John R. Hall

Why don’t you help your customers with those Christmas decorations? Don’t laugh. When you are rummaging through your lists of potential services to add to your market mix, putting up Christmas trees might not be such a bad idea. Better yet, keep a supply of them in your service vans for the people who don’t have the time or the resources to construct their own Christmas trees and decorations.

No, I haven’t taken a nip of the holiday eggnog - yet. So don’t accuse me of losing my common sense as the holiday season starts to turn sane people into unidentifiable globs of gelatin. I really believe that there are some off-the-wall ideas that just may turn your customers into loyal believers in your service - and who continue to ask you back year after year to decorate, er, service their HVAC equipment.


Let’s assume that you are looking for some service that will make your company stand out from the competition. HVAC contractors spend a lot of money on business consultants who come up with some very good ways to market and promote their products and services. The intent is to be smart and innovative enough to keep customers coming back and telling their friends, too. If for no other reason, these same customers are waiting to see if you can top the last marketing gimmick that you tried.

After all, aren’t we all attempting to top the last gimmick we tried, even if we were successful? In the sports world, this is referred to as moving without the ball. Athletes are always planning their next move even if they don’t have the ball, puck, or whatever little thing they hit, throw, catch, shoot, or kick. You need to think about what you are going to do next and then act on it.

Let’s say that last year you decided to give out imprinted refrigerator magnets as your holiday gift. You know that no one throws refrigerator magnets out. I have them all over my house, even one on the dog dish (although the 1997 NASCAR racing schedule is getting a little old). This year try and top that. Bring along an imprinted Christmas ornament. Make it something that people will want to hang on their tree, which probably leaves glittery condensing units or porcelain furnaces out of the mix. A nice Christmas pickle would work.


Ok, I’ve avoided talking about the tree that I mentioned in the opening paragraph. I think you have stopped laughing by now. Let’s pretend that this is a good idea for the moment. You can probably go online to one of those import specialty Websites that sell gifts in bulk (hopefully the unleaded variety from China) and you can order a few dozen 15-inch Christmas trees for around $3.95 each (I cheated and looked this up).

You may want to give this item to preferred customers, along with a starter ornament. I honestly believe that there is room for at least one tabletop Christmas tree in every home.

While your tech is there spreading Christmas cheer, he or she can ask your customer if they need any help getting boxes out of the attic or garage - for no charge at all.

Now I know that we are talking about nonbillable hours here. Most owners would cringe at promoting nonbillable work. I guess you’d have to weigh the benefits of the goodwill created in 15-30 minutes as exemplified by this hypothetical telephone call by your customer after your tech has left her house:

Customer:Hello, Maggie? My heating and cooling contractor just left my house and guess what they did for me?

Maggie:You sound so excited. What did they do?

Customer:The service tech brought down these heavy boxes of Christmas decorations from my attic - for free!

Maggie:What did you say the name of your contractor was? Do you have their phone number?

Being one of Santa’s elves this year may do wonders for your newest profit center.

Happy Holidays, my friends.

Publication date:12/10/2007