Putting Customer Satisfaction at Forefront
August 17, 2009
In service industries such as the HVACR sector, customer satisfaction is one of the cornerstones of any reputable outfit. By placing an emphasis on the importance of customer service - both on the parts/supplies business as well as contractor repair/installation efforts - mutually rewarding professional relationships can be forged and profit margins widened.
According to Tom Archer, brand manager, Bryant, who has been with the 100 plus-year-old Indianapolis, Ind.-based company for eight years, “Bryant dealers continue to rate the highest in customer service over competing brands.”
The continued success of Bryant dealers in the customer service arena is underlined by outfits like Quality Air’s achievements in the areas of customer service/satisfaction and in implementing business strategies that stress tracking results and setting stringent goals. Chuck Lynch, president, Quality Air in Asheville, N.C., has been in business for 19 years, focused solely on the residential side of the HVAC industry.
“We are a residential company with six service team members and three install team members,” Lynch said. “I opened Quality Air in 1990, like many other folks as a one man truck (me). We have been a Bryant dealer since the first day of business in 1990. In 2003, we became an Airtime 500 member and the start of new systems and procedures were implemented.”
Recognized as a Bryant Dealer of the Year 2008, Lynch said that the company’s customer service starts the moment the telephone rings and continues after the service call is complete.
“We follow up with that client after every call that is run and ask key questions that enable us to see what we need to train on for the future.”
“We track a lot of numbers and our customer satisfaction is a big one for us,” Lynch said. “This gives us the ability to see what’s going on in the field right away, and if there is a problem, we can correct it right away before it becomes a bigger problem.”
“Lynch represents the Bryant brand with excellent customer service. High customer satisfaction is very consistent with Bryant dealers as Bryant leads the industry in helpfulness, timeliness, and installation quality,” Archer said. “He knows customers, and he understands they are making a major financial decision.”
“Dealer of the Year is a great honor, and I think we were able to win because of systems and procedures that are in place and because, with Bryant’s programs, we are able to set some new goals and track the results,” Lynch said. “We go over these results weekly in training, and know if we are falling short in any area.”
INCENTIVES HELP BALANCE REPAIR VS. REPLACEWith the economy hit so hard, and the HVACR industry’s phaseout of refrigerant R-22, current incentives available to consumers have helped push some repair requests to actual replacement jobs. Regarding the service end, Lynch said that customers replacing aging systems are going with more high-end systems. And, if the higher-end option is not affordable, then repairs are always the logical solution.
“As customers look at cost of repairs, it may not be as high to replace as repairing might be,” Archer said. “There is a little bit of a shift. Tax credits being pushed through by President Obama foster this, and we’re seeing a fundamental shift in ways of buying.”
Bryant and other manufacturers often offer consumer rebates. With incentives to upgrade to higher efficiency HVAC systems handed down from federal and state levels combined with manufacturer rebates and promotions, there are plenty of great opportunities for customers to take advantage of and realize marked savings.
Financing, coupled with rebates, has led to some sales growth, Archer said. Consumer rebates, referred to as Bryant Bonus, can lead to up to $1,100 off of Bryant’s top-end Evolution system. And when all variables are considered, customers are then looking at roughly $3,000 off of the installed system. This trend has helped Bryant dealers upsell customers to higher SEER units. With what is saved in utility costs coupled with financing, the payback is pretty good. (HVAC systems represent approx. 50 percent of the utility footprint, the Department of Energy reports.)
“This pushes a strong payback period, and you’re saving the environment in the process,” Archer said. “Combined with all the financial offers, you’re potentially looking at possibilities of less than a three-year payback on an investment.”
Archer also pointed out that another strong selling point is the 10-year limited warranty offered when purchasing a new piece of equipment from Bryant.
TAKING INVENTORYQuality Air works in tandem with Totaline, the factory authorized and aftermarket parts division, to ensure their technicians have all equipment necessary for the tasks at hand. What Quality Air does is send a list of what all is needed for inventory, and Totaline Southeast stocks that for them, Lynch said.
Service vehicles and the warehouse are generally fully stocked, so there is only a need to order supplies once a week. The service manager at Quality Air expedites this by sending a fax or e-mail to Totaline Southeast to place the parts order.
“Nothing really new here,” Lynch said. “We have developed a relationship with the Totaline store here locally and that has streamlined our parts. Our technicians come to the office on Wednesdays (training day) and pick up their parts that are already pulled for them, and restock for the next week.”
Stocking sufficient inventory on trucks is one of the ways that Quality Air utilizes Totaline. Lynch said that the technicians tend to load up with parts to eliminate trips back and forth to the parts store.
“The goal is not to have a service tech at the parts house,” Lynch said.
STAYING AHEAD OF THE CURVELynch’s company has implemented sophisticated ways of staying organized as well as tracking immediate results while in the field; technicians bring laptop computers with them on service calls and can get testimony in the field. According to Lynch, each of the six service techs at Quality Air have carried laptops in the field for the past three years.
“We went with traditional laptops and take along portable credit card swipers.”
Lynch said that this has helped Quality Air move toward going paperless, except for printing out work orders or copies of invoices, and was done mainly for organizational benefits.
The portable laptops will also soon play an even greater role in daily operations by providing access to parts and supply inventory. The company is working on implementing inventory software, Lynch said, but is not set up in full yet. With what the company is doing now, service techs keep track of that information and the techs send e-mails to the service center. At the shop, each tech has a bin assigned to them. Any part/inventory ordered goes straight to the bin, and when the tech comes into the shop for training, etc., they can then restock the truck.
“I am looking forward to utilizing the inventory setup with a software system,” Lynch said.
Much like Chuck Lynch has established with Quality Air, solidifying one business reputation in the HVAC industry can be achieved by taking care of the most important people out there: your customers. Lynch’s advice to fellow HVAC contractors on how to improve on key fundamental areas of business like customer service is quite basic, really: “Follow up on every job and track, track, track.” Every morning, by 10:00 a.m., Lynch said that the company has a daily management essential (DME) report, which allows him to know what all has happened with each truck, in every department.
“Track your numbers,” Lynch said. “We track everything. If you’re not tracking, it’s kind of like nobody’s watching it.”
Publication date: 08/17/2009