Portable HVAC Keeps Contractors Prepared for Crunch Time
Access to portable cooling equipment helps contractors quickly restore cooling in emergencies
|CONTINUOUS COMFORT: When Moore’s Electrical & Mechanical Construction Inc. receives an emergency call for service and determines the equipment is damaged beyond feasible repair, or a specialty part is not readily available, it often turns to portable units as a temporary solution.|
Temperatures are on the rise, and as the heat increases and equipment fails, customers can quickly become frantic. And, their concerns are understandable, since air conditioning and refrigeration equipment failures in the commercial market often equate to revenue and product loss.
For example, Don Henley, service and manpower manager with Moore’s Electrical & Mechanical Construction Inc., Altavista, Virginia, pointed out that, in retail, a customer will walk right out of a store if it feels uncomfortable inside.
“If you’ve got a shopper coming in, and it’s 80°F [inside the store], he won’t stay,” Henley said. In contrast, “A cool store equals a happy customer and a happy manager.”
Keeping people happy and cool isn’t always easy in a crunch, so it’s essential commercial contractors have the right practices in place — including access to portable equipment — to quickly restore cooling in emergency situations.
While Henley noted that Moore’s is very well-attuned to the retail market, he added the company serves other customers who are just as reliant on cooling.
“National retail chains are our forte,” he said, noting that Moore’s client mix also includes critical operation centers, refrigeration, and institutional clients. And, all of them have something in common, he said: “They can’t afford for equipment to go down.”
According to Russell Barnes, president of Environmental & Power Services Inc. in Springfield, Virginia, many customers’ emergency calls are the cause of a “RTF mentality — run to fail.”
They often “put off repairs for a number of reasons,” Barnes said, adding that lack of upkeep or equipment maintenance means equipment is much more likely to break down.
Paul Benis, president of Tri State TSC in Downingtown, Pennsylvania, noted his company has maintenance contracts with the majority of its customers to visit four times a year, but added, “They still call us all year long.”
When customers call with an urgent need for cooling, contractors say their initial focus is to repair the failed unit and get it back online as quickly as possible. But, in some instances, that’s not possible, and contractors then turn to portable units for a temporary fix.
Henley noted his company’s “first responders” are the service technicians who respond to the call. “Our main focus is to get that piece of equipment up and running as quickly as possible,” he said. “If equipment is damaged beyond feasible repair, and a replacement unit is needed, we turn to temporary cooling. Portables are also considered when a specialty part is not readily available, and equipment may be down for a couple of days.”
Henley added that, in scenarios involving landlords and tenants, the approval process can take extra time, so temporary cooling may provide relief in the interim.
Benis added there can also be other extenuating circumstances that lead to a need for portable cooling. For example, he said, Tri State TSC recently worked at a school that ended up having portable generators and chillers on-site for a month.
“Multiple things had been ruined from storms, and no one had the manpower to get everything back online again,” he explained.
No matter the type of customer or the cause of the emergency, contractors recognize the importance of responding quickly.
One way contractors accomplish this is by keeping a limited inventory of portable equipment on hand. Depending on the time of year, this limited inventory can quickly disappear. And then contractors turn to strategic partners to get the temporary cooling units they need.
Benis noted, “We have different people we work with, and we can pick up [portable] units.”
He added that they can usually get units by the next day, and, sometimes, the same day. Plus, he noted, Tri State TSC works with Spot Coolers Inc. since the company transports the units.
“They have the trucking to get the units out there and manpower to hook them up the correct way, so we don’t have to get involved,” Benis said.
Since Moore’s is a large outfit with seven regional offices, Henley noted the company maintains a minor inventory of portable units in each office. “But, that’s typically only two to four portable systems — and, with the volume of customers we have, it would be impossible to stock an inventory for everyone,” he said, adding, “And that need’s not always there.”
In the middle of the summer, when there may be an increased need for portable cooling, Henley said the company’s first resource is AirPac Inc. because of its great response time. And, he noted, “Response time is more important than cost.”
STELLAR SERVICE TIPS
In order to successfully respond to customers experiencing emergencies, contractors say it’s critical to establish best-practice customer service procedures.
Barnes noted his company promises a two-hour response time and offers after-hours emergency call service. He also said that clear and detailed communication is necessary between the contractor and the customer, noting this includes conveying reasonable expectations.
“Tell the client what is going to happen, not what they want to hear,” Barnes said.
Benis also emphasized the importance of good communication, which he noted must come both from the office and the techs.
“Keep customers in the loop,” he said. “Inform them about every step you’re taking.”
In addition to communication, Henley said contractors must also maintain a sense of urgency.
“We keep a constant sense of urgency — it’s probably one of our most important qualities,” he said, adding that this is something he stresses to all managers. “Without the continued awareness of a sense of urgency, you can become complacent, and that’s when we take customers away from competitors.”
Overall, Barnes said, the goal is to “realize and convey to our staff every day that our clients’ emergencies are uniquely theirs and [we must] respond as quickly as humanly possible.”
Publication date: 6/29/2015