Wow Factor in Contractor/Supplier Relations

August 16, 2010
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A service tech for All State Air, an ABCO customer, uses a multi-meter to check for ground on the tandem compressors.


Customer service is often advertised but sometimes undelivered. It is a given that business owners like HVAC contractors give good service to their customers, and in turn, should expect good service from the people who sell them parts and equipment. But that is not always the case.

One bad episode or a series of mishaps can doom a business relationship in spite of the goodwill and camaraderie that has built up over the years between parties. In other words, something that is taken for granted - customer service - needs to be supported and nurtured, especially in tough economic times and in competitive markets.

HVAC distributors know this, and go to great lengths to strengthen and solidify their bonds with their contractor clients. Here are some of the “wow” stories of unmatched customer service from across the country.

WON'T TAKE NO FOR AN ANSWER

A very special moment happens when a distributor teams up with a manufacturer to help out a contractor in need. That was the case for HVAC contractor Frank Detmer of Detmer and Sons Inc. of Fairborn, Ohio. Detmer and Sons had just landed a project with a local hospital, one with which it had been trying for years to get a foot in the door. The new construction project was a 10,000-square-foot build-out on the fourth floor of the local Kettering Hospital for a group of doctors with an oncology practice.

“We had been trying to get our foot in the door with the hospital for almost two years, and we were finally given our chance with this oncology suite build-out,” Detmer said. “It was scheduled to take 12 weeks from start to finish.”

Detmer had been working closely with his supplier, EAP Inc. of Cincinnati, which supplied his company with VAVs, diffusers, fire dampers, exhaust fans, spiral ductwork, etc. Joe Beal was EAP’s representative.

According to Detmer, everything was going smoothly until, at nine weeks into the project, the two glove boxes arrived. The boxes are used for mixing the toxic chemicals in chemotherapy treatments. “We were told in our meetings that these boxes would not need any type of exhaust system,” Detmer said. “We asked specifically several times about exhaust for the boxes, and we were assured it would not be necessary. But one of the boxes not only needed exhaust, it was a specialty item because of the specific pressures that were required.”

Detmer immediately contacted Beal, whose company supplies products from Greenheck Manufacturing. Greenheck responded that the specialty item could be built, and the normal lead time for this was eight to 10 weeks. But the project’s drop-dead date was only three weeks away. “The general contractor informed me that he understood that it wasn’t our fault, but at the end of the day the hospital will make me the fall guy - and I would have probably done my first and last project for the hospital,” Detmer said.

“We started scrambling with this whole thing and found out that the best we could do would be to pay a bundle extra and get the fan in five to six weeks.”

Detmer said that he was ready to throw up the white flag, but Beal had one more idea. “Joe had us on a conference call with a couple of the decision makers at Greenheck,” Detmer said. “He explained our situation and refused to take no for an answer. Greenheck agreed to have the entire exhaust system assembled and shipped to our warehouse in seven days and the only added cost was for quick shipment.”

Thanks to the above-and-beyond efforts of both distributor and manufacturer, Detmer said, “We had the exhaust fan installed and running two days before the deadline.

“Not only was everyone thrilled with the outcome, we are getting ready to start another project at the hospital. I believe both Joe Beal at EAP Inc. and Greenheck Manufacturing went above and beyond to save my backside on a very important project.”

These tandem compressors are “not common but ABCO has them in stock” according to HVAC contractor Frank Cerbone.

PRIME-TIME RESTAURANT RESCUE

Saturday night in the middle of a heat wave is a bad time for a compressor to die at a packed New York City restaurant. But it happened at Valbella Ristorante, an Italian restaurant in Manhattan’s fashionable Meatpacking District, and HVAC contractor Frank Cerbone, owner of All State Air, was called.

“It was a 10-ton tandem compressor,” said Cerbone, whose Westchester-based heating and cooling company doesn’t even service New York City. “The owner is a good customer of mine. We service his Westchester restaurant. I could hear he was desperate, but chances were slim we’d find a unit like that at 10 o’clock on Saturday night. I knew from experience that if anyone could do it, it would be ABCO Refrigeration Supply.”

Cerbone made a call to Joe Cosentino, ABCO’s EVP of sales and operations, who quickly found one in stock at ABCO’s distribution center in Queens. An hour later the new compressor had already been installed and was up and running.

“This is exactly why ABCO blows everyone else out of the water,” said Cerbone, who can rattle off at least a dozen situations where ABCO saved the day for him and his customers. “You couldn’t ask for a better partner. Everything is always in stock - so I don’t have to buy it. The level of service and care there is simply miles beyond. ABCO never fails to make me look good.”

MORE DISTRIBUTOR HEROICS

Bill Brink had a long-term business relationship with a homeowner that included the installation of a Lennox system in 1991. As owner of Kettle Moraine Heating & Air Conditioning in Genesee Depot, Wis., Brink had been keeping his customer happy for 19 years, until the unit’s Harmony II zone panel broke.

“That panel was no longer made, so my customer would probably have been forced to buy a whole new unit,” Brink said. “However, I worked with Gary Knaub, my Lennox representative, and he got me a free zone panel to give to the homeowner. Because of this, the homeowner bought a $14,000 new modulating furnace, heat pump, and air purifier.”

Scott Meier of Right Now Air in Las Vegas was not convinced that his company was using the best methods for flushing line sets when converting to R-410A systems. So he called Steve Arthur from Johnstone Supply in Las Vegas to get some advice.

“Within one day Steve had e-mailed me some independent information on best methods to clean up line sets,” said Meier. “The following day I had two different brands of flush delivered to my office to sample and see which flush worked better for us. I gave the problem to Steve, and he did the research for me and solved my problem. Customer service builds loyalty.”

Former NEWS’ “Best Contractor to Work For” Roseann Cyngier of Cyngier Heating & Air Conditioning, Cleveland, said she appreciates the one-stop nature of her supplier, Refrigeration Sales Corporation (RSC) of Valley View, Ohio. “Recently, RSC quoted a project involving equipment in the six-figure dollar range,” said Cyngier. “Our rep, Peter Eno, put together a package that was so competitive that we purchased all the pumps, detectors, liners, and most of the parts from them.

“Peter even helped us with the product submittals for the parts and equipment. It was so helpful to do one-stop shopping. Furthermore, RSC made deliveries every two weeks for the length of the five-month project with the friendliest driver, Ray, who helped unload, stack, and sort everything in our limited storage space. RSC really came through for us during this airport project, as they do with so many other projects. This was not just a ‘wow’ moment, but a ‘wow’ five months.”

Got a good “wow” moment? Send your stories to John R. Hall at jrhidea@gmail.com.

Publication date: 08/16/2010

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