The phone rings, and a frantic customer’s on the other line: the roof may not be on fire, but it is leaking. Now what? How you handle a callback might be the difference between success and failure in the roofing industry.

The phone rings, and a frantic customer’s on the other line: the roof may not be on fire, but it is leaking. Now what?

How you handle a callback might be the difference between success and failure in the roofing industry.

Bill Ludwig, a repair and maintenance division manager for Burns & Scalo Roofing Co. Inc. in Pittsburgh, said handling residential callbacks is one of the most important jobs in the roofing industry.

Ludwig said when Burns & Scalo ( receives a callback it is handled with extreme care.

First, the call is received via fax, phone, e-mail, or verbally, and directed to the residential administrative assistant. And second, the administrative assistant then researches the project history to define the scope of work that was completed and the warranty status.

“At that point it is determined whether a warranty exists and what is covered within the terms of that warranty,” Ludwig said. “If the warranty has expired or if the issue reported was not in the original scope of work, the owner is contacted prior to proceeding; otherwise, a service ticket is generated for response.”

Depending on the nature of the reported problem, whether it’s leaks, workmanship, problems not related to the roof, damage due to other trades, or housekeeping issues, Ludwig said he has three resources to respond to a customer: service crew, application crew, or field superintendent.

“Typically, we make every effort to send the same personnel back to the project that did the original work with the exceptions of urgent leak situations,” Ludwig said. “Field superintendents or divisional managers are involved only with problematic or sensitive situations.”

Ludwig said his company provides callbacks to customers to repair leaks the same day or within a 24-hour period. “Spring and fall in Pennsylvania are the high incident seasons due to the volatility of the weather patterns,” said Ludwig, who noted callbacks are just part of being a successful roofing contractor.

“This is not due to poor workmanship but primarily due to the nature of the work,” Ludwig said. “A very high percentage of callbacks result in findings that had nothing to do with the scope of work completed.”

Ludwig noted the residential customer base is completely different from commercial customers. “Because it is more personal,” he said. “This exposes the contractor to a myriad of personalities, interpretations, and situations involving the customer’s home and bank account.”

Still, all customers are important when it comes to callbacks, considering every contractor in the history of the profession has received at least one callback about a roof repair.

“The residential market is driven by word of mouth,” Ludwig said. “Nobody is perfect, and a contractor is judged more critically on how they handle a problem versus the fact that a problem occurred. Reputation drives future business, so in order to stay successful issues must be corrected to everyone’s satisfaction.”

Bill Ludwig is a repair and maintenance division manager for Burns & Scalo Roofing Co. Inc. in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Prompt, Personal Service

At Atlanta Reroof Specialists Inc., in Roswell, Ga., Andrew Dalby said the company may not be unique in how they handle callbacks, but they make customer service a top priority.

“I view callbacks as an opportunity to reaffirm the client’s decision to use our services,” Dalby said. “There are many different types of roofers to choose from. You can pick service, quality or price, but only two of these three.”

Dalby said Atlanta Reroof Specialists are not the cheapest, but he maintains callbacks are an area they can justify their price.

“This is a golden chance to prove our worth, and I try and handle callbacks personally,” Dalby noted. “Every time there is client contact you change the relationship dynamics, and I want the relationship to get stronger. Sometimes a callback results in additional business for us.”

The personal level is mandatory at Atlanta Reroof Specialists (, even if it’s just a phone call or question. “I try to set up a meeting even if I know it’s probably just clogged gutters,” Dalby said. “Callbacks get priority and go to the top of the queue. If there is work to be done, we do not skimp. The crews get paid normal rates to keep attitudes positive.”

Still, the “unusual” thing about Atlanta Reroof Specialists is how quickly they handle callbacks. “Immediately upon receipt of the call,” Dalby said. “It sets us apart. Not so important in good times but critical in slow times.”

Atlanta Reroof Specialists have been in the Atlanta area for 16 years and Dalby said they don’t plan on going anywhere.

“Referrals define my business and good service creates great referrals,” he said. “Last year, it was slow due to the slow real estate market. This year, it’s the local and national storm chasers. There will always be something going on which is out of my control, so I protect my business with reputation.”

Dalby said more often than not a callback is about clogged gutters, plumbing leaks, A/C units, condensate lines, satellite installers, squirrels, painters, porous mortar, among other minor problems. “I respond regardless and the client appreciates my leak diagnosis expertise whether it’s a true callback or not,” he said. “I always refuse payment.”

“I doubt we’re unique,” Dalby concluded, “but judging by comments, I would say we are unusual.”

Alan Chin of Reinhardt Roofing responds to a callback at the company office in Newark, Calif.

Exploring All the Options

At Reinhardt Roofing Inc. ( of Newark, Calif., there are many ways the San Francisco Bay Area company handles service work.

“I would say that 95 percent of the leak calls we receive end up being from causes other than our poor workmanship or material failure,” said Carole Lowrance of Reinhardt Roofing. “Typically owners do not take good care of their roofs - out of sight, out of mind. It’s not like painting a building where you do it once, and it lasts for many years without any maintenance. Roofs receive terrific punishment from the elements alone throughout the years and need a little tender loving care a couple times a year to perform to their limits. Add in punishment from the human animal and we get a leak call!”

Reinhardt work crews see some pretty amazing things on commercial roofs, Lowrance said, including bullets, trees and shrubs actually growing into the roofs (and these were not garden roofs), trades cutting holes in the wrong spot and then just leaving the hole open, signs being installed by drilling right through the roofing.

Burns & Scalo Roofing Company Assistant Residential Manager Bonnie Haney takes a call during a recent workday.

“I could be polite and say that these installers just didn’t realize what they were doing, but I think the reality is they know full well it will leak, but they will be long gone,” Lowrance said. “Who gets the blame?”

For starters, if the job is under Reinhardt Roofing’s warranty period, the superintendent is scheduled to investigate problem the customer is reporting. If the problem to the roof is due to installation, repairs will be made at no cost to the customer.

“If the problem is the result of other trades (damage to the roof, improperly sealed penetrations, etc.), Reinhardt Roofing will notify the customer of the condition and cause of the problem and inform the customer that necessary repairs will not be covered under Reinhardt Roofing’s warranty,” Lowrance said. “Repairs will be made if requested by customer and charged at our established labor and material rates. If the problem is caused by a defect in materials, Reinhardt Roofing will contact the manufacturer.”

There are other unforeseen problems associated with callbacks, but Reinhardt Roofing has the answer. For example, if the job is out of Reinhardt’s warranty period but has a manufacturer’s warranty, Reinhardt will instruct its client to contact the manufacturer as instructed by their manufacturer’s warranty.

“If the customer requests Reinhardt Roofing to investigate without contacting the manufacturer, Reinhardt Roofing will schedule a project estimator to inspect the roof,” Lowrance said. “After inspection, the project estimator will inform the customer whether or not the issue(s) are covered by the manufacturer’s warranty. If the issues are not covered, Reinhardt Roofing will provide an estimate for repairs, maintenance.”

Still, if the issues are related to a material defect, Reinhardt Roofing will advise the client to contact the manufacturer directly to initiate the repair process.