Giving Customers a Fix

Window-Fix focuses on solutions in its unique business model
Christina Lewellen
October 12, 2011
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Window-Fix
 

Brooklyn, N.Y.

The team at Window-Fix doesn’t have a strong preference about whether they sell replacement windows or not. This might seem somewhat problematic given that it’s one of the New York City metropolitan region’s most prominent window retailers. But with a vast range of services stretching from full window replacements down to the most minor repairs of existing windows, the Window-Fix team is far more interested in providing customized solutions for its clients.
“I’ve been around the business since I was young,” says Ernie Cappello, second-generation owner of the business his parents started more than 30 years ago. “I was taught to get to know customers’ needs. Not everybody can afford to replace their windows.”
So with expertise in both repairing and replacing windows, Window-Fix can offer homeowners and building managers a blended solution that suits the situation at hand. “Telling folks what they really need and providing them a solution that works for them is something we’ve done from the beginning,” Cappello says.
 
 With expertise in New York City and the surrounding region, the Window-Fix team offers both window repair and replacement, depending on customers' needs.
In addition to being product specialists, the Window-Fix team has also developed over the years an expertise in the geographic area in which it primarily does business—the five boroughs of New York City, north New Jersey, and parts of Long Island. This means the company not only keeps up on code and historical requirements throughout the city, but also has perfected juggling the logistics of doing business in a notoriously busy and difficult-to-navigate metropolitan area. “Manufacturers trying to send service people into the New York City market find it very difficult,” explains Harold Kaye, senior vice president of Window-Fix. “They can’t find parking, or they may not have the right parts and they have to come back. We can do it faster, better, and, ultimately, cheaper.”
SERVICE FIRST
Cappello's father and late mother, John and Connie Cappello, founded the company that would evolve to become Window-Fix in the 1970s. Originally, John Cappello was involved in a variety of different types of contracting, but eventually stumbled upon window repairs, Ernie Cappello recalls. “He used to go out by himself to repair windows and he realized he had found a niche,” he says. “In the late 1970s, nobody was doing what he was doing, so he and my mom would stuff envelopes to send out to building owners and property managers to market themselves.”
Through the years, the Cappello family grew the company into a notable repair business. Window-Fix carries a wide selection of manufacturers’ replacement parts—some of which are specialized for windows made by manufacturers that are no longer in business—and the company’s fleet of repair vans are fully stocked so crews can make on-the-spot repairs the majority of the time. “We don’t send salesmen into the field; we sent technicians in,” says Kaye. “They service windows all day long and they have years of experience and training. Most salesmen from marketing companies are really only trained in their line of replacement windows.”
The Window-Fix facility in Brooklyn, N.Y., includes a 10,000-square-foot warehouse where the company stores everything from weatherstripping to balances to extrusions used to make aluminum replacement screens. In 2005, the company saw the value for its customers in making its own replacement screens and insulating glass units, allowing it to service customers and accomplish repairs more quickly and efficiently. “We have an automated glass cutter and we can cut thousands of glass sheets in a day,” Cappello explains. We can turn around replacement glass in a day, which is very important, especially in New York City.”
With trucks armed with parts like balances and weatherstripping, Window-Fix technicians can often repair problematic windows immediately, and IG units are often produced and installed within 48 hours, Kaye says. “Think about how long it would take if a manufacturer were making those repairs,” he says. “What if a kid puts a baseball through the window? You’d have to board it up to protect the family or protect from the weather. Often, our customers don’t have to do that.”
Window-Fix’s commitment to service is resonating with customers. “Window-Fix is providing exemplary service in the industry,” says Salvatore Perry, development director for Latent Productions, a New York City architecture and development firm. “The growth of the company is fueled by the energy of their leadership and the integrity behind their work.”
 
