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First Impressions

Originally published: 02.01.15 by John Rudy


First Impressions

The Importance of an Apparel Program

Ding, dong! Your technician arrives at a customer’s house to fix their furnace, but there’s no answer. He rings the doorbell again and knocks loudly on the door — nothing. They must have forgotten about the appointment. Wrong. The customer didn’t recognize him by his stained t-shirt and ripped jeans so they’ve spent the last 10 minutes cowering in a closet, ready to dial 911 if he doesn’t go away.

You only get one chance to make a first impression, so you want it to be a good one. Your technician or estimator, standing at your customer’s front door or front desk will play a significant role in defining the image of your business. In some situations, it doesn’t matter how knowledgeable the technician is — if a customer is greeted by an employee with a dirty or wrinkled uniform, or worse, no uniform at all, there’s a good chance they may never call you again.

The Importance of Apparel

Harvard Business School social psychologist, Amy Cuddy, found that when people develop first impressions, they’re primarily evaluating the trustworthiness and confidence of that individual. A well-defined apparel program will


enhance your brand, making your customers feel secure and confident about doing business with you.

In addition to making customers feel secure, uniforms can also be an easy form of identification, particularly at larger commercial sites. As security has become heightened in recent years, most commercial properties, whether a new construction project or an established business, will require contractors to show multiple forms of identification. A uniform program helps to distinguish HVACR service contractors from trespassers, putting customers at ease.

An apparel program also lets you make a statement about your brand. Too often, employees who don’t have access to an apparel program may gravitate to items in their closet that are already soiled, so they don’t ruin a nice shirt when they go to work. Other businesses may offer loose recommendations for employee workwear (e.g. a blue shirt and khaki pants), which can lead to an overall inconsistency of image and apparel that becomes worn over time.

According to a recent Harris Interactive poll among 2,051 adults, nearly two-thirds said that seeing uniformed employees has a positive impact on their perception of a company.

A well-uniformed employee has the power to elevate the company’s brand by portraying a consistently clean, reliable and professional image to customers. Customers are much more likely to remember a service technician’s appearance than his/her HVACR skills after the call. Additionally, it increases morale, because workers feel the business is investing in them and their image.

Renting vs. Wash and Wear

The decision to either purchase uniforms or rent from a uniform provider can be a challenging one and determined by a number of factors, including job function, employee turnover and image.

Purchasing HVACR employee uniforms makes each employee responsible for their own uniform, including laundering, care, repair and/or replacement. Not every employee, however, will care for his or her garments in the same way. Frequent exposure to grease, dirt and grime are likely to result in stains that can make technicians appear less than professional.

To protect that investment and ensure a consistent sharp image and brand, many HVACR businesses use a uniform rental program. Under the program, the rental provider picks up soiled garments on a weekly basis to inspect and launder the uniforms. Each employee is provided with a set of clean uniforms for the week, ensuring they always look their best.

The rental provider will also repair or replace any garments damaged from normal wear and tear. This is an ideal option for HVACR employees with highly physical jobs, such as maintenance, installation and repair.

Keeping Up with Trends

Before you start thinking that implementing a uniform program means putting your staff in stiff, itchy work shirts and uncomfortable pants, think again. A reputable apparel provider will offer a variety of garments that are comfortable, breathable and perform well day after day, keeping pace with changes in fashion and fabric technology.

When developing an apparel program, consider the following uniform design trends:

Enhanced Breathability: Improve-ments in fabric technology such as moisture-wicking controls have greatly enhanced the breathability and wearability of employee uniforms, so HVACR workers can stay comfortable in any environment. This allows everyone to be in a similar, professional style — from the person providing customer estimates to the technicians performing the work.

Better Fabrics: Advances in apparel technology have enabled manufacturers to create garments with fast-drying, soil-release and moisture-wicking capabilities — perfect for maintenance and installation technicians. Newer fabrics wash better, wear better and snag less.

Smaller Logos: More HVACR businesses are embracing uniform programs as a way to extend their brand, using color and style to promote their business rather than oversized logo t-shirts.

Tailored Fits: One size does not always fit all. Better fitting apparel makes workers look and feel better. By working with an apparel provider that offers fitting services and a wide range of fit and size options, including women’s apparel, HVACR businesses can enhance their overall image.

Increased Functionality: Today’s uniforms include retail patterns with roomier cuts, moisture control fabrics and larger pockets for wire cutters, digital voltmeter and other tools; all that bring increased functionality to workplace garments.

When selecting a uniform provider, it’s important to look for companies that provide a wide range of options, including retail-inspired designs and those that offer exceptional comfort to enhance worker productivity. Uniforms should be individually fit for each employee to ensure the right look and fit.

Image as Opportunity

No matter the market, owners and operators of HVACR businesses are continually looking for ways to create a competitive advantage. From search engine optimization to customer satisfaction surveys, you likely have a number of programs in place to attract and retain customers. The image of your business, however, might be another opportunity to differentiate yourself from the competition.

As you think about your brand, ask how your employees reflect that brand. Do they showcase the professionalism, integrity and commitment to service that is central to your company culture? What type of first impression do they leave with your customers?

The next time a customer calls, make sure you’re showcasing the best possible image so they call you when they need service in the future.


John Rudy is senior marketing and strategy manager for Cintas Corporation. For additional information, please visit www.cintas.com.

 

 





About John Rudy

John Rudy

John is senior marketing and strategy manager for Cintas Corporation. For additional information, please visit www.cintas.com.

 




Articles by John Rudy

First Impressions

In some situations, it doesn’t matter how knowledgeable the technician is — if a customer is greeted by an employee with a dirty or wrinkled uniform, or worse, no uniform at all, there’s a good chance they may never call you again.
View article.