Richard Alcaraz, owner of Squeaky Floor Doctor of America, learned that offering a lifetime warranty made it much easier to sign up customers. But first he had to assess the risks involved and find a way to protect himself against future liabilities. Alcaraz was interviewed by Karen Kaplan.
I worked as a general contractor for many years and I became very good at trouble-shooting floor squeaks. When I felt the market was there for this type of service, I started the Squeaky Floor Doctor of America.
Sometimes floors squeak if there’s a loose or cracked floor joint or if the house has settled unevenly over time. Sometimes an earthquake can cause a floor to squeak, and sometimes it’s just because the house wasn’t built according to the strict specifications of the blueprints.
When I first started, I offered a three-year warranty. I figured my work would last for 20 years, but I was nervous that with all the earthquakes out here I could have a lot of liability down the road. I also didn’t want to be in the position of effectively insuring the construction work of other people. I didn’t want to take on that much risk as a new business.
I did some research on the equipment that I use. I also talked to structural engineers who design homes about whether this technology could withstand earthquakes and other problems. That made me much more confident about the quality and longevity of my work.
I’ve gotten a very positive reaction to the lifetime warranty. Customers tell me they really like the fact that they will only have to invest in this project one time. It takes the risk out of making a big investment. A typical job costs between $600 and $800.
The warranty has made it quite a bit easier for me to get new customers. Before, people would mull it over for a week or two, and only five out of 10 sales presentations would result in jobs. Now I’d say seven out of 10 presentations result in jobs.
When I started offering the lifetime warranty, it really hit home to me that I wouldn’t have any repeat customers. That means I have to be constantly marketing my business. I’m spending about $1,000 a month on advertorials and direct mail.
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AT A GLANCE
Owner: Richard Alcaraz
Nature of business: Upstairs floor repair service
Annual sales: $70,000