I've come to the conclusion - again - that the more things change, the more they stay the same. I’m referring to the hectic work schedule that HVAC contractors, especially those in my economically-challenged region of southeast Michigan, are trying to keep up with during the very hot summer last year. In fact, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the “combined global land and ocean surface temperature made this past July the second warmest on record, behind 1998, and the warmest averaged January-July on record.”
This means that lots of contractors made lots of money thanks to lots of no a/c calls. It also meant that my Google Alerts were full of stories from local media outlets about contractors whose phones were ringing off the hooks (although no one uses hooks anymore) and that they were having a hard time keeping up with demands for service calls.
Although this sounds well and good because the cash flow turned from a trickle to a gully washer, it really speaks volumes to what our contractors typically do when they are busy and what they don’t do when they are not.
SPREADING THE WEALTH
A hot July is like a busy Christmas season - it can make or break a business. But it shouldn’t be that way. A hot July should prepare contractors for a slow season.
I know I’m beating a dead horse (forgive me Mr. Ed) but doing future business during the busiest season is what contractors should focus on. How do you spread the wealth beyond the busy season? You do it by ensuring your return visit to a customer’s home later in the year.
Sure, one of the most common ways to get a return visit is by selling service agreements. That way, you know you will be coming back in the fall to clean and check a furnace. And you will likely return in the spring to clean and check an a/c system. I sympathize with the contractor who believes he or she doesn’t have time for techs to sell service agreements. But that is “business as usual” and the kiss of death. It is short-sighted and just not good business.
Selling a service agreement can be as simple as including an agreement form in the paperwork that quickly and easily identifies the key points of the agreement and the costs. If need be, let the paperwork sell the features and take the hard sell out of the hands of an overworked technician, who would rather troubleshoot and fix a problem than sell a service agreement.
If need be, ask the technician to get the customer’s contact info and then turn the lead over to a more experienced salesperson, one who probably has more time for a one-on-one conversation with the customer.
OTHER MEANS OF GAINING ACCESS
Obviously there are other ways to make a return visit besides having a signed service agreement in hand. One of my favorites - and one that is gaining in popularity among forward-thinking contractors - is adding bolt-on services. These services may include water heater replacement, drain cleaning, general plumbing service, electrical service, appliance repair, etc. And don’t forget whole-house diagnostics and IAQ products.
Heck, a return visit can be as simple as sending a tech to replace a furnace filter. Believe it or not (and I know most of you believe it), many people don’t want to be bothered with changing a furnace filter. At the very least, set up a retail store on your website (You do have a website, right?) and sell/ship filters right to your customer’s home. You might not be in the building physically, but your presence will be felt.
Am I telling you anything you don’t already know? I doubt it. But shortsightedness can kill profits as quickly as moderate temperatures. Just keep that in mind.
Publication date: 01/31/2011