5 Ways to Boost work Year-Round
Originally published: 04.01.10 by Ruth King
Becoming less dependent on weather with strengthen your business.
Winter weather is gone, and the warmth of spring is upon us. Take a tip from farmers. Plant seeds in spring for a good summer and a great fall harvest. What does this mean for HVACR contractors? It is time to decrease your dependence on the weather and increase customer loyalty. These make for better business all year. Here are five action steps.
1. Maintenance agreements.
Get serious about them. The most critical thing they do is create loyalty. After a few visits, customers begin to trust what your technicians tell them. Then, when it is time tore place a unit, your customer is likely to listen to the technician’s recommendation. Even in this down economy, most contractors with great maintenance agreement programs didn’t lose many of their maintenance agreement customers. I heard, “We wouldn’t have made it without our service agreements,” more times than I can count. Create a contest with your employees to reach a certain number of maintenance agreements this year. The overall goal should be to have the overhead of your company funded by maintenance agreements. This might not be possible for a few years. However, it is
2. Consider the telephone a friend.
You always need a ringing telephone. (It’s still O.K., though, that on some days you wish it would go away. We all have those days!) A potential customer knows you exist. Turn that prospect into a customer. They’ve gotten your name from the phone directory, seen your trucks, gotten a referral from a friend, or heard your advertisements. They’ve taken the first step and called. Even when you’re busy, make sure that a friendly voice answers the telephone and clearly says the name of your company. Don’t have negative people on the telephone. A potential customer worth thousands of dollars to you could hang up and decide not to do business with you.People call and ask about prices. Ask for the order! If they are checking prices, they obviously have interest in what your company provides. Set an appointment for a sales person. Set an appointment for your technician to visit that person’s home. At a minimum, try to get that person’s name and address to keep them on the mailing list for things that can help them be more comfortable in their homes. Don’t let that potential customer getaway.
3. Get your technicians ready.
It’s likely that they have had reduced hours and are probably looking forward to getting more work. Remind them that whenever they go to a customer’s home or office, they should record everything that is wrong with the hvacr system. Spend the time diagnosing the system. Even if you are not on flat rate, it is the technician’s responsibility to educate the customer about her hvacr system’s health. What he finds may not be the reason that he went to the customer’s home or office. However, a good technician always keeps his eyes open for other legitimate work. He should write his findings on the service ticket and explain his findings to the customer. The customer may choose to have all repairs made; or, repair only the problem that will get the system operational again.This is analogous to a situation where you go to the doctor because you broke your leg. While you are there,he checks your blood pressure and notices that it is high. You have a second health concern that you didn’t know about until you broke your leg. However, you want to know about it so you can take steps to lower it.
4. Pull out your tickler files from last summer.
There may have been repairs that were suggested that the customer chose to wait until spring to act on. Spring is here. Set the appointment, and getthe work done.At this time of year you might be adding to the tickler file, too. When a technician is at a customer’s home or office, if the customer chooses not to have a repair made, this is future work. Make sure that the dispatcher makes a copy of the service ticket for the tickler file.
5. Start your marketing activities and continue to market when it gets busy.
Use a technique called drip marketing. This meanssending something once per month to current andpotential customers. It could be an email, a postcard,a newsletter, or a telephone call. Keep your name infront of your customers. Make sure they have magnet sand chip clips. They will remember you, and can find you when they need you. Let the media know about how taking care of air conditioning systems now can help save money on utility bills this summer. An article in a newspaper or a mention on radio/television can be as good or better for your business as placing an ad. In spring, plant the seeds for a good summer and great harvest in the fall. Make sure that you put the things in place that will decrease your dependency on the weather and increase your customer base. The weather changes, but loyalty doesn’t!
Ruth King has over 25 years of experience in the hvacrindustry and has worked with contractors, distributors,and manufacturers to help grow their companies and tobecome more profitable. She is president of HVAC ChannelTV and holds a Class ll (unrestricted) contractors license inGeorgia. Ruth has authored two books:The Ugly Truth about Small Business and The UglyTruth about Managing People. Contact Ruth at www.hvacchannel.com or 770-729-0258.
Articles by Ruth King
Are You in No Man’s Land?
No Man’s Land is a vulnerable stage in your business growth. Many contractors don’t make it out of this stage because they can’t make the transition from doing to managing and they don’t keep an eye on cash flow.
Where You Should Put Labor Burden
True profit is determined by net profit per hour, calculations which take both direct and overhead costs into consideration. Labor burden is included, whether you put it in direct or overhead cost.
Profitable Sales Turned into Positive Cash Flow is Critical
Although cash is king and is used to pay all of your bills, cash flow is important, but profitable sales turned into positive cash flow is critical.
Know When You’re Growing Too Fast or Too Slow
Business profitability doesn’t mean business survival. By running out of cash and not having the ability to borrow or get it in an equity investment, you can be profitable and go out of business by growing too fast.
Understand Your P&L: Overhead