As any reader of this publication can tell, we are in the age of technology.
This is further emphasized by looking at the list of exhibitors, and the impressive technologically advanced products they were showing, at the recent ASHRAE (AHR Expo) Show. The number and types of thermostats currently on the market are almost beyond the imagination. It is, of course, the responsibility of us, as contractors, to be aware of and familiar with as many of these new technologies as possible. We need to be familiar with all of the different model types that are available through the manufacturers we represent. This was an easy task only a few years ago, with minimal options — an 80 percent furnace, a 90 percent furnace, and air conditioners with a couple of different SEER ratings. Today, it’s a different story with multi and variable-speed motors, different AFUE levels, and many different SEER ratings.
Changes in the industry certainly bring challenges. Contractors must be prepared to provide information and answers regarding all of these new and different technologies. But, now comes the important part. It’s absolutely critical that contractors not lose sight of the personal and service portions of their businesses. With these technological changes, which are especially interesting and appealing to the younger generations, it’s easy to get caught up in the gadgets and gizmos and forget the main reason for which you are in business. That reason is to provide a service, be it a repair service or an installation for your customers, regardless which technologies your customers choose. The success of your company is more dependent upon the methods you use to provide service rather than the technologies you use.
In preparing for this article, I went back through the reviews and comments we had received from our customers over the last year or so. Keeping in mind that we have been offering and providing many of the more technologically advanced products during that period, only a very small handful of the comments we received mentioned anything at all about those products. Virtually every comment and review focused on the way our staff handled the contractor-customer interaction, from the opening phone call or email request through the sales or service process to the completion and follow-up. Only one or two out of several hundred mentioned anything about the Wi-Fi thermostat or the variable-speed furnace they received. I see this as an important message and worth a review.
A customer’s experience begins with his or her first contact with your company. This is usually in the form of a phone call. Even if a consumer contacts you via email, a follow-up phone call is usually necessary to finalize the appointment. Therefore, since first impressions are so important, the way the customer is treated when he or she first calls can make or break a future relationship with your company. At our company, we always answer the phone with a live person. We have no recordings or menus. When we are not in the office, we have an answering service that patches the caller to a live person. My personal feeling is that if a consumer is going to take the time to place a call to our company, for whatever purpose, we have the responsibility to at least personally answer that call. The person answering the call should do so in a pleasant voice that gives the impression “thanks for calling,” rather than “you’re bothering me.” It’s important to answer the phone with a smile on your face. It’s a fact that a caller can tell if you’re smiling or frowning by your voice.
Naturally, all of the other contacts with customers should be made in a similar fashion. Whether its sales calls or service calls, all of the arrangements and the actual calls at the person’s home should all be made with customer service being of prime importance. With regard to a service call, the technician’s manner with customers cannot be overemphasized. Few customers watch to see exactly what was done to their unit or units; therefore, what they remember is the way technicians presented the diagnoses to them. And, of course, installation crews must keep in mind that they’re guests in a person’s home and must treat everything there with the appropriate respect.
The important thing to remember is that while knowledge and expertise in the technical aspects of our industry are imperative, your company’s success will depend greatly on the level of personal service you provide.
Publication date: 2/20/2017