With comprehensive support from bothBuilding Operating Management (BOM)as well as Roofing Contractor, a survey was sent to over 1,500 professionals responsible for commercial properties. These professionals were asked about their experiences and satisfaction with roofing contractors, consultants and manufacturers and what was important to them in their choices.

Spend just an hour traveling in the roofing industry and it’s apparent that there are increasing demands and requirements by professionals responsible for making roofing decisions. It sometimes feels like contractors, consultants and manufacturers of roofing products and services are never fast enough, good enough or cheap enough. I wondered about the reality: How satisfied are these property managers with our industry?

With comprehensive support from both Building Operating Management (BOM) as well as Roofing Contractor, a survey was sent to over 1,500 professionals responsible for commercial properties. These professionals were asked about their experiences and satisfaction with roofing contractors, consultants and manufacturers and what was important to them in their choices.

The survey results confirmed that professionals responsible for commercial properties are demanding a lot. They want service at warp speed. They want solutions that are value engineered. They want assurances of quality and safety initiatives. They want to understand what they’re buying — and why.

Contractor Perspective: Why Should I Care About This Survey?

I believe the simple answer to why you should care is this: The more you understand what your clients are looking for, the better equipped you are to differentiate yourself from the competition. As a result, you’ll likely have greater success.

I’ve met lots of professional property owners and managers. They’re stressed. They’re often skeptical about our industry and confused about their roofing options. Sometimes roofing seems easy, and other times it appears so complicated. As a result, commercial property decision-makers focus on a simple question: “Whom do I trust?”

The insights generated from this market research provide knowledge that can help the professional contractor earn greater trust. How? When you share your understanding of and insights into your clients’ stress, areas of dissatisfaction and expectations, you’re more likely to earn their respect.

Survey Demonstrates that Property Managers are Stretched

Most professionals make roofing decisions on 10 properties with about 600,000 square feet. However, one in seven is responsible for over 50 properties and more than four in 10 are responsible for over 1 million square feet.

It’s no wonder they’re demanding. Imagine having that kind of responsibility. When things go wrong, I’m sure they hear about it! When things go right, people assume they’re just doing their job. There are lots of incentives to make sure things don’t go wrong.

And things do go wrong! For example, budgeting is difficult. These commercial property professionals said that of their total budget, 26 percent was for unplanned repairs. Further, they invest 8 percent of their funds for roofing consultants, which is over 25 percent of the total invested in roof replacements.

They know roofing decisions are important too. More than eight in 10 professionals claim, “When leaks occur, it can significantly hurt employee morale and damage productivity.”

What Most Professional Managers Do and Don’t Require

Scheduled roof maintenance is recognized and utilized by most professionals (78 percent). However, approximately 25 percent utilize this service on fewer than half of their properties. Facility professionals responsible for fewer than 100,000 square feet and the retail segment are least likely to utilize scheduled roof maintenance.

Factory Mutual approval is not required by most properties (43 percent). Properties used for industrial purposes are least likely to require FM; properties used for education are the most likely.

Fire-rated roof assemblies are required for most properties (61 percent). This is especially true for facilities used in education, government and hospitality sectors. Facilities professionals with responsibilities less than 100,000 square feet are least likely to demand fire-rated assemblies.

No Dollar Limit guarantee coverage is not utilized for most properties (55 percent). Commercial and retail properties are the least likely to utilize NDL coverage; properties used for medical are most likely to demand this protection. Facilities professionals managing less than 100,000 square feet are more likely to want this added manufacturer protection.

All professionals surveyed desire energy savings. However, only 27 percent claimed that this benefit was a “must have” for their choices of roof system options. However, facilities used by the government are likely to require energy savings in their roof system assemblies. Professionals with responsibility for between 100,000 and 500,000 square feet were the most likely to have stronger interests in energy savings through their roof systems.

What Do Professional Managers Really Want from Contractors?

Price is not the most critical factor in choosing a roofing contractor. Rather, proof of quality and safety initiatives was mentioned as the most important criteria in the selection of a roofing contractor (65 percent). In fact, this result was three times greater than price. Less than half of the respondents claimed that price was important in their decisions. Timeliness and availability was the next most important criteria in the selection of contractors (45 percent).

Professionals rely on recommendations and personal experience in their contractor selections. Surprisingly, the importance of a contractor recommendation from a manufacturer assumed more credibility than either a roofing consultant or an architect but less credible than from peers. More than eight in 10 believe it is important to use contractors that they have experience with. Further, most want the contractor to provide a solution that is value engineered.

