The True Cost of the Service Call

Getting to the root problems of installation and how manufacturers can address them
By Tom Jaskiewicz
May 9, 2016
The bold red color of the door helps distract attention from the issue, but the issue of the “frowning door” still needs to be addressed. (All images courtesy of the author.)

Working with exterior doors is a tricky business. Manufacturers spend hours designing and assembling high-performing exterior doors that then endure many different factors that can lead to performance issues. By the time a door unit gets to the jobsite, those factors can result in door unit failures and the dreaded callback.

As a result of common issues—improper sill adjustment, failure to properly caulk (both in the shop and field), out-of-plumb and out-of-square installation, missing corner pads, for a few examples—dealers and builders spend valuable time and money on costly service calls. While getting to the root of these issues, I’ve identified one major truth: your costs don’t stop at the door.

How problematic can these issues really be?

Let's say that the average service call costs $75 per hour once you factor in labor and materials.

With this number in mind, let's say a dealer assembles or distributes 1,000 doors per year and about 5 percent of those doors, or 50 units, result in a service call (on average, this number is probably closer to 10 to 15 percent). Accounting for travel, a safe estimate on the average is one and a half hours per call.

Problem: Treating the Symptoms Doesn’t Work

As an industry, we accept current products as fine options because installers all develop their own Band-Aid tricks and fixes, treating the symptoms without resolving the real problem.

Allowing installers to continue to rely on short-term “symptom” fixes when a bigger solution is needed is doing our customers a disservice. And, symptoms will persist until the actual “illness” is treated, meaning more service calls and wasted time.

Solution: Diagnose the True Problem

A leaking door is not a problem. It’s a symptom. Wide margins and non-level subfloors are problems. As manufacturers, we must work to better understand what really happens on the jobsite and during installation and use this information to diagnose the true root of the issues—both obvious and hidden—in order to create better solutions.

We also must understand how our own practices can contribute to the problem and regularly take steps to address issues on our end. Primarily, pre-hangers must regularly review door unit specifications to identify any changes and correct issues. Even the smallest of changes or inconsistencies can add up over time, altering component interactions within the system and contributing to performance issues in the field.

It’s easier to detect gaps when installing in new construction. Wide margins and non-level subfloors are often the culprit, but there are tools manufacturers can incorporate to help alleviate these issues.

Problem: Diagnosis without Effective Treatment Doesn’t Do Any Good

Once we understand the true diagnosis, we must make necessary adjustments to address the problem and eliminate the true issue.

Solution: Prevent the Problem, Prevent its Symptoms

The focus must be on prevention; developing solutions that either stop the problem from happening in the first place or proactively account for realities before they become problems. This means making an investment in more autonomous and fully-integrated solutions that go beyond basic component functions and account for reality. This removes the burden from the installer and saves time, money and resources in the long-term.

As our industry faces pressures to keep costs down, it can be tempting to focus on upfront “savings” and ignore true long-term costs. But cutting costs by using substandard components actually costs money down the line.

Problem: Failing to Promote the Treatment Renders it Useless

Just as drug manufacturers don’t expect doctors to magically know about improved treatments for their patients, manufacturers cannot expect dealers to magically know about new exterior door solutions. Preventative solutions are pointless without promotion.

Solution: Become an Industry Solution Expert

Like the drug manufacturers with doctors and consumers, we must promote new and improved solutions with our dealer and builder customers. After all, they trust that solutions will come from the supplier as soon as they become available. Each company has its own set of limitations in this area, but we can all do something, even if minor.

This means service calls can cost well more than $5,000 per year:

50 units X ($75 per hour X 1.5 hours) = $5,624 per year

Aside from the dollar amount, that’s nearly two work weeks (75 man-hours) spent on addressing completely preventable issues. If the reality is that closer to 10 or 15 percent of doors require service, it’s easy to see how the numbers can escalate.

For years, we've accepted these issues as simply the cost of business. But the reality is that these factors are costing our customers unnecessary time, money and resources, and are completely preventable with improvements on our end. (See problems/solutions on this page and opposite for examples.)

Overall, pre-hangers and dealers have a complicated job. As technology in all industries advances, it is our obligation to dedicate time and resources to create systems that are smarter and more autonomous. We need to solve our customers’ problems through preventative solutions that eliminate service calls and Band-Aid fixes, and save everyone valuable time, money and resources. At the end of the day, it’s basic customer service. Our customers face numerous problems; it's our job to do whatever we can to solve them.

Tom Jaskiewicz is the manager of product development at Endura Products, a leading manufacturer of high-performance exterior door components.