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Part 2: Establish the Appropriate “Culture” in Your Company

Originally published: 07.01.06 by Jackie Rainwater


In the June issue of HVACR Business, we discussed the overall importance of creating the right culture in your company in order to achieve success over the long term. The culture we established at Peachtree Heating and Air Conditioning (“Peachtree”) in Atlanta, Georgia — the company I operated from 1990 until 2002 — was a culture that valued and nurtured its customers and co-workers and enabled us to achieve tremendous growth and profitability during that period. Our company culture was very simple:

WIN! + WIN! = WIN!
(#1 - Customer) (#2 - Co-Worker) (#3 - Company)

This month, we will discuss ways to ensure the customer “wins” each time they interact with your company.

The First Winner: The Customer

As we are all aware, customers have many choices when they have need of products and services we provide as HVAC service companies. We commit substantial resources (time, money, effort, etc.) to influence customers to choose our company rather than another HVAC company in our marketplace. Attracting new customers is only the beginning — retaining customers should always be the primary job for everyone in your company. Everyone at Peachtree understood that, in every interaction with a customer, the customer was to always be

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the first “winner.” The customer was to receive full value for every dollar he or she spent with us. They, along with their property, were to be treated with the utmost care and respect. Whenever possible, we were to deliver our services at the customer’s convenience, not necessarily at our convenience. Each service and maintenance call, as well as every installation job, was to be thoroughly quality audited by the performing technician(s) at the end of the procedure. And finally, at the end of each call, the customer was told how much we sincerely appreciated their business and that we truly valued them as customers.

Think like a “Retailer”

When we learn to think and behave as true “retailers,” we are then competing for a share of the customer’s discretionary income, and not just for the money they must spend for simply controlling the temperature in their home or other facility. In order to attract new customers and retain those we are successful in attracting, we must offer and deliver a highly attractive and comprehensive line of value-added products and services and make them readily available to customers. Remember, we are competing with other “retailers” (such as boat dealers, RV dealers, home theater suppliers, spa and swimming pool contractors, etc). Here is a partial list of things we must advertise and deliver if we are to be successful “retailing contractors:”

• Extend service hours. Consider offering service at “regular rates” from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Saturday. (Given the high percentage of households with both partners working, why should a customer have to take time off from their job in order to meet our service technician at their home)?

• Offer 24-hour emergency service.

• Service all brands. Many customers think they should call a company that advertises the brand they happen to have.

• Send out professional technicians. Customers are more at ease with uniformed and certified (such as NATE) service and installation technicians with photo identification and business cards.

• Provide continuous training. Technicians should receive a minimum of 40 hours of classroom and lab training each year.

• Become an equal opportunity employer.

• Perform background checks. Character and criminal backgrounds should be checked on all service and installation technicians.

• Maintain a drug-free workplace. Use an ongoing drug monitoring program for compliance.

• Guarantee service within a two-hour time frame or the diagnostic fee is waived.

• Provide a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee.

• Offer competitive financing plans for installation jobs. Provide low APRs, six or 12 months “same as cash,” etc.

• Become a member of the Better Business Bureau and a “BBB Care” participant.

• Become an active member of local and national trade organizations (NATE, ACCA, ASHRAE, etc.).

• Guarantee service work for one year (parts and labor).

• Install a customer assistance “help line”

• Communicate with customers. Service technicians should review with the customer the work they have performed at the end of each service call and ask the customer if they have any questions or concerns.

• Perform a comprehensive quality audit at the end of each job. Customers should be invited to accompany the installation team during the audit. This is also an ideal time to review the operation of the system and accessories with the customer. At Peachtree Heating and Air Conditioning, we performed a 32 point installation quality control audit, as well as taking photos of the old equipment to be replaced and the new equipment and accessories at the completion of the installation and quality audit. At the end of the quality audit, installation technicians expressed their sincere appreciation to the customer. This quality control process enabled our company to hold our first year warranty costs to under .6 percent of sales, as compared to an industry average of around 2.5 percent. (We will fully discuss this process in an upcoming issue). This process allowed our customers to enjoy a trouble free job, our installers to earn an installation QC bonus on all jobs that met our installation QC criteria, and our company to make more bottom line profits. A perfect example of a WIN! + WIN! = WIN! culture!

Next month we will describe ways to make Co-Workers the second “winner”.

Jackie Rainwater is a 46-year veteran and former owner of Peachtree Heating and Air-Conditioning in Atlanta. He built his businesses on service agreements. 

 


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