Ernie Cappello (left) and his father, John, have grown Window-Fix from a simple repair shop to a blended business model worth expansion and franchising. 
GOT IT COVERED
Though the company has long-standing roots in the building owner and property management circles, its mix of residential customers has been steadily increasing through the years, the leadership reports. “Back in the late 1990s, we were running ads on TV and local cable and started getting a lot of residential customers,” Cappello recalls. “We were getting a more mixed clientele from that. We saw that we were getting the visibility and we developed the Window-Fix name because it says it all. From there, it multiplied.”
The company carries full lines of replacement windows—aluminum, wood, vinyl, fiberglass and even high-performance Serious Windows—and its installation crews are all fully certified in InstallationMasters techniques. Cappello was among the first in the InstallationMasters program to become certified as a commercial installer and he has developed home performance expertise through his involvement in the Building Performance Institute. “These things are important to homeowners,” Cappello says.
All of Window-Fix’s installers are company employees, which is valuable to homeowners and building managers who might not feel comfortable with subcontractors performing the replacements or complicated repairs. “Our people are company trained and company employed,” says Kaye. “They’re also company insured.”
With a versatile team of technicians, the company is well positioned to create action plans for customers depending on their particular scenarios. Window-Fix’s reputation for offering blended repair/replacement solutions gives customers peace of mind that they’re not being pressured into unnecessary expenses. “We may go into a house to repair some windows and we might say, ‘It’s finally time to replace these three windows. We’re unable to repair them,’” Kaye says. “On the other hand, we may get called to do a replacement job, but we might look at the 10 windows in the house and say, ‘Yes, these five do need to be replaced, but these other five can be brought up to speed with repairs or replacement glass.’ This way, we can offer customers all the energy savings they want with some options to stay within budget.”
Unlike other window and door retailers positioned solely to sell full replacements, the Window-Fix team believes its business model is better suited to today’s economy and aging housing stock. “We’re going to go in and evaluate the windows,” Kaye says. “We’re going to offer alternatives and make money both ways. That’s our core power, and that’s how we make customers for life.”
 
 To offer consistent quality and quick service, Window-Fix makes its own IG units and replacement screens at its 10,000-square-foot warehouse in Brooklyn, N.Y.
For the windows it fixes rather than replaces, Window-Fix offers a wrap-around warranty, taking on future responsibility for the performance of the windows it repairs. “Not only do we make those repairs within 48 hours of the service call, but if the manufacturer goes out of business, we’ll take responsibility for any future fixes that need to be made,” Kaye explains.
With this approach, the company has begun doing a lot of warranty service calls for other manufacturers. Kaye notes that, with the expansive cache of replacement parts and a team of technicians who specialize in this work, some manufacturers have found that partnering with Window-Fix has resulted in a more effective and efficient solution for in-field service calls. Plus, there is that nasty issue of figuring out how to drive and park in New York City. “Having 20 technicians in trucks in the field is an unbelievable undertaking,” he says. “We sometimes have to have one guy sitting in the truck while the other is working just because there’s nowhere to park.”
And naturally, Window-Fix is the only company to repair the windows it puts in. “We prefer to do the service,” Kaye says. “We know how and when we’ll do it. Those people are our customers. To send them off to somebody else is not good for us.”
FUTURE FIX
As window repair and replacements are so often focused on improving the energy efficiency of a house or building, Window-Fix has found itself in recent years branching more into energy performance auditing and providing solutions for customers—especially bigger buildings and construction companies. “We are in the process of aligning ourselves with one of the largest New York City construction companies to do energy audits for their major clients,” Kaye explains. “There’s a new New York City energy code that [requires them to] register their energy costs. They’re looking for professional sources to work with them to address energy costs. If we can upgrade a window by changing the glass or putting new weatherstripping in, the payback is very strong rather than having to tear up windows all over the building.”
Many customers consider Window-Fix a valuable component of the building or home improvement team. “They have a wealth of practical experience,” says Latent Productions’ Perry. “They have shared technical product reports with me that are both pertinent and focused to the project challenges at hand. They have the foresight to identify potential problems, coupled with an ability to offer useful solutions.”
Window-Fix also believes its model is flexible enough to be successful regardless of broader macroeconomic conditions. “If the economy is good, people are replacing windows,” Kaye says. “If the economy is bad, they want to fix the window.”
“The way we’re positioning ourselves, we’re so versatile that whatever way the market goes, we can go with it,” Cappello adds.
In fact, the Window-Fix model is such an optimized blend that Cappello and Kaye are looking to expand to other geographic areas, perhaps through franchises. “We have the computer programs, the systems and the trainings all set up,” Kaye says. “We’re probably one of the best-kept secrets in the industry. This [repair/replace model] may be a great adjunct to those who have replacement window businesses.”
Window-Fix diverts from the traditional marketing approach most window and door retailers take and positions itself instead as a service and solutions window company. “Our business is a service business,” Kaye says. “We can take care of windows from cradle to grave. We’re not just there to only sell you windows. We’re the solution company.”
“It’s such a unique branch of the tree,” Kaye concludes.
Click here to see the other 2011 Dealers of the Year.

 

Contact Christina Lewellen, senior editor, at clewellen@glass.org.