Take a Look from Your Customers’ Perspective
Originally published: 05.01.17 by Pete Grasso
Like most homeowners, I know it’s only a matter of time before I need to call an HVACR contractor to come out to my house. And it finally happened — my furnace stopped working.
I experienced, first-hand, what your customers go through on a daily basis. Given the many years I’ve spent in this industry, however, I looked at the entire process in a different light than most.
On a Friday evening a few weeks ago, as my wife and I relaxed on the couch watching Netflix, we simultaneously noticed we were both cold and I realized I hadn’t heard the heat come on in quite some time.
Sure enough, the setting on the thermostat read 70F, but the temperature in the house was 67F. Like any man who thinks he knows what he’s doing, I headed down to the furnace. I followed the instructions on the panel to reset it and, as it started back up, I was hopeful. But then, after cycling through a couple of times without actually igniting, it shut off.
Throughout the years, I've spoken to countless contractors, attended many training classes and have even had equipment explained to me by the people who design them, so I decided to take a closer look.
The blinking light told me it was Fault Code 34. After trying the start-up procedure again with the same results — and even going so far as to take apart and clean the flame sensor myself — I went back upstairs to break the news to my wife: It was time to call a professional.
I can empathize with your customers … no one likes to write the check, but it’s a necessity of home ownership and I of all people can appreciate the value of calling a professional contractor.
On Saturday, I called a local company. The dispatcher told me a technician would call me back and after describing the problem to the technician, he told me he could be at my house in about an hour and the trip charge is $189 — a fair price for an emergency, weekend call. Since it really wasn’t that cold outside and we wouldn’t be around much that weekend, I told him I’d call back Monday.
With the weekend over and my busted furnace no longer an “emergency,” I evaluated my criteria for what I need in a contractor.
Six years earlier, I called that same company when my air conditioner died in the middle of August. They came out and did an excellent job, but they didn’t offer me a maintenance plan and I never heard from them again. So, I had no allegiance for this new problem. I needed a contractor able to accomodate my schedule, who was responsive and could provide great service at a reasonable price.
During our Monday morning staff meeting, I relayed what was happening with my furnace and sat back as the myriad opinions came forth (this was also my opportunity to alert everyone of my forthcoming absence as I dealt with the inevitable service call).
I received many referrals as, apparently, everyone had experienced a similar situation. Ultimately, I chose to go with All Weather Heating & Cooling for a number of reasons, not the least of which was they were referred to me by the boss, Terry Tanker.
I scheduled an appointment for the next day and was impressed with the dispatcher’s offer to have the technician call me when he was on his way so I could leave work then instead of waiting around the house all morning.
When the technician, Mason, arrived, he immediately got out of his truck and greeted me with a handshake. I led him to the furnace and he went to work. I’ve met many experienced, knowledgable technicians over the years and, although he’s young, I could tell Mason is smart and has had great training.
I explained my own diagnosis of a problematic gas valve. He politely listened, and then proceeded with his professional diagnosis using real tools. It did turn out to be a bad gas valve (vindication!) and since he can’t carry every type of valve on his truck, Mason said he’d have to run out to the distributor.
He told me it would take a couple of hours and, if I wanted to go back to work, he’d call when he’s on his way back so I didn’t have to wait for him at home.
A couple of hours later, Mason completed the job and restored my home to a well-heated living area. He recommended we think about replacing our 23-year-old furnace at some point and urged us to schedule some maintenance on our air conditioner.
I talk to contractors all the time and I know these things should be a priority, but I’m also a fairly new homeowner with a lot of other expenses. A new roof, some remodeling, a city-mandated sewer separation … the list goes on and this is what you’re up against every day.
As Jim Baston writes in this month’s cover story (pg. 8), you can learn a lot about customer service by paying attention to your great technicians. I’ll add, you can learn a lot about your company if you put yourself in your customers’ shoes.