Satisfaction is Different Between Services of Contractors vs. Consultants

Overall, most property professionals are satisfied with the overall value and the response time they receive from contractors. The perception of receiving great value from contractors was 13 percent more likely than vs. roof consultants; further, contractors were 15 percent more likely to receive positive perceptions for response time. Overall, 70 percent agreed that they received great value and 75 percent received quick response to issues and questions of their contractors vs. only 62 percent and 65 percent respectively for roof consultants.

However, professionals are 25 percent more satisfied with the level of cost saving option recommendations they receive from roof consultants than from their contractors. The survey demonstrated that 75 percent of consultants recommend cost savings as opposed to only 60 percent of contractors.

Importantly, the differences in quality among roofing contractors is perceived as much greater than roofing consultants. Specifically, 26 percent believe that the primary difference between consultants is their price; this contrasts with 18 percent believing price is the primary differentiation among contractors.

Contractors outperform consultants in appreciation for the clients business. Fully 38 percent did not perceive appreciation by their roof consultants, vs. only 26 percent for roofing contractors. However, 74 percent of roofing consultants are credited with helping with the roof expense and capital budget processes, vs. only 55 percent of contractors.

About four in 10 did not agree that their roofing contractors or consultants do an effective job explaining why a property professional should use their company’s services vs. those of competitors.

Summary Thoughts

The results of this survey confirm the need to continue industry improvement in servicing commercial property managers and owners. Professionals responsible for commercial properties are being stretched, with responsibilities for a large number of properties and square footage.

The importance of a superior scheduled maintenance and repair service is critical to succeeding long term with these commercial property professionals. Property professionals understand how important these services are. Remember: 35 percent of their budget is for planned maintenance and 26 percent for unplanned repairs. Since familiarity with the contractor is so critical in reroofing choices, the service side of this business is critical.

The key to profitability in any industry is the end-user’s recognition of value. The results of this survey demonstrate that the industry still has a long way to go in helping explain cost savings options and why there are quality differences between manufacturers, contractors and consultants servicing the needs of commercial facilities. As we improve this industry capability, the commodity perception that can ruin profitability diminishes.

If I Were a Contractor

I’m not a contractor and don’t want to be presumptuous. However, the question is begged: “What would you do with this knowledge?”

Ask More Questions. Go beyond an appreciation for the amount of properties and square footage that a client is responsible for. What happens when there is a leaking roof and an unbudgeted repair? What pain does it cause the business and employees working in the facility when there are roofing problems? Which experiences with contractors have been good – and which have been bad? Why and how?

Align More. It’s better to know a few manufacturers well, rather than having superficial knowledge of many. Turn the manufacturer sales representative into an advocate rather than a vendor. Why? A quality certified program provides the most important benefit: client trust. Further, these certified initiatives typically provide access to capability development that can strengthen your business. Also, a good representative can be a valuable asset helping you enhance your credibility through joint marketing calls on prospective and existing clients.

Educate More. Go beyond diagnosing the roof and telling the customer what they need and how much it will cost. Understand the investment for that specific property – short or long term. Review the client’s buying philosophy: If they were buying a car as opposed to a roof, would they invest in an economy, mid-range or high performance vehicle? How constrained is cash flow – does the client need to postpone as long as possible major roof investments and therefore be willing to absorb more risk? Or is the client risk averse and willing to invest now? When you understand these issues, you are more capable of educating your client about how you can help, and you can value engineer an option that is their best solution.

Share More. Provide more than the price and schedule. Share why other clients use your contractor services. Share why your capability assures an ability to not only achieve, but also to actually surpass their expectations. Share how your process helps prevent problems before they happen. Share options you’ve considered, and why you’re recommending a specific value-engineered option based on their needs.

Appreciate More. When you appreciate others, they’re more likely to appreciate you. It seems that there are lots of approaches to business that work. But the best approach I’ve found is this: Focus primarily on how you can help others achieve what they want rather than primarily focusing on how things are good for you. As a result, others will want to help you succeed – because you’re good for them! Appreciate your vendors more, they can help you improve your capability in building your business. Appreciate your employees more – they’ll reflect a better attitude with your clients. Most importantly, appreciate your clients more. Think of your relationship beginning after service has been provided. Call them multiple times following work: Are you still satisfied? Any issues I can help with? Do you know anybody else I can help too?

When you do more than others, you’ll succeed more than others!