A Year Later, Bowen Refrigeration Busier Than Ever

August 4, 2002
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Don Bowen says that his service agreement program has increased business.
MUSKEGON, MI — A year ago, Don Bowen, owner of Bowen Refrigeration, Heating, and Cooling, was the happy winner of The News’ “Do You Want to Grow Your Business?” contest. He won a free marketing analysis from noted HVACR business consultant Ruth King. Among the items King recommended for increasing residential and commercial service accounts was to start up a service agreement program.

Bowen took the advice — and it has paid off.

Although the hot summer weather has kept his crews busy, Bowen acknowledged that service agreements have been a big part of his company’s active 2002 selling and servicing success.

“Service agreements have kept us busy,” he said. “We started with almost no agreements last year and now we have about 200 residential and 20 commercial contracts. We had virtually no agreements before Ruth came here. Now we have a full binder of residential contracts.”

The Muskegon, MI-based contractor said that this is a good time to be selling contracts. Although only a small percentage of his work this summer is contract work, he said that selling contracts now will set up a good cushion for slower times of the year. Having more service agreements will also give Bowen the chance to hire another service tech soon.

“We think we are about 50 service agreements away from getting a new service tech,” he said. “That would give us enough agreements for one tech to work on all of the time. I think we will reach that goal by the end of the year.”

Kathy Larsen handles Bowen's busy dispatch and accounting responsibilities.

STAND UP, TAKE NOTICE

Once Bowen reaches his service agreement goal, he should have no problem hiring a new service technician. He has received a stack of resumes from technicians at virtually every competitor in the Muskegon market.

“We are growing and people are taking notice,” he said. “Almost every new customer we get is from a referral. Our reputation is the No. 1 reason why business has gotten so much better this year.”

He said that his techs make immediate, positive impressions on customers, rolling out tarps as soon as they enter homes. The tarps are professionally laundered every week. It’s a nice touch that is being noticed by other HVACR companies.

Bowen’s employees are also the beneficiaries of the professional attitude. The service and installation crews are still intact from the last time The News visited in 2001. The office staff has changed and a second salesperson has been added. Bowen has also added some helpers to assist the field crews during the busy times.

“You will never hear of us turning down work,” said Bowen. “We are here to service our customers.”

Bowen employees (from left) Bill Smith, Steve Dietz, and Juan Garcia prepare a wall air-handling unit for installation.
One example of serving customers was evident with a job Bowen is currently working on at the Snoopy Boutique, a retail store and entertainment theatre in the sprawling Michigan Adventure Park, a combination amusement and water park in the Muskegon area.

Bowen realizes the importance of the job, installing five “High Wall” air handlers, and has pulled one of his commercial service techs to help.

Bill Smith, installation manager and part of the three-man crew, said, “It has been busier than ever this year, but our company does not want to turn down installation work. That’s why we will pull service techs when necessary to help out.”

Steve Dietz, the lone service tech, said that he was working on the condensate pumps for the air-handling units, and added that the crew must start at 6 a.m. and leave before 10 a.m., as the park opens at 11 a.m. After that, he would handle four to six service jobs to complete the workday. Dietz noted that the company has added motivation to leave a good impression on the managers of Michigan Adventure Park.

“I guess the company that was doing service work for them messed up, and now this could be a chance for us to get the account.”

Steve Dietz (left) and Juan Garcia remove the cover from a wall air-handling unit at the Snoopy Boutique.

OTHER CHANGES

Bowen added that his company bought Service Automation Software (SAS) for accounting and dispatch services. Kathy Larsen, who came back to work for Bowen after a two-year absence, has accepted the challenge of adapting to this new system.

“When I first worked here, we had two phone lines,” said Larsen. “Now we have four!”

Bowen said his “new” office employee is doing just fine.

“Kathy adapts well to new things,” he said. “And she has been selling a lot of service agreements by being the first contact with customers.

“SAS has got us to the point where we can track every service call and installation. Now we know right away if a customer has a service agreement. We also do a lot more mailings now.”

Bowen said his wife, Jennifer, keeps updated service agreements on each of the service vans. And that helps, especially during the busy summer season.

“On the average, we are running 20-25 service calls a day with four techs,” said Bowen. “Some days we are a lot busier, running 40-50 calls. In one stretch, we had 142 calls in five days. We are averaging three add-ons per day this summer.

“This could be one of our best years ever.”

Publication date: 08/05/2002

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