A little more than 15 years ago, Leo Ruberto received his honorable discharge from the U.S. Marine Corps and charged headlong into the commercial and residential exteriors industry. Today, he's the owner and president of Feazel, a GAF Master Elite® Contractor* based in New Albany, Ohio, specializing in residential, commercial, and multi-family building exteriors. Leo and Feazel have long been passionate advocates for using technology to "create the best customer buying experience possible. Period."
Tech-enabled and consumer-informed
Very few consumers have a lot of experience buying roofs. But most of us can tell the difference between a 'so-so' buying experience and a great one. And thanks to the rapid advance of online technology, consumer expectations are growing every day. Historically, Leo suggested, the roofing industry had not done a great job of keeping up with those expectations. "For a long time, roofing was considered somewhat primitive. Antiquated," he said. "But in the last decade, the industry — and GAF in particular — has made some serious strides in technology advancement."
Leo sees technology as critical to his company's mission. In fact, the banner at the top of the Feazel home page reads: "Tech-Enabled Exterior Solution Experts." It's a bold — and possibly unique — claim. But Feazel lives up to it, and then some. Creative application of the latest technologies is part of Feazel's DNA. They've been a driving force in the creative application of autonomous drone technology for both commercial and residential projects, offer state-of-the-art customer online customer service applications, and eagerly embrace powerful tools like GAF e360.
"We're constantly challenging ourselves to come up with a better way to deliver the most convenient, thorough, and easy buying experience," said Leo. But what does that experience look like? Unsurprisingly, it looks a lot like the best-in-class shopping platforms homeowners use every day. "I get a lot of inspiration just watching my wife shop for the house and the kids online," said Leo. "I'll see her schedule something, compare things, use one-touch ordering, and say to myself, 'Wow that was convenient.' Then we think about how we can translate that convenience to the roofing customer."
Observation leads to conversation. The Feazel team constantly engages roofing customers about their concerns and preferences in person and listens to their opinions on social media. Then they sit down and dissect the customer experience from beginning to end, searching for ways to improve it. "We don't have a Wizard of Oz sitting behind a curtain solving everyone's problems," said Leo. "Just a team of great people thinking outside the box, who are given the freedom to bring ideas to the table. We ask ourselves, 'If I was a consumer trying to buy this product, how would I want to do it? What would make me happy?'"
It seems to be working. Feazel customers — residential and commercial — appear to be pretty happy about their ability to pay bills and book appointments online. They also take full advantage of a proprietary project tracking portal, where they have complete transparency to the progress of their specific job, including access to invoices, warranties, guarantees, and more. "We've created an environment that allows the customer to see and act on their own project, in their own time, not ours. They don't have to wait on the phone to book an appointment. They have complete control, from start to finish."
Perhaps the star of the Feazel experience is Robyn®. With Robyn®, Feazel has integrated satellite imagery, autonomous drones, high-resolution photography, VR tech, and a digital estimating backend to create a hassle-free homeowner estimate process that they claim offers 99.9% accuracy. For first-time roofing customers, Robyn® is like having a personal roofing guide walk them through the entire process, from requesting an estimate through making final payment.
Expect the unexpected
"Technology changes daily, so even though we're doing a good job, if we remain stagnant, in two years we'll be dinosaurs," Leo warned, "We're constantly working to evolve and improve all of our systems every day."
In addition to the steady advance of technology, Leo Ruberto and Feazel are also focused on responding to the unexpected. "It doesn't matter if you're a one million dollar company or a hundred billion-dollar company," Leo said. "You don't have everything figured out. You're going to have to deal with the unexpected — things that people did not see."
There may be no better example of that than the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ohio, where Feazel is based, issued a stay-at-home order on March 23. By that date, Feazel had already made preparations to take all of their essential functions online. As a result, the company was able to maintain continuity across multiple states and among 130 employees.
The company's communications integration helped Feazel to make swift changes to increase safety protocols in accordance with CDC Guidelines, including wearing masks, gloves, and shoe covers, along with limiting face-to-face interactions.
Customers reacted very favorably to Feazel's ability to adapt to the new normal. "People appreciated the convenience of being able to book appointments online. Paying their bill online. Getting a contact-free estimate when they're stuck in their home. We still proactively call customers from outside the house and do an 'over the hood' distanced sales call. I couldn't be prouder of how we were able to adapt to all of that virtually overnight," Leo said.
While Feazel was better prepared to meet the challenge than many companies, Leo is the first to admit that the COVID crisis caught him as off guard as it caught everyone else. "I remember an executive team call soon after the lockdown," he said. "We had gone remote, and the team was dealing with a myriad of issues: The safety of our people and our customers. Making sure we're in compliance with new norms. That masks, booties, and hand sanitizer are available. So much more. And with all this going on, I just said, 'Guys — I'm going to be honest with you. I did not have this one in my playbook.' And you know, just admitting that — that statement alone — it made everyone laugh." It reminded everyone, he said, that "it's not the conflict you really have to worry about. It's how you handle it."
Protecting what matters most
Respected across the industry for their processes and programs, Feazel is still, at heart, all about human connections. And they never lose focus on protecting what matters most. For example, in May — just weeks after the first Ohio lockdown order — Feazel began making and bottling hand sanitizer for the local community. They delivered the sanitizer, along with lunch, to area hospitals.
"You want to make a positive impact in the communities where you live and work," said Leo. "And that's something that we've always done and we'll continue to do." Ohio Buckeye fans have certainly felt the Feazel impact from the Buckeye Rooftop Giveaway: At every home Ohio State football game, Feazel gives a free roof to a veteran.
In addition to local food banks and national charities including Habitat for Humanity, the Ronald McDonald House, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and the Special Olympics, Feazel looks for opportunities that spring from their own communities.
Feazel is currently working with the Miracle League to help build accessible ballfields for disabled children. And when their Cincinnati office heard that the historic 1831 Schoolhouse in Harveysburg, Ohio was in need of a new roof, Feazel was able to donate time and support with an in-kind donation.
"GAF has been a tremendous partner of ours for many years," said Leo. "This is an incredibly relationship-based manufacturer that really does stand by you in every way. I would consider GAF at the forefront of technological advancement in our industry. And, in my opinion, you have the best warranty and the best product."
Leo paused and laughed, adding, "There are a few shout outs. I hope you wrote those down! But honestly, please keep doing what you're doing. Timberline HDZ, with the larger nailing area? That's not something anyone in our accounting department or marketing is going to care about, but when you're actually installing the roof, it does mean a lot. And it really is at the forefront of what I would consider the cutting edge in our industry across all fronts."
Asked for a bit of advice for roofers and contractors just starting in the business, Leo reflected on his own 15-year journey from the U.S. Marine Corps to the head of Feazel. "You're going to think you've got it all figured out," he said. "You don't. And the minute you realize you don't, you'll start to become a better leader."
To find out how GAF can help you on your business journey, visit gaf.com/get there.
*Contractors enrolled in GAF certification programs are not employees or agents of GAF, and GAF does not control or otherwise supervise these independent businesses. Contractors may receive benefits, such as loyalty rewards points and discounts on marketing tools from GAF for participating in the program and offering GAF enhanced warranties, which require the use of a minimum amount of GAF products