe one or two concerns they mentioned. Then take that conversation offline and offer a way for them to get in touch or outline what you did to remedy the situation.

To close us out I wanted Rey to share some wisdom his dad imposed on him from a young age.

REY: One thing my dad always told me, he’d say “Don’t do nobody wrong. You don’t want to be going to the mall and then ducking your head and then hiding from people, you know?”

And when I go into the mall, man I’ve never had to hide from anybody. I made sure everybody was taken care of and made sure everybody was happy with the project or the experience.

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