John R. Hall

The most valuable asset that HVACR contractors have in their inventory is their updated customer list. And even more valuable is the list of service agreement customers. That is a gold mine. Many a battