Nowadays, there are thousands of HVAC contractors out there who all offer more or less the same service, making the industry increasingly competitive. Automating some of the processes, whether it’s estimation, maintenance, or reparation, can open up the possibility of operating more efficiently and generating more revenue.
Recent technological advancements in communication and remote repair estimation mean that HVAC contractors can now set themselves apart from their competition, and open up new revenue streams by earning new business from real estate agents and traditional consumers. They can also reduce unnecessary expenditures by prioritizing jobs which need the most attention and leveraging their relationships with estate agents to create long term repeat referrals.
Here are a few ways in which automation can help HVAC contractors, the challenges that it presents, and how to overcome them.
The Status Quo of HVAC Estimates
Most HVAC contractors currently create an estimate by conducting an on-site visit, where they schedule a time to meet with the owner, take some pictures, and begin making an evaluation. After this, they might go back to the office to look up models, check stock, and collate any other data needed to create the quote.
While such a hands-on approach works well, and allows for a clear understanding of the issue in the house, it is undoubtedly time-consuming. It is a common occurrence that something could be very easy to fix, that by the time an HVAC contractor has sent someone out, the problem has already been resolved by the homeowner themselves. These common HVAC problems include a thermostat running out of battery or a filter needing to be replaced in an AC unit.
There are increasingly more young homeowners who may not have the same experience as someone who has owned a home for 30 years, and simply don’t know how to do any basic troubleshooting themselves, so will schedule a contractor visit for minor issues that could have been remedied over a quick video call. Instead of using traditional dispatch models for simple issues, HVAC contractors should consider offering lower cost remote repair consultations via video as part of their business model. For instance instead of dispatching a technician to drive over town for a $65 callout fee, they can instead offer a quick 15 minute video consultation for say $35 at almost 100% profit. No vehicle wear, no gas, and no employee travel time.
Not only will it lead to a cost saving and profit increase for the contractor, but also increased customer satisfaction especially in a post-COVID world.
Technology Can Help HVAC Contractors Enormously
The coronavirus pandemic has given rise to people looking for remote solutions where possible, and HVAC problems are no exception. Given that there are cases involving basic troubleshooting, which can be explained to a layman, video communication tools (WhatsApp video, Zoom, or Google Meets) are essential. And with these tools being more accessible than ever, an HVAC contractor can be certain that a client is going to have at least one of them at their disposal.
Using remote solutions for basic repairs can also save HVAC contractors a lot of money. It gives the option to offer advice and instructions to the homeowner immediately, rather than having to wait to schedule an appointment with a technician. It also means that HVAC contractors can prioritize more pressing issues, and customers are likely to be more satisfied if the problem can be solved quickly. As such, these customers will be more willing to consider the services of the company on a long-term basis—one of the goals of any HVAC contractor.
Take, for instance, a scenario involving a new homebuyer who is currently under contract to purchase a home, and their home inspector has identified some existing issues with the HVAC system. A lot of the time, the prospective buyer simply wants to know how much it will cost to fix or replace the defective part so they can move forward with the transaction. While dispatching a technician may seem appropriate here, and you may be able to collect a callout fee, the prospective client normally needs a bid in a very short amount of time, which is extremely hard to guarantee when using the traditional model of on-site visits. This call is also unlikely to lead to actual repair business in the short-term, as any repairs that are needed would likely be handled by a contractor of the seller’s choosing.
Instead, contractors should consider using a remote repair estimation service, which not only allows them to collect a fee upfront from the consumer for the estimate, but also doesn’t require them to actually visit the property. Tools and services like this also allow contractors to foster closer relationships with realtors, who come into contact with hundreds of new homeowners per year and can be a potential gold mine for new business.
The Modern Challenges of HVAC contractors
Most of the communication tools currently available for HVAC contractors are user-friendly. One of the best basic consumer interfaces is Facebook — they have ads that direct straight to video messenger, allowing customers to speak directly with a technician. Combining a tool like this with social media lead generation strategies can give contractors an advantage over the competition —not just in terms of automation but also in generating more business from advertisements.
Such technologies are easy enough to implement, but there are other areas where HVAC contractors might face challenges when automating processes. It might be difficult to prioritize cases and decide whether a homeowner can be trusted to carry out maintenance by themselves, regardless of how clear the instructions are. There is also the question of health and safety, and ensuring that any maintenance that a customer undertakes is not beyond their means.
For example, an HVAC contractor may have several clients with broken A/C units during the summer in Texas, so they should be priority cases. However, this could lead to a situation where a client has a problem which would usually require a technician, but nobody is available for a callout because they’re all booked up with video consultations. So, for HVAC contractors, learning how to balance the focus between automation and more serious issues can be the key to success.
HVAC contractors who embrace the benefits of automation can open up avenues of revenue generation that were not previously available. There are plenty of useful communication tools that can help to streamline the services HVAC services, and potentially lead to generating new customers. HVAC contractors can also save time and money by avoiding unnecessary callouts by implementing remote repairs.