Rarely does anyone know they're going to need a wheelchair until there's an emergency. It means lots of challenges figuring out how to get into/out of the car, then up the driveway/sidewalk to the front door … you get the idea. This true story is about an emergency phone call I received over Thanksgiving weekend. The frantic wife convinced my answering service to put the call through to me … she needed a handicap ramp installed asap …
Small businesses focus on great customer service, especially when the owner (that was me) is involved in the business. It is one of the ways in which small businesses can compete against large companies and corporations. This article illustrates why homeowners should support their local small businesses. The service illustrated here isn't something a large company can deliver.
Handicap Ramp & Great Customer Service
As the owner of a small handyman business, our customer service representatives are in the office Monday to Friday, 8:30 to 5 pm. We use an answering service to insure that every phone call is answered by a real person but that entails using an answering service.
Emergencies happen so the answering service knows how to screen and determine what are truly emergency calls. For example, a toothbrush stuck in the toilet when there's a second toilet, isn't an emergency on a Sunday afternoon. Yes, I really got this call and had to change the phone script.
Here's a call that came in over Thanksgiving weekend, which I did feel was an emergency. The customer could have called a few days earlier, right after her husband had his accident, but obviously there was a lot happening.
- Call came in Saturday while I had family visiting. The customer's husband broke his ankle falling off a ladder.
- The woman needed a handicap ramp by Wednesday (3 work days) to get her husband to/from his doctor's appointment. This meant juggling schedules so we could start work Monday morning.
A perfect example of why home owners need to leave some jobs for the home professional. The man was up on a ladder using a chain saw to cut down tree branches. He was very lucky the chain saw didn't touch him when he fell.
- Personally met with the homeowner on Sunday to assess the space and lay out ramp design. The customer wanted to keep stairs to the kitchen door, in addition to the ramp. That means we have to move the stairs to a different side of the porch.
- Juggled work schedules as everyone was fully scheduled for the week. We needed to bump a scheduled customer and we always ask permission to move their job, explaining the reason. A great repeat customer we've done work for going back 5+ years, she was okay with the change.
- Held meeting Monday morning with lead technician to review design and discuss handrail requirements.
- Job estimated for 2 long days with one day contingency as there isn't any additional time to respond. We didn't quite finish the handrails before Wednesday but the trip to the doctor happened on schedule.
Why We Were Prepared for Emergency Handicap Ramp
Most people think the handyman's job is easy. Some routine jobs can be easy. Most require experience knowing where all the typical, and often hidden, challenges lie. Here's why I was prepared:
- Completed coursework to earn Certified Aging in Place (CAPS) certification through the National Association of Home Builders. During the first phone call, I knew to ask how many steps there were. This allowed me to explain that was roughly 36 inches which would require a ramp 36 to 40 feet in length.
- Completed analysis comparing EZ-Access Modular Ramp Systems and building the same design with pressure treated lumber. Costs are roughly the same. The higher EZ product costs are offset by significantly lower installation time/cost. Their minimum delivery time is 3 days so we couldn't take that approach … but we were prepared to do this analysis based on other jobs done using this product.
- Explained building code requirements to the homeowner. We would build the new ramp up to door landing but not attach it to the house until later, as there wasn't enough time to go through the permit and inspection process.
Other Home Modifications Seniors Appreciate
Chances are if you need a wheelchair ramp,, you probably need some other modifications to your home. Often seniors are afraid to ask for these because our bodies have aged but in our mind we're still young. It's also embarrassing to acknowledge that you need a grab bar to get up from the toilet. But in reality, anything you can do to avoid falling is important and worth considering.
- Add lighting to make things easier to see, especially where flooring changes which poses a tripping hazard.
- Replace flooring with a slip resistant material like vinyl, cork or bamboo.
- Install lever-style doorknobs that are easier to use.
- Put grab bars in the bathroom by the toilet and in the shower/bathtub for safety.
- Lower kitchen countertops will make it easier for someone in a wheelchair. If you can't afford to replace all your base cabinets, do a smaller section like the kitchen island.
- Widen key doorways like the ones leading into the master bedroom and bathroom. It was very disappointing to see Florida home builders ignore this simple requirement when so many seniors are moving to Florida.
- Install a chair lift or elevator if you're unable to create a bedroom on the main level of the house.
- Add a wheelchair ramp if needed by someone with a walker or wheelchair.
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