Get Ready For Summer
Originally published: 05.01.08 by Ruth King
Four steps will ensure success year-round
The signs of summer are here and in some areas it’s already hot. The phone is starting to ring because it’s getting warmer and people are thinking about their air conditioners. You’re starting to get more work. Your service technicians are doing pre-season check-ups and finding systems that need parts replaced or even systems that are too old and should be replaced. Now is the time to put the plan in place to decrease your dependence on the weather and increase customer loyalty. Here are four action items for your plan.>
All hvacr companies should offer service agreements to their customers. This ties the customer to using your company when they have a problem. The agreements also build trust. With enough trust you’ll have the opportunity to replace a working system that has exceeded the manufacturer’s life expectancy of that piece of equipment. Imagine a sale without your competitors’ getting an opportunity to bid! That’s what happens in companies that are committed to service-agreement programs.
In addition, most service-agreement customers pay you once per year, up front, for the privilege of owning an agreement. This decreases your dependence on the weather for work and cash. In slower summers, service-agreement customers keep the company profitable.
You always need a ringing telephone. (I know some days your dispatcher wishes it would stop ringing.) A potential customer knows you exist. Turn that prospect into a customer. They’ve gotten your name from the phonebook, seen your trucks, got 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.
Always ask if you can schedule an appointment when someone calls checking prices. Several years ago I was checking area prices for one of my new customers. I made 18 telephone calls asking about hourly rates and service-agreement costs. Not one person asked if she could set up a service call. I was amazed and started making comments about it between calls. The owner was listening, as were his customer-service people. It made an impression. Now they always ask if they can schedule a service technician out to their home when a prospective customer calls.
It’s likely that technicians have had reduced hours and are probably looking forward to getting more work, too. Review with them spring maintenance- check procedures and diagnostic procedures. They haven’t done them for many months and are rusty. You want them to be as quick and thorough as possible. You don’t want them to forget any steps.
Also, 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 pricing, it is the technician’s responsibility to tell the customer what is going on. What he sees may not be the reason that he went to the customer. However, a good technician always keeps his eyes open for other legitimate work. He should write his findings on the service ticket.
The customer may choose to have all repairs made or repair only the problem that will get the system operational again.
There are two reasons to write everythingdown. First, if the customer chooses not to have a repair made and it causes the system to break down again in two weeks, you don’t have a callback. If the customer says that you were just there and you should have caught it, the service ticket is your proof that you spoke with the customer about another part potentially breaking and he chose to ignore it.
The second reason why technicians should write everything down is that if the customer does not approve all repairs, you have potential work for slower times. A copy should be made of all service tickets where work is recommended but not approved. The copy should be put in a tickler file. When work slows down, the dispatcher pulls the file and starts making telephone calls. Most customers have forgotten and the majority of them approve the work over the telephone.
Inventory is a bet. You are betting your hard-earned cash that you will sell a part. Ensure that your trucks have the right inventory levels. Look at what was sold last year before placing orders. Even if a price is great, if you don’t sell enough to justify that price, you’ll lose cash!
If your inventory days are over 30 days, then reduce your inventory levels by not purchasing anything for a week or two unless it is going directly to a job. (Inventory days are 365 divided by inventory turns. Inventory turns are annualized cost of sales divided by inventory).
Summer is a season to earn great profits. Having a great service program, proper inventory levels, prepared technicians, and proper marketing will help ensure those profits.
Ruth King has over 25 years of experience in the hvacr industry and has worked with contractors, distributors, and manufacturers to help grow their companies and become more profitable. She is president of HVAC Channel TV and holds a Class II (unrestricted) contractors license in Georgia. Ruth has written two books: The Ugly Truth About Small Business and The Ugly Truth About Managing People. Contact Ruth at email@example.com or 770.729.0258.