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When I exposed the fact that we had not been receiving as many service calls as we had previously, it generated some very interesting responses. Quick recap: A few weeks back, I had written that we were experiencing a decline in service calls over the last few years and I was curious if other readers were reporting the same experience. The answer to the main part is that yes, many other contractors are experiencing the same type of reduction in the number of service calls they receive. I had suggested that factors such as weather, increased maintenance, the use of higher-efficiency equipment, and manufacturers’ extended warranties may all be having an effect on the amount of service we are called on to perform.
Readers shared several factors they believe are limiting the number of service calls they’d received. Complete home-warranty packages being offered with many home purchases may prevent an existing customer from calling. To take advantage of the warranty, he must call the designated company. In many areas of the country, contractors indicated that utility companies are continuing to infringe upon their businesses. This practice has been going on for several years, and, in many areas is not a problem. Apparently, in some areas the utility company has become a major service provider. Several contractors indicated that they felt the availability of parts over the Internet was allowing the “handy” homeowner more of an opportunity to buy his own replacement parts and perform his own service. And, finally, one of the more interesting comments was that manufacturers have stressed the importance of improving our installations for so many years that perhaps the contracting industry has responded and is indeed performing better installations.
Fight the Good Fight
Fortunately, we are not the only company experiencing a decrease in service calls. The general opinion is that there are several reasons for such a dip, and none of us should feel that we are doing something wrong. My recommendation to our service manager and service technicians is to keep working hard to sell maintenance agreements, and work even harder to sell add-ons such as humidifiers, air cleaners, and any of the fancy new thermostats that seem to be flooding the market. If the equipment is not failing, that is a good thing, but we must use our creativeness to find other income sources.
Corruption Tarnishing Our Industry
The other issue I addressed in print that has created a great response was entitled “Crooked Contractors Make Me Sick.” It was refreshing to hear from so many readers who are just as upset about what a few deceptive contractors can do to our market. After I wrote the article we actually encountered two additional instances relating to the same contractor who continued his attempt to take money from a homeowner in an unethical and likely illegal manner.
One involved an elderly lady who needed a new furnace (furnace only, a/c was relatively new). She had received a post card from the contractor offering a furnace at a “Very Special Price.” The lady missed the fine print. In order to get the furnace at this special price, she also had to buy a high-efficiency air conditioner. She was nearly in tears when she called us saying she “finally got the guy to leave, he just kept insisting I buy the air conditioner.” We installed a standard furnace at a reasonable price and she was extremely happy.
In the second situation, the contractor found a very minor crack in the heat exchanger. He proceeded to disconnect the gas line, turn off the furnace switch, and tape the switch with tape that said “danger, do not remove.” He then quoted a ridiculously high price to replace the furnace, but told the customer that if he opted to install the furnace the next day, the contractor would deduct 25 percent from the price. The contractor said it had to be done the next day because he was booked up after tomorrow. The homeowner was suspicious, didn’t like being pressured, and found out after calling us that the special 25 percent lower price he was quoted was actually 25 percent higher than our standard price. In both of these cases, unnecessary pressure was put on the homeowner.
It appears those of us who are interested in maintaining the integrity of the industry are going to have to keep working together to let the public know, whenever possible, about contractors destined to damage the positive image that we have worked so hard to create.
Publication date: 2/17/2014