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Residential Roofing

How to Manage Backlog Prioritization

By Annie Crawford

September 11, 2020

A yellow marker checking off check boxes in a list.

As social distancing eases up little by little around the country, it's time to think about getting back to work. For some contractors, that means tackling the long list of jobs that were delayed while social distancing was in effect.

If you, like many contractors, are now facing lots of backlogged jobs, there are a couple of things you can do to stay ahead of the curve. The first step involves determining which roofing jobs to prioritize and communicating with your remaining customers so they don't get impatient. It's not possible to put every job first, but some creative backlog prioritization and respectful communication can go a long way toward keeping all your customers happy.

The second part of handling your backlog involves working as efficiently as possible so you can clear out your backlog quickly, whether that means hiring more people or investing in more efficient tools or products.

A large backlog may feel overwhelming, but some smart prioritization and a streamlined workforce can help you get through it all.

Backlog Prioritization

To resolve backlogged work, start by identifying which jobs are the biggest priorities. Then, use good communication to maintain positive relationships with anyone who has to wait.

How to Prioritize

Clearly defined priorities help you operate as efficiently as possible. They let you act with intention and foresight instead of just reacting to problems.

To prioritize your backlogged roofing jobs, start by creating a spreadsheet (or writing in a notebook if you prefer) that lists out:

  • Each backlogged job
  • The date you entered a contract with each customer
  • The urgency of each job (i.e. how much damage the building will sustain if you wait)
  • An estimated number of days required to complete each job
  • An estimated gross profit for each job
  • If the job is a referral from a prior customer
  • Whether the customer has the potential to influence others to buy
  • If the customer is likely to leave an online review

With the facts laid out like this, you can now prioritize.

Remember to take all factors into account when deciding the order of jobs. The customer who's been waiting the longest doesn't necessarily have to be first. Nor is the biggest income producer necessarily the very best place to start. Several high-urgency repairs might need to be completed before you start on a lower-urgency roof replacement, even if that replacement was added to your backlog earlier. Think in terms of managing the biggest risks, or opportunities, first.

How to Communicate

Communication is key to successfully resolving your backlog. Customers can be more likely to pull out or give a bad review for delays if they don't know you have a plan. Once you have your priorities all set, reach out to those who may have to wait with an email, call, or video chat.

For larger jobs that have to be put off, schedule an in-person visit or video chat to maintain goodwill and prove your intention to see the job through. This also gives customers the opportunity to talk about financial concerns, and you can guide them toward financing options that may ease the burden.

You might feel too busy for talk time, but diligent communication can mean the difference between keeping or losing thousands of dollars in work. Remember to update customers with any new delays to maintain transparency and trust.

Building Your Crew

Once you have a work plan in place and are communicating with customers, you can save time by streamlining your production.

A quick fix for a backlog is to expand your crew size, even if the expansion is just temporary. Now is the time to increase your number of qualified workers to help knock out those jobs that are piling up.

As you hire new workers, be sure to onboard them using standard operating procedures. It may seem like wasted time to train new people when you have tons of jobs to get through, but unless everyone in your crew is using the same techniques to install roofing systems, you could end up with callbacks and even more work down the line that does not generate revenue or goodwill. Good onboarding based on standard operating procedures keeps quality levels high and increases performance time in the long run.

Products Built for Speed

You can also help your crews work quickly and accurately by using quality products designed for speed.

For low-slope roofs, you can maximize work time with 12-foot wide EverGuard® TPO rolls. The 20% wider rolls mean fewer seams to weld than standard 10-foot rolls—saving time and helping decrease leak potential. You can also make workers' lives easier—and more productive—by eliminating field-fabrication of flashing details with prefabricated flexible TPO accessories.

When it comes to residential roof installation, choose shingles that are easy to install to help you can get through your backlog quickly. For example, the Timberline HDZ shingle has a 1.81-inch wide nailing zone for fast installation and up to 99.9% nailing accuracy.

You can also use Deck-Armor, an underlayment with vertical and horizontal lines, for better shingle alignment. Plus, the rolls are 33% wider than traditional felts, for more coverage pre course to help speed installation.

Backlog prioritization starts with assessing which jobs to tackle first, communicating clearly with customers each step of the way, and using quality products that help your crew work quickly. The combined approach of smarter business and smarter roofing can help you stay on top of your backlog—maybe even with enough time to make more sales.

About the Author

Annie Crawford is a freelance writer in Oakland, CA, covering travel, style, and home improvement. Find more of her work at annielcrawford.com.

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