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Screener links homeowners with good contractors

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By Amy Watkins
HBJ Freelance Writer
@SnoCoBizJournal
Published: Monday, August 19, 2013, 5:08 p.m.
  • Cari Barron is founder and owner of Contractor Hotline LLC in Edmonds.

    Contributed photo

    Cari Barron is founder and owner of Contractor Hotline LLC in Edmonds.

EDMONDS — Cari Barron remembers the call for help with a flooded rental property.
Large waves and extreme high tides last winter rushed into the two-story property on Beach Drive in West Seattle, destroying the lower portion. Barron, founder and owner of Contractor Hotline LLC, helped the property owner connect with specialists who could repair the damage.
"We were able to get people there immediately to resolve the drainage problem, get the property dried and gutted out, and begin the renovation process," she said. "They were so grateful to have somebody that they could rely on to walk them through that process and make it easier and less stressful than it already was."
In August 2006, Barron started Contractor Hotline, a home services referral network for people living in Snohomish and King counties. When she launched a website for her small Edmonds-based business in January 2007, she had a network of 20 contractors to match with customers in need of qualified and reliable home improvement and service professionals. Now she works with about 40 contractors.
In order to be part of the network, contractors must pass a screening process and continually meet high standards, said Barron, 52. She makes sure each contractor is licensed, bonded and insured, has positive references and is in good standing with the Better Business Bureau and Washington State Department of Labor and Industries. She also conducts regular credential audits and performance evaluations.
When a customer calls, Barron learns about their needs in order to refer a contractor who will contact them directly to follow up about their home improvement project. The service is free to her customers because Barron earns a commission from the contractors who do the work. She provides personal service and support to her customers throughout the process, Barron added.
"I'm involved with every project, making sure customers are completely satisfied," she said. "I check in and make sure that contractors showed up on time, they were courteous in their home, and picked up after themselves."
Keeping her small business personal is important to Barron. While business has doubled every year since 2010, she has also known challenging times in the years since founding Contractor Hotline.
"I had to question it a couple of times when the economy was at its worst, but I just hung in there and managed to keep it going," Barron said. "I'm glad I stuck it out. You have to be passionate about something to get through the really tough stuff and now I appreciate it even more."
Jeff Kulik, 52, first heard about Contractor Hotline through a mail flyer and over the past several years has used the business to find several contractors. The Edmonds resident recommends the referral business that has helped him simplify home improvements, including a patio extension and driveway replacement.
"When I call (Barron) and explain the problem I have, she takes the ball and she runs with it," Kulik said. "I know she's in constant contact with the contractor and me, asking me how I think the process is going. She just takes all the difficult parts of what I would do out of my hands."
Kulik said he is planning to remodel his kitchen and will probably use Contractor Hotline again soon. Like Kulik, many of her customers call more than once, Barron said. Although most of her business comes from repeat customers and referrals, she added that one of her goals is to attract new customers while maintaining exceptional customer service.
"We've all been on hold with utility or phone companies and you know how frustrating it is when you wait and wait and sometimes they can help you and sometimes they can't," Barron said. "I get so frustrated with poor customer service. I vowed my customers would never experience that."
Learn more
Get more information about Contractor Hotline at www.contractorhotline.net, call 425-775-9085 or email cari@contractorhotline.net.
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