As we give thanks in this holiday issue, Dennis Shiao shares a B2B customer experience lesson he’s learned from Phil. No, not Phil Collins, but a roofer called Phil.


This Fall, I had some work done on the roof of my house to repair leaks. I’m grateful for the customer experience provided by my roofer, Phil.

Stay with me here and I’ll explain how Phil provided a great customer experience and lessons B2B companies can learn from it.

A leaky roof during rainy season

I live in Northern California, where the weather is generally quite glorious. The temperatures range from the mid-60s to the low 80s, with low humidity and lots of sun. For most of the year, we have zero rain. 

However, there is a rainy season, which starts in November, continues into December, then rains some more through January and February. During the early part of the season, the rain is sporadic. Once January and February hit, the rain is pretty consistent.

I live in an Eichler home, which is described as a “California modern” style of architecture. It’s a single story house with a flat roof. Our house has an atrium that features a retractable roof. We can draw the roof open and enjoy the sunshine.

The problem? We’ve been having water leaks in one corner of that retractable roof.

Calling in for roof repair

For the past few years, the leaks came every rainy season. We called different roofing experts to patch things up. They provided partial solutions, but none were able to fully fix the leaks.

In October, we called a new roofing expert to come by (Phil), in preparation for this year’s rains. Phil proposed a few things. He power washed the entire roof. Once assorted debris were cleared, he could spot cracks in the surface that could cause leaks.

He sprayed a layer of white acrylic coating across the roof, paying special attention to the cracks he found. Finally, he inspected areas in and around the retractable roof — including the trays and rails — and found spots that could be causing leaks.

Phil spent two days at our house and then his work was done. We thanked him and he went on his way.

The leak persisted

And then the first rain of the season came. We had a few other spots in our house that leaked and thankfully, those held firm — no leaks. That one corner of the retractable roof, however, leaked and in fact, the degree of leaking was more than before the repairs.

We called Phil and he agreed to come to our house the next day. While he previously found spots along the track of our retractable roof that he patched, the problem was coming from somewhere else. Upon further investigation, Phil discovered that the roof was not level and that water built up inside the frame. During rainfall, the water would coalesce into that corner and the build-up would drip into our house.

Phil’s solution was to apply caulking inside the frame of the roof to try to steer the water away from the corner, so that water would flow atop the roof and not into our house. As of this writing, we are awaiting the next rainfall to see if this solution worked. 

Even if it doesn’t work, I’m sure Phil will be back to keep working the issue.

I’ve worked with roofers in the past. They’d be inclined to say something like, “I agreed to power wash the roof and apply the acrylic coating. I did my job. If you want me to further diagnose this, I’ll need to charge you more.”

Worse, they might declare the job done and stop returning my calls.

When Phil completed the latest work, I asked him if I owed him anything. He said, “Absolutely not” and asked me to watch what happens during the next rain.

I appreciate Phil.

Lessons for B2B companies

B2B companies: be like Phil and less like the typical roofer. Phil is focused on solving a customer’s problem. In our case, the issue centered around the quirky attributes of a retractable roof, something that most roofers don’t handle.

For Phil, fixing the retractable roof was core to solving my problem.

Let’s take the example of marketing automation software. Rarely does a customer say, “You know what? I need to buy marketing automation software.” Instead, they say something like, “I need help converting more of my leads to marketing qualified leads and opportunities.”

A typical vendor might say, “Here’s our software and here’s our implementation team. It should all work.” Phil would say, “Let’s work together to make sure those leads convert accordingly.”

So here are lessons from Phil for B2B companies:

  • Customers hire you to solve a problem.
  • There’s rarely a straight line from project kick-off to successful outcome.
  • Sometimes problems are tangentially related to your product. If that’s the case, don’t throw up your hands and say, “It’s not me.” Instead, dig in.
  • Shift your focus from your product’s functionality (is it working properly) to helping your customer solve their original problem.
  • Go beyond your product’s capabilities. If your team has the ability to help solve the problem, just do it.
  • In the end, you win when your customer wins.

Final note. Thank you, Phil and happy holidays!

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