The key to a HVAC service business’s success lies in its ability to convert calls into revenue. The average call conversion rate for booked jobs in the home service industry is about 12 percent, according to Dialogtech. However, operations and field software solutions are useful tools that help contracting businesses improve that rate.
THE POWER OF INFORMATION
High conversion rates are extremely important for building a strong customer base and revenue, according to Ara Mahdessian, cofounder and CEO of ServiceTitan.
“Many times, homeowners are already stressed by the problems they’re dealing with,” Mahdessian said. “They can become frustrated if a business doesn’t have quick access to its information. Imagine if customer service representatives [CSRs] and technicians were equipped with customer information such as service history, installed equipment, notes, pictures, previous home inspections, and account notes. If your team members have this information, they can better address the customers’ needs. That’s where software comes in. For CSRs, advanced technology enables them to give customers an amazing customer experience and treat them like loyal customers instead of strangers. It also shaves minutes off the call-booking process, because CSRs no longer need to ask ‘How do you spell your name, what was that again, how is that street spelled,’ or things like that.
“The same thing goes for technicians out in the field,” Mahdessian continued. “Their relationships with customers are about trust. The better equipped they are with information about customers, the better they can build trust. That trust translates to satisfied customers who will not only call that HVAC company again, but maybe even recommend it to others or write a glowing review.”
Software can track the total number of calls answered and compare them to how many are booked as appointments, Mahdessian noted. “When you have a dashboard with booking rates by CSR, and software that’s integrated with the phone system, your managers can drill into unbooked calls with a single click and replay call recordings. Those calls can be used to coach CSRs on how to address certain aspects of their conversations to improve overall performance.”
Software can help contracting businesses increase sales, lower costs, and improve the customer experience. For example, by tracking marketing return on investment (ROI), software can help get rid of costly campaigns that aren’t working, Mahdessian said.
“One thing we hear consistently from customers is that software gives them so much more insight into their business,” he said. “They can track ROI on marketing campaigns, monitor the performance of their CSRs and technicians, and see revenue and conversion rates in real time. It also makes everyone’s job easier through things like taking paper out of the equation. HVAC businesses that use paper invoices often have to double the work by re-entering invoices in Quickbooks or whatever accounting software they’re using. With software, you can accept credit cards on the spot and keep all the job notes, invoices, and other materials in one place. Additionally, it simplifies a technician’s job by speeding up the repair process and creating accurate job estimates, which allows them to focus more on delivering a high-quality experience to the customer.
“If technicians have a platform with access to sales materials, videos, and visual price books, these tools can help them explain a service or product to a customer,” Mahdessian continued. “The visuals help put customers at ease because they have a better understanding of the value of the service being provided.”
ServiceTitan’s all-in-one solution includes CRM, intelligent dispatch, comprehensive reporting, marketing management tools, mobile connectivity for field techs, QuickBooks integration, and more. The company is also just weeks away from launching Mobile 2.0, its latest mobile solution for technicians in the field, Mahdessian said.
Heidi Paulson, vice president of sales and marketing at CUC Software Inc., said call conversion rates have a lot to do with customer relationships and the level of customer support contractors provide.
“A comprehensive field and operations software system, such as CUC’s Contractor Essentials© and EssentialsPro© Mobile, puts information at the fingertips of the service professionals interacting with your customer, and information is power,” Paulson said. “Access to information helps your CSRs and technicians engage in meaningful dialogue with customers by knowing what equipment is installed at a site, who and when someone was last there, what was done, whether the customer is due for service under a maintenance agreement, etc. Customizable alerts and messages can flag critical information for your CSRs and technicians in the field. Having all of this information readily available helps both your CSRs and technicians anticipate and meet customers’ needs. When customers feel cared for, they are less likely to look elsewhere and more likely to react favorably and/or close the deal.
“Knowing information, such as the cost to maintain a piece of equipment; service history not only at an address, but on each piece of equipment at that address; age of equipment and warranty end dates; which customers and equipment has not had service recently; and more, helps contractors take care of their customers and build on the value of relationships. Having that kind of information available to the folks in the office and your technicians in the field, boosts professionalism and helps techs connect with customers, which builds loyalty as well as referrals.”
CUC plans to launch EssentialsPro software this fall, which is a companion to its EssentialsPro mobile app and a successor to the Contractor Essentials back office product. The software will only be available using SQL database format.
