The staff of Bowen Refrigeration discusses the company's service agreement program during a conference call with consultant Ruth King. (Photos by Kendra Stanley).

MUSKEGON, MI — Armed with the basics of service agreement selling and marketing, the staff of Bowen Refrigeration took its first “baby steps” to building a solid customer base for future residential service business.

Owner Don Bowen and his service staff held a 30-minute conference call with business consultant Ruth King, president of American Contractors Exchange. Bowen’s company, winner of The News’ “Grow Your Business” contest, is receiving six months of free consultation from King.

Each side discussed the details of the new service agreement plan drawn up by King, designed to increase the number of residential service agreements to 300 or 350 by the end of 2001.

“The meeting went over real well,” said Bowen. “We got answers to our questions on the basics of the program.”

The program had already begun with the customer service representative, Rose Matteson, briefing customers about service agreements while scheduling service calls. Matteson gave homeowners the basics of the program, paving the way for technicians to formally present the plan while in the home.

Her presentation includes asking homeowners if they get a discount on the service call or if they pay full price. If a customer then asks how they can get a discount, Rose talks about “energy-saving agreements that will help save money on utility bills and give discounts on service calls.”

The technicians are comfortable with the fact that customers already know about the agreements, taking away the “cold call” aspect.

The ‘No’ Factor

One of the most talked-about subjects of the conference call was dealing with the “no” factor.

“We talked a lot about the fact that they [service technicians] are going to get a lot more no’s than yes’s,” King said. “The people [who said no] usually just wanted to know what the cost of the call was on that day.

“But they [technicians] seemed willing to try this. They want to do this, which is half the battle.”

King added, “It’s all a number’s game. The more people they ask, the more yes’s they’ll get.”

King said she was encouraged by the positive vibes she got from the service technicians, citing only one minor glitch: The printed version of the service agreement had provisions for two service calls per year and techs questioned the need for two if the customer wanted a heating-only or cooling-only agreement.

“That was their only complaint about the agreement, so I thought that was pretty good,” she said.

Overall, King believes the company is right on track. Neither Bowen nor King are expecting an overnight success. “We don’t want to do too much too fast,” said Bowen. “We want to learn about residential service agreements before moving on to anything else.”

King agreed. “This is not a quick-fix solution. The main thing is that the people are comfortable with what they’re doing — and they are.”

The News will continue to report on the progress of Bowen Refrigeration, Heating and Cooling in future issues.

Sidebar: Speaker Pushes for Jobsite Safety, Training

WICHITA, KS — As a former accident investigator for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Vic Vaughn was often called on to investigate accidents involving injuries and death. Needless to say, he has witnessed a lot of heartache in his time.

Now employed by Integrated Solutions, environmental, health, and safety consultants based in Wichita, KS, Vaughn is busy informing businesses how to prevent jobsite accidents. At the Midwest Contractors Expo 2001, held here recently, Vaughn turned some attendees’ stomachs by relaying some horrible jobsite accidents.

For instance, Vaughn talked about a 19-year-old worker who was at a remote jobsite when he was struck in the chest by a pipe wrench. The blow came at the precise moment between heartbeats and sent him into cardiac arrest.

“Workers tried to get him emergency treatment but it took too long to get him to a hospital. He died,” said Vaughn.

His recommendation? Have portable defibrillation equipment at jobsites or in company vehicles.

In another incident, Vaughn said workers were using a sling to lift a load and a straight eyebolt was attached to the load and sling. The load was raised on a 45 degree angle, putting enough pressure on the eyebolt to snap it, sending it into one worker’s chest, killing him instantly.

“The company was cited for several violations, including improper rigging, shock pulling the load, and lack of adequate training,” said Vaughn.

He recommended that workers sign off on all training sheets. In this case, he noted that some had the exact same signature on each sheet, indicating that some workers did not take the safety training.

Another sad incident involved a father-and-son work crew. According to Vaughn, the father was standing above a pit when a load was being lowered down into the pit with a crane. His son was standing in the pit at the time, guiding the load in. The platform anchoring the crane gave way, causing the 12-ton load to shift and crush the son to death in the pit while the father helplessly watched.

“The son was standing on the wrong side of the load as it was being lowered,” said Vaughn.

Vaughn stressed the importance of adequate safety and equipment operation training. He apologized to the audience for giving such graphic details, but he used the examples to drive home the point of jobsite safety.

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Publication date: 06/11/2001