It's a stressful time to be an HVAC contractor as the COVID 19 pandemic continues to overturn our day-to-day lives. It’s also in times like these when we, as leaders, have the opportunity to rally our team to our company’s cause. Your services are essential for keeping customers comfortable and healthy, and if your phones are not yet ringing because of this summer’s impeding heat, then you should start calling your customers.

Right now, they are stuck in their homes. They are lonely and frustrated. They may be short on food, sanitizer, and toilet paper. What an incredible opportunity to serve them! In fact, has there ever been a more important time to serve than right now? This is a once-in-lifetime opportunity where leadership becomes a precious commodity.

The situation definitely offers additional opportunities for the savvy business owner. With all the concern about the virus and proper hygiene in the home, it’s a fertile market for selling indoor air quality services and new equipment as well. Now that families are home all day, their home comfort systems are running twice as hard.

So, how do you coach your customer service representatives to pitch that particular sale? Start with the basic steps: Your CSRs need to be empathetic and totally engaged with callers. Remember, they’re talking to people who are scared and lonely and stuck in their homes. So, when those customers reach out, the CSRs need to be authentic. The first things to ask, seriously and earnestly, are “How are you? What's going on? What are you experiencing right now?”

And then they find out what the customer’s needs are. Based on those needs, they can pitch your solutions: service options like duct cleaning and indoor air quality products like UV lights and air scrubbers.

But, if you want to thrive, I suggest a more radical approach. Don’t coach your CSRs to just sell IAQ and other services. Inspire them to serve. If a customer needs toilet paper and you have extra, be ready to deliver! As you look for ways to serve your customers, you’ll build long-term relationships and endear them to you forever!

HVAC Leadership Starts with Serving

As the owner, it’s your responsibility to prime the pump for employee engagement. You do this by sticking to your principles. The only way to thrive in this COVID-19 challenge as a business is by serving your employees, who will, in turn, dedicate themselves to serving your customers.

Rise to the moment so that, instead of feeling like they have to fend for themselves, your employees know that you have their backs. If they feel that, your employees will do exactly what you ask them to do — and more.

As an owner, I’d go to my CSRs and say this: “It’s scary right now, but we’re going to work our way through this. Don’t worry about a thing. Yes, people are calling in, and they're canceling their service agreements and acting irrationally. But it's OK.

“So, if anybody calls in and tries to cancel their service agreement or doesn’t want to pay a service fee tell them, ‘Don't worry about it. You're not going to have to pay a thing, but we'd still like to come out make sure your HVAC system is running the way that it should.’”

The Power of Reciprocity

It might scare you reading that. Certainly, popular wisdom would object to the idea of not charging right out of the gate for services. Do the service for free? That’s crazy.

It’s not.

Because guess what happens next? After you’ve gone out and offered that free service, often the customer will feel so warm and fuzzy about it that they’ll pull out their checkbook and pay anyway. You might even get a tip.

That, my friends, is an example of a beautiful thing called “reciprocity” in action. It’s a principle of human nature, a powerful emotion that drives everyone. You might experience it when somebody gives you a Christmas gift — a feeling that you need to give something back that is equal in value.

It can be an intense feeling of obligation. Maybe the gift is something amazing, something worth 500 bucks or more. So, you say, “Wow! This is too much!” But what you’re actually thinking is, “This is too much for me to repay!”

That's how powerful reciprocity is. And it means that your path to success in today’s challenging environment is clear: Pour massive amounts of value onto the homeowner. That’s the only way out of this mess we’re all in: By serving.

Leading Correctly Turns a Profit

But it’s not just that quick sale that will really boost your business. It’s what this will mean in the long run. Because as those people are staying home all the time, day after day, their air conditioners are working harder than ever. And they are only going to have to work harder as it gets hotter.

So, when those systems break down and need to be repaired or replaced, guess who the customer is going to call? Because you went out there initially to provide a free service, they're absolutely going to call you for help. That’s reciprocity in action.

Be Fearless

During this time, there are going to be two types of business owners. One is going to be hurting tremendously because they caved in to their fears. The other is going to have more success than ever before because they taught their team to serve and kept them emotionally engaged in their jobs.

When your people are focused on their people — the homeowners — that's when they'll start wowing customers. That's when they're going to start making money for the company as a byproduct. It'll be like Christmas for the company whose owner chooses to lead in times like these.

That’s the situation all business owners find themselves in now. It’s like a brutal class for success that they’ve found themselves enrolled in, and it’s pass or fail. That's where you are right now. This is the moment to lead and win through service.

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