Design Thinking for Metal Roofing
According to IDEO (the design firm that popularized the term), design thinking is marrying the desired result from a human point of view with the technologically feasible and economically viable result. These three areas considered properly create the best balance of fulfilling customer needs, fully utilizing innovations, and maintaining a profitable business.
Design thinking offers a deeper understanding of your customers and product through an empathetic lens. We’ve spoken about empathy before in the Executive Report, and our findings hold true here. Putting yourself in your customer’s spot enables a valuable new perspective. You can feel their pain when a project runs into delays, see their dream take shape with the perfect product selection, and get a fresh look at your own practices.
So how can design thinking impact the metal roofing industry? How can we improve the metal roof buying experience?
First, I think it’s important to understand the commonly held view.
Homeowners don’t think of their re-roofing decision as a design experience – instead as a necessary evil. However, the roof is 60% of a home’s exterior and a major part of the curb appeal too.
Seth Heckaman, VP of Sales Isaiah Industries
Roof-buying isn’t glamorous or welcome for many people. For some, it surely can be an opportunity to add value and impress their style on their home. For others, it’s a significant unplanned expense they feel forced to cover.
So how can we fulfill this need while serving each customer where they are?
From the IDEO blog “What is Design Thinking?”, the phases of design thinking are, frame a question, gather inspiration, generate ideas, make ideas tangible, test to learn, and share the story. We’ve already found our question and refined it to: How can we make roof-buying a better process for everyone?
Finding the answer to this complex question won’t be easy, and if we already had it, roofing would be much further along. While we mull this over, the next design thinking phase is to gather inspiration.
One comparison I’ve heard before is between buying a new roof and a new car. Both are expenses of roughly the same magnitude, require meeting with a dealer, take place only every 5-10 years, and give us several options to consider.
Carvana immediately jumped out to me when thinking about new ideas in the car-buying world. Although, the idea of buying a car entirely online and having it shipped to your home is a bit strange, Carvana has seen success.
Full disclosure, I’ve only gone through the car buying process once. My first two cars were from family friends, so my third was the first one that involved scouring dealerships, tolerating salesman, and searching Facebook Marketplace hourly.
It took a while to find the right car with visits to several used-car dealerships, lots of messaging on Marketplace, and a lucky break within a few hours of a post.
Would something like Carvana have helped me find a car sooner?
Initially, I would be skeptical of buying a car without physically seeing it. I may not know everything to look for to ensure mechanical soundness, but even things like the color and the interior are impossible to replicate on a screen perfectly.
After I did some research, I found that Carvana provides detailed information on a car and its history and a promise to accept any car back within a week of purchase. These assurances provide a much-improved peace of mind and make the decision somewhat realistic for me. Knowing I could return a car if it wasn’t right for me would greatly help my confidence in the decision.
So, now that we’ve gotten some inspiration, how can a Carvana approach work for metal roofing?
Carvana is a third party; they don’t make cars, they sell them. This independence enables them to offer a wide variety of makes and models and refine their selling process.
They can promise great warranties, a seven-day return policy, and home delivery. These benefits can swing customers into a not-so-traditional purchasing path.
Carvana offers customers peace of mind with a major purchase, reverses the power dynamic by allowing them to browse from home and enjoy home delivery, and even offers financing.
While Carvana’s model isn’t a perfect fit for metal roofing, it offers several key points to consider and hopefully sparks more ideas to reframe the metal roof-buying process.
Consider your customer, use innovations, and keep it financially viable for everyone.
Todd Miller has spent his entire career in the metal building products manufacturing industry. He is president of Isaiah Industries, an organization recognized as one of the world’s leading metal roofing manufacturers. Todd is currently Vice President of the MRA (Metal Roofing Association) and a Past Chair of MCA (Metal Construction Association). Through his website, he strives to raise the bar on standards and practices to provide property owners with the best possible products for successful roofing projects.
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