Mobile technology is trending when it comes to scheduling service calls. According to a CSG Intl. survey, nearly all respondents — 97.5 percent — want more control of the scheduling process and prefer alternatives to calling providers for an appointment. About 64 percent of people want the option to book appointments online while others want to schedule using a mobile app. Additionally, 56 percent of respondents want to receive a mobile alert if a tech is running late while 35 percent prefer a text message.
“The professionalism demonstrated by utilizing a mobile product makes the customer more apt to do business with you in the future,” said David Haycraft, president of Sawin Service Automation Inc. “Software is simply a tool. Technician training is vital when it comes to operating the software. However, having everything in a device gives a technician the ability to quote a customer for repairs, new equipment, and a planned maintenance agreement, all at once. This provides not only the discount on that call, but also discounts on future calls, which instills major confidence in the consumer.”
Sawin Pro is an integrated solution with direct data transferring from start to finish, Haycraft noted. The software manages service dispatch, call booking, client equipment, service contracts, and interfaces to payroll, inventory, accounting, contracting, and job cost.
MEETING CUSTOMER EXPECTATIONS
HVAC service call conversion is all about closing out a service call to the satisfaction of the customer, said Mike Pandl, vice president of marketing, MSI Data.
“The first way a call can be converted successfully is if the response to that call takes place within the customer’s expected service level agreement,” Pandl said. “Generally speaking, customers have an expectation of a turnaround time. So meeting that time window is extremely important. Next would be the ability to complete the work and close out the call on the first visit. So the technician assigned would be the right technician — they would have the right skill set and be the closest available technician geographically. Software can help service companies quickly find and assign the most qualified, available technicians to jobs as they come up. Field operations software also helps technicians be prepared before they get to a job site by providing parts information and service history.”
Pandl said some of the main benefits of using MSI Data’s software are the ability to invoice or bill a customer more quickly and accurately as well as create more billable work for technicians.
“One of the problems a lot of HVAC contractors have is they will perform work on a Friday, and at the end of the month, technicians will physically go into the office or fax in their time sheets and work orders for the month,” he said. “Somebody in the back office has to enter and approve them and then invoice the customer. There is often a huge window of time from when the work is completed and when they get paid for the work. Using our software can accelerate the service to cash cycle. In cases such as commercial and industrial HVAC service, they can often invoice the customer the same day.
“Additionally, many of these contractors have technicians who are paid for eight hours a day, but maybe they’re only billing customers for four hours a day,” he continued. “There’s a lot of inefficiency in field operations. With the combination of the mobile app in the hands of the technicians working together with the scheduling app in the back office, contractors can see where all of the technicians are, what they’re doing, their availability, and their skill sets. Using that software, they’re able to get more work orders completed per technician per week. There’s more billable work being done per technician, which equals increased revenue for the contractor. It also allows them to increase the ratio of technicians to back-office staff, increasing the field force where revenue is generated so the companies also become more profitable over time.”
SIDEBAR: TOOL HELPS CONTRACTORS SELECT HVAC SOFTWARE
ACCA has published a Software Self-Assessment tool to assist its contractor members interested in purchasing new software for their businesses.
The self-assessment tool is broken into three major categories — company demographics, company forecast, and needs — to help contractors come up with a baseline of what they want and need from a software program.
Along with the self-assessment tool, ACCA has provided information about why each question is on the assessment to further help contractors as they are filling out the form.
“Almost every day, contractors use ACCA’s Contractor Forum to ask their fellow members about contracting operational software,” said Kevin Holland, ACCA’s senior vice president of business operations and membership. “There are a lot of great software vendors in this market. The self-assessment is a starting point designed to help contractors focus on understanding their needs before they start evaluating different programs. This document is not going to choose or implement the software for you. Instead, recognizing that each contracting business is different, it allows you to organize your company’s individual priorities. This will help you compare proposals from different software companies.
“We developed the document in concert with several contractor members who have undergone software transitions recently,” he added. “This is the document they wish they’d had when they were beginning the process.”
The Software Self-Assessment tool is available for free to all ACCA members at www.acca.org/software-assessment under the Business Forms & Template Library. ACCA members will be required to log into their ACCA accounts to be able to download the file.
If you have questions about this assessment or have suggestions, contact Melissa Broadus, director of communications, ACCA, at email@example.com.
Publication date: 5/16/2016