Some people just know how to strike gold when it comes to customer retention.

Wouldn’t you love to have the savviest customers in town, the kind who would stand in long lines at midnight in anticipation of the release of your latest products? And let’s say these are people who know you well, who’ve bought from you before and can’t wait to see what else you’ve got in store.

For most HVAC contractors, that’s as likely as getting struck by lightning on the way to cashing in a winning mega-million-dollar lottery ticket — but, it happens. Apple, for instance, has that type of a fan base for its smartphones.

You’d be wise to begin with two questions: Do you want to make your customers happy? Are you going to take care of them?

The economic environment does seem a little chaotic, wouldn’t you say? Still, that doesn’t mean it can’t be reined in. The question is which way to turn, and the answer is always the same: customer retention.

In their book, Leading on the Edge of Chaos, Emmett C. Murphy and Mark A. Murphy provide numbers that shed light on a topic that should never dim: 

  • Acquiring new customers can cost five times more than satisfying and retaining current customers.
  • A 2 percent increase in customer retention has the same effect on profits as cutting costs by 10 percent. 
  • The average company loses 10 percent of its customers each year.
  • A 5 percent reduction in customer defection rate can increase profits by 25-125 percent, depending on the industry.
  • The customer profitability rate tends to increase over the life of a retained customer.

Within those numbers are the answers to long-term profitability, whatever the economic environment. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if marketing students a generation from now determine a direct connection between the survival of businesses during this economic period and the use of customer retention strategies.

In the frame

The HVAC industry has one of the best frameworks ever for customer retention. Customer information is easy to collect. You know where customers live. You’ve got their name, addresses and phone number. If you’re inputting the information in your database, you know exactly what you provided for them the last time they called for service and the number of repairs you’ve done. Other businesses could only dream of having such information.

Retention is about communication, and the seasonal nature of the industry provides natural conversation starters, such as “We’ve got some advice that should be very helpful as you get ready for spring (or summer or fall).” Your friendly reminders, timely suggestions and helpful attitude build the relationship.

Retention programs are obvious and cost-efficient. At their most basic, they involve thank-you cards, follow-up phone calls, reminder emails, customer newsletters, reactivation letters and referral requests. So, how much will all of this set you back? Under $6 per customer, maybe? And how much is that investment going to pay? You can figure that out by knowing that repeat customers spend 67 percent more than new customers. Now how much will you pay if you don’t do any of the above? 

Retention is the foundation to building lifetime relationships with your customers. Consider sending a mail piece with home care tidbits multiple times a year. Quarterly is a good start. Integrate them with online offers. 

Adams Hudson is president of Hudson, Ink, a national marketing firm for contractors. Snips readers get a complimentary customer retention kit by emailing You can also call Hudson, Ink at (800) 489-9099 for help or visit for other free marketing articles and reports. Remember to follow Hudson, Ink on Facebook and LinkedIn for more marketing tips.