It’s important to know in advance what constitutes the scope of preventative maintenance for both you and your customers.
Preventative maintenance (PM) is a proactive service performed to help ensure that more expensive repairs do not occur, or occur far less frequently, and that a system is operating optimally.
For contractors and their customers alike, it’s important to know in advance what constitutes the terms and scope of the preventative maintenance, how often and when it is to be done, and what can be expected in return for the effort and expense — the payback on the investment.
This last part is what will be important to the customer and will comprise the core of your ‘value statement’ when recommending a PM program to them.
Having customers sign on for PM programs also present a substantial benefit to the contractor and it is these two key benefits that we will explore in this article.
Benefits to the Customer
Energy Efficiency. To do its job, an air-conditioning system requires a temperature difference exist between the refrigerant in the evaporator and condenser and the air or water from which it is taking or adding heat.
The compressor is the component that supplies the energy to increase the pressure and temperature of the refrigerant in the condenser where the energy absorbed by the evaporator and added by the work of the compressor is rejected.
The closer the refrigerant and air/water are in temperature, the less energy that is required to move the heat. This is due to a smaller pressure difference between the evaporator and condenser, so the compressor is required to do less work to increase the pressure between the two.
Without a good PM program, a high efficiency air-conditioning system can operate with low efficiency over time. Dust, lint, and hair can build up on the indoor coil and cause it to run colder than necessary, using more energy to provide less cooling. This can also result in liquid refrigerant returning to the compressor, which can further damage operability.
Life Expectancy. Any compressor that has run for 15 years or more very likely never operated in a system with dirty coils, low airflow, or poor voltage supplied to it. A dirty condenser coil with a TXV metering device can result in hot motor windings that can rapidly degrade the motor insulation and reduce motor life very quickly; with a piston-metering device, it can mean replacing flooded compressors that have failed due to liquid return.
Slow leaks can cause low suction pressure and poor compressor motor cooling, which can also result in failed windings and dead compressors. The same goes for poor voltage. Worse yet, manufacturers and distributors are likely to refuse warranty claims for components that failed due to “application related failures,” which can be detrimental news for customers who think that their system was still covered by a warranty, when in fact the warranty will not cover repairs because the system was not operating correctly.
Luckily all these things can likely be caught and rectified before damage can occur if a proper PM program is in place and carried out.
The customer has made a major investment and just like planned maintenance on a car, a PM program can more than pay for itself through energy savings and long-life expectancy.
Financial Security. Identifying issues before they become major problems can save a lot of money as replacing components that have failed can add up quickly.
For a customer, having a coil cleaned or a weak start capacitor replaced is a bargain compared to having a compressor replaced. Making the customer aware of what was done and the benefit of doing it in terms of cost savings and improved comfort will add value to the service you provide in his mind.
Costs aside, a heat exchanger in a gas furnace that has an excessive temperature rise across it can spell major grief in January when it cracks in -10F weather. Correcting the airflow issue earlier in the year so it runs fine all winter is very much preferable.
Customer Buy-in and Trust. Customers who are regularly updated and informed by their contractor of how their system is performing and what if anything is needed to make it operate better may take more interest in ensuring that they replace the indoor air filter on a regular basis and make sure the outdoor unit is clear of hedges and other obstructions that can impair performance.
Good communication with customers is imperative. Make sure that your technicians are well versed and skilled in this area, as the benefits of a PM program must be made clear in a simple but thorough way so that customers can grasp its value. Additionally, customers that trust your company and its service personnel are far more likely to be open to suggestions for system upgrades when the time is right if they have been happy with how their existing system has operated historically and how they have been taken care of.
If they understand what is important for their systems to operate correctly and the basics of how they work, upgrading their next system to a more efficient model will be easier as they should be able to quickly understand the benefits and trust your recommendation.
Benefits to the Contractor
Opportunity to Show Value. You have great technicians with strong technical aptitude. The problem is, they do a great job installing a system or servicing an existing one, but you never hear from the customer again because the system just keeps running for the next few years.
In five years, the same customer wants to upgrade his or her system with a new one and a neighbor recommends somebody who installed their system a few months back and it “seems” to be ok. With a PM contract, your technicians could have continued and nurtured the relationship, reducing the chance of the customer going to another contractor for their new system.
Profitable Relationships. Hiring good employees is challenging. Often, developing solid relationships with good employees to retain them and prevent turnover is more beneficial for both the company and other staff. In many ways it is the same for customers.
Developing a long-term and profitable relationship with customers ensures stable work and sales opportunities down the road.
Even if those customers move across town, they will likely prefer to still have you as their service and sales provider because of the trust they have established with your company Imagine how having a good base of loyal returning customers can help provide a stable and reliable source of business income.
Increased Sales Opportunities. A PM program can also provide opportunity to increase revenue without having to incur the cost and burden of acquiring a new customer. Just like employees, customers can be divided into different value levels.
Ideal customers, like those who pay on time and have disposable income, are ones for whom you want to make sure you do everything possible to keep them as customers. PM programs are a great tool for building these types of long-term relationships that are valuable to both parties. Keeping an ongoing dialogue with these customers is critical to ensuring your business grows and moves with them over time.
The benefits of a preventative maintenance program for customers is the peace of mind that their system is inspected and maintained on a regular basis without the worry of what steps are required and when to keep their system healthy and working properly.
Any issues that occur are likely to be caught early and corrected before they can become major problems and result in a large expenditure to correct. This goes for both heating and cooling systems.
While a broken air-conditioning system can be a real nuisance in warmer months and climates, a dead furnace in colder seasons and regions can also be a disaster.
They will also save a substantial amount of money in operating costs due to the system working as intended and not wasting energy working harder than is necessary.
For the contractor, maintaining an ongoing relationship and communication with quality customers will result in greater revenue opportunities and lower effort required to acquire new or additional business.
Good service also results in positive customer recommendations in social media as well as traditional word of mouth among neighbors and relatives.