In today’s world, if you’ve got a free second, odds are you’re spending it in front of a smartphone. Thus, it only makes sense for HVACR contractors to leverage technology in their favor by launching mobile applications of their own. And, as contractors begin the process of a cost analysis, many are finding that mobile apps can be introduced without a significant investment.
“Our mobile app has exceeded my expectations, for sure,” said Randy Williams, president, Western States Home Services, Chandler, Arizona, who launched his mobile app about two years ago. “We’ve been able to do some cool things at a very low cost. Our customers are aware we have our own app, and that increases the perception that we’re a larger, tech-savvy company, which, to me, is worth the investment on its own. Luckily, for us, it’s done much more than that.”
Williams said the app has helped his business rise above the competition. “In our business, you can get a lot of one-man bands and those sorts of things. This helps us add credibility, without a doubt. It especially helps a new customer feel more comfortable with us sooner.”
Of course, many contractors are, rightfully so, worried about return on investment. Gail Cyphers, co-owner, Cytech Heating & Cooling, Edinburg, Texas, paid less than an average mortgage payment for her app to be created and the upkeep is costing her only $50 a month.
“It’s really nothing,” Cyphers said. “That’s why we did it. It wasn’t a huge investment. Even if we get one call from it every other month, we make that investment back.”
Although the mobile app might not draw calls on its own, Deanna Mason, co-owner, Mason Mechanical, Mesa, Arizona, said her company’s app has been very useful in helping the company maintain customer awareness. “To start, we let it do its thing, and we were quite surprised with the amount of downloads,” Mason said. “Now we’re trying to use it as a marketing tool and guide people there,” Mason said. “It helps us stay at the top of people’s minds. … We want that awareness, to be the first company they think of when it goes down.”
Most of the companies The NEWS spoke with for this story admitted they don’t do as much with their apps as they probably could, mainly because the cost (or lack thereof), and self-sufficient nature made it something that didn’t demand their direct attention.
Cyphers said her company includes a graphic for the app on its website and in its yearly newsletter, but, in its two-year existence, she knows the company hasn’t “marketed it very well,” but that’s because there’s just so many other things constantly going on.
“I know the program we’re on, I have access to the dashboard, and I can do push notifications, but we don’t have a dedicated advertising person,” Cyphers said. “I’m pretty much the advertising person, the payroll person, and the insurance person — I know a lot of companies like this. So, it becomes one of those things that doesn’t get as much attention as it could. There’s a lot available to do with it, it’s just finding the time to do it.”
Mason advised contractors looking to launch a mobile app to appoint someone in charge of it. Following that advice, the company singled out one person to market the app, facilitated a contest where answers must be submitted via the app, and rolled out a plan for how to best maximize push notifications. Not only that, the company is working on special promotions via the mobile app, which will be utilized during slower times. Because of the instant nature of a push notification, it allows a much quicker turnaround time compared to traditional means of advertising, she said.
“Come up with a game plan of how you’re going to use it and stick to it. Don’t do what we did, which was launch the app and sit stagnant,” Mason said. “If you see opportunities and ideas, but don’t have a game plan set, you’re doomed. Internally, we didn’t have things set up for someone to drive that. There are so many things going on with the business that there wasn’t enough time for someone to work it. We knew its potential. Now we realize we have to use this, plus our structure has changed a bit and we have people who can focus on it.”
As Williams noted, for customers downloading a company’s app, it’s fast, it’s free, and they have the power to delete it at any time if they don’t like it. In fact, even though he’s had his app since 2012, he wishes he would’ve considered adding it sooner.
“[From a financial standpoint] there’s no harm in doing it,” Williams said. “We all waste more money than that every week. I hate to say it, but we do. There are a lot of different things. Any time you think you can make it easier for a customer to get in contact with you, or make them realize you’re their go-to, it really helps. It’s just one more thing to keep a customer in your pocket.”
Cyphers, Mason, and Williams all agreed having a mobile app is a great way to make sure you stay on the forefront with customers. Williams sends out a push notification each month reminding customers to change their filters. Cyphers sends out service reminders. Mason looks at the app as a great way to provide added customer convenience.
If they are going to launch an app, Williams encouraged contractors to be creative, whether that’s in the marketing or the app itself.
“I’m sure I’m going to see someone do something I’m gonna wish I thought of,” Williams said. “The biggest thing for contractors is making it easier for your customers to reach you. It’s a low-cost expense that makes your presence bigger than what it might otherwise be.”
Publication date: 7/28/2014