Effective communication is essential for any business, but for HVACR and plumbing businesses, with multiple departments and technicians in the field, it is of paramount importance. Whether a service technician needs to speak with a manager while on a job or a potential customer needs to schedule a service call, lines of communication should be outlined and easily accessible.
In business, communication can be separated into two lines, internal, which refers to communication between employees or managers, and external, which refers to communication between an employee and a customer or another business. Consider the usage and best practices of email, phone, and internal systems for both internal and external communication in your HVACR or plumbing business.
Business Communication – Email
There are a variety of effective uses for an email in both internal and external communication. Internally, email is commonly used to confirm employee scheduling and relay information about service calls. Employers may also use email as a way to update and inform employees of new products, technology, or the latest industry news. Email pulse surveys provide an effective way for employees to provide direct feedback in real-time, as well. According to Qualtrics, a pulse survey is defined as:
Pulse surveys are a mechanism for measuring feedback using shorter, more frequent check-ins, that are not bound to measuring specific topics or content.
Externally, email has just as many uses, if not more. Standard communication with customers, like appointment confirmation and completion notices, is commonplace. Although they tend to be overlooked in a full inbox. Many HVACR and plumbing businesses have also found success in using emails for marketing by way of newsletters, sales events, or informational articles, that may be beneficial to customers. They may also use email to promote the business, or even to remind existing customers to schedule yearly maintenance on their HVACR systems. Email provides the marketing team with data on click rates and the effectiveness of the campaigns.
Tips for Using Email to Communicate with Employees and Customers
- Create Relevant Content—Blasting customers with insignificant information could result in fewer readers and less effective communication. Instead, only send an email when content is valuable to employees or customers.
- Avoid Spam Folders—Learn and follow best practices for emailing that reduce the likelihood that your email will end up in spam.
- Track Your Metrics—Take the time to analyze and understand if marketing campaigns are working, based on open and click rates. Google Analytics is an effective tool for this. Tracking will help you channel your resources toward the communication that is working, rather than throwing spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks.
Calls and texts are both widely accessible to most customers, so, understandably, HVACR and plumbing businesses would prefer to leverage this mode of communication. While there are certain situations where the phone is most effective, it may not be the best go-to for all communication. Internally, for instance, customer service may need to contact a technician’s cell phone to update their schedule, add customer info via text, or check an ETA in real-time. While talking to a receptionist in the main office may be helpful for the tech to understand the homeowner’s situation, it may not be possible to write the information down and may not be as time-sensitive.
Texts are effectively used to confirm appointments or let a homeowner know that a technician is on the way or troubleshoot an address error or scheduling issue. These communications are incredibly efficient for both the employee and the customer. When these texts or calls come directly from the technician’s phone, customers may then contact the technician directly.
Tips for Effective Phone Communication with Employees and Customers
- Train customer service agents—Ensure that everyone in customer service understands the services and products offered by your business and that they can effectively communicate and sell them to potential customers.
- Route customer phone calls correctly—Make it easier for customers to get in touch with the right person, whether that’s the technician working in their home or customer service.
- Don’t rely on phone calls for scheduling—Technicians have to juggle many tasks. Consider using internal systems with text functions to update their schedules.
- Internal Systems
In the past few years, there have been many advances in robust, auto-responsive scheduling systems. These scheduling programs have been game-changers for HVACR and plumbing businesses. While scheduling can still be done over the phone or by email, it is far more effective and accurate when done through an internal scheduling system, which will not only schedule the appointment but send automatic confirmations and updates to technicians and homeowners as well.
Internal systems for managing inventory and pricing are also extremely helpful, not just for the home office, but for technicians in the field as well. Technicians and customer service employees may also benefit from handbooks and manuals downloaded to an internal system for quick and easy access. Some of these systems may require training, but once all employees are on board, it can streamline processes immensely. The benefits of using internal systems are diminished when employees are not properly trained on how to use them.
Tips for Using Internal Systems in HVACR and Plumbing
- Be consistent—When scheduling is sometimes emailed or texted, rather than entered into the internal system, it can be confusing for employees to manage or track. Instead, have distinct guidelines for which type of communication is used in each circumstance.
- Train your employees—Internal systems are only effective when employees understand how to access and utilize them.
- Listen to feedback—Some internal systems may sound like the perfect fit for management, but if they aren’t practical for employees, they may be ignored or circumvented. Survey those using the system to understand its effectiveness in practice.
Various Strategies for Internal and External Communication
As a business owner, you have many options when it comes to communication with employees and customers, but that doesn’t mean it’s a one-size-fits-all solution. Consider which mode of communication is best for each aspect of your business. For instance, appointment reminders and updates may be best delivered through text, while contracts and follow-ups are better suited to email. If you are unsure about the effectiveness of a particular mode of communication for your team and customer base, survey employees and customers for feedback. You may be surprised how quickly, streamlining communication will impact employee satisfaction and customer retention.