Should your dispatchers and customer service personnel sell maintenance contracts over the telephone? Or should your service technicians get the first opportunity?

I hate the word “sell” as it relates to maintenance agreements. Most HVAC technicians hate to sell. In my opinion, they shouldn’t sell. They should “educate” and “enroll.” If they are doing the best thing for customers, they are educating them on potential products and services that can save them money on their utility bills and help them be more comfortable in their homes.

There is no right answer. My opinion is that the technicians should be given the first opportunity — unless they don’t talk with customers about agreements and wasted the opportunity. In such cases, dispatchers and customer service workers should get the first opportunity. But then the technicians complain. Tough. They had the first chance and blew it.

Usually the technicians have an even greater chance to earn more. A small $10 commission is nothing compared with a lead fee, accessory sale or, in cases where your technicians sell replacement equipment, a commission on that sale. Remind them and many won’t complain.

However, whether your dispatchers or service technicians enroll new agreements, here is the question that must be asked of new potential maintenance agreement customers: “Would you like to receive a 15 percent discount on this call?”

Usually you get a hesitant “Yes.” Many times, customers are thinking, “How can you ask me such a stupid question?”

Then the dispatcher or technician says: “We have a maintenance plan that helps you write smaller checks to the utility company and saves you money on this call. Your technician (or I) can explain it to you.”

If your dispatchers are not asking this question, have them start.  

Get on the training train

Speaking of training employees, many contractors don’t like to invest in training technicians and other employees because they fear they’ll go to the training, learn from it and leave their company.

Contractors should be worried that untrained technicians will stay. Training employees is critical to staying up on the latest technical industry advancements. It’s necessary to ensure that the employees answer the telephone the way you want it answered, interact with customers the way you want the interaction to be and ensure your field employees profitably take care of your customers.

So what should you do if they leave? You should always have a training agreement. The agreement states the training course, its cost and that employees must repay the company for it if they leave within a certain timeframe. This cost is pro-rated, depending on how long after the course is completed that employees leave.

Is such an agreement enforceable? Many, many contractors have gotten paid back. However, whether you enforce them or not, it sends a message that the training is valuable, and there are consequences if employees take the training and then quit.

The better trained your employees are, the more profitable they will be for your company. Invest in the time to train. It always pays dividends.

Copyright Ruth King. All rights reserved. Write to Ruth King at Profitability Revolution LLC, 1650 Oakbrook Drive, Suite 405, Norcross, GA 30093; email; call (770) 729-8000.