To most successfully address this pandemic, we must first know what we are facing, and then we need to adjust our business to be what our clients are looking for today.
1. Ask and Discover: What am I Facing in This Crisis?
As an HVAC contractor providing services to home and/or building clients today, we need to ask ourselves, “How will COVID affect my HVAC business if I do not adjust?” We need to seriously consider what it is, business-wise, we are facing with COVID. Even more importantly, we need to be clear about what our customers are facing.
It wasn’t always easy in business before COVID, but now everything has changed and is ever-changing. There’s a really big challenge and opportunity we are all facing with our clients.
To see what we are facing, we each should consider the fact that many of our HVAC clients are or will be facing revenue shortages. If our customers are facing financial challenges now, then we will too, whether we are experiencing it yet or not. So, while we may be busy now, we need to be thinking what we will do if our clients have a reduced ability to pay for our services.
Let’s consider our home clients.
As we know, unemployment is up and many still employed have reduced incomes. So we have to be prepared for a number of home clients who once used our maintenance or services no longer having the disposable income for them. And will at least some of our home clients begin seeing our services as non-essential? If so, does this mean we need to consider this new viewpoint and adjust our offerings to at least some number of our clients? If clients are now seeing us as non-essential, or even less-essential, and this is related to loss income, how can we respond to this new reality?
Now let’s consider our commercial clients.
The Wall Street Journal reports that “U.S. Retail Store Closures Hit Record in First Half” of 2020.
Talking with a regional property management business owner and expert in Colorado, I asked if COVID had impacted his revenues coming from tenants. He said no. In digging deeper, I asked him why not. He said because all of his tenants were under contract to pay their leases for two or more years. I then rephrased the question and asked if he thought he would experience lost tenants and revenues at the end of their leases. To this he said yes. Asking him why, he said these same tenants had discovered they could run their business with less office space because part of their staff could work from home and be as effective.
So, what does this mean for us today and in the near future? What does it mean for our wellbeing that some number of our client’s tenant businesses will no longer need the space they did pre-COVID? And because this reduction in required space is and will be creating lower occupancies for our building clients and loss of revenues, what does this mean for our HVAC business? I got at least one answer from this same property management expert. He says buildings are and will be responding to lost tenant-revenues by looking at and taking dramatic cost reduction measures with anyone or any service not seen as absolutely essential, perceived or otherwise. He predicted such services as planned maintenance, once thought to prevent failures and thought essential, will rank lower on the essential list. Instead, reactive service that responds to HVAC failures will move up on this new list. Ranking and eliminating anything not deemed essential is now becoming serious for our building clients. Therefore, it is equally serious to us.
So how might we adapt and change our businesses to be what our clients are now looking for?
2. Become More Efficient
If our clients are facing extreme cost reductions, how can we best change our business structure to support them and yet end up with a better offering for clients and a better financial business outcome for ourselves? Efficiency.
Now we are not speaking of energy efficiency as our industry often thinks. We are talking about organizational efficiency – in the office and in the field. Efficiency for our staff, our techs, and ourselves.
This means we look at every process and procedure we currently hold near and dear, and either reduce the time it takes to get them done or eliminate them if they are not entirely necessary. We automate all manual paper, processes, and people. We continuously look for ways to combine all of our processes onto smartphones, tablets, and computers. We do so in a manner that minimizes expenses in our office, our overhead. We reduce, minimize, and make more efficient our operation so we are actually spending most of our client’s money on their equipment and not on ourselves.
Becoming more efficient can be and should be how we differentiate ourselves to our existing clients in this crisis. Doing so results in us holding onto to customers and attracting new ones.
3. Be What Your Clients Are Looking For
One benefit of such a challenge as we face today is that we have a very rare opportunity to think differently and truly get better. One way to get better is to deeply consider and understand what matters to our clients. And the only way to know what they are looking for is to ask them. We meet with them and prove to them that we want to explore how to get so much better so that they won’t want another provider. We dig deep with them. We discover what they want. We ask our clients what their clients are now needing to remain clients and then we find a way to offer provide them that.
4. Be More Visible To Your Clients!
Let’s say we change our business to be most efficient and become truly superior in delivered value: How will our existing and prospective clients know?
The answer to this question is “marketing,” but what we call visibility. Marketing is simply good communicating. Marketing is being considerate to clients by being visible to them and clearly showing them who we are and how we are addressing this crisis for them. What is visibility? It’s not just our company name on the side of our trucks. It is much more. It is communicating with existing clients and prospective ones that you are committed to efficiency and making their lives better. Visibility makes it clear to our clients what we are about, and if they like what we are about, guess what happens: They will buy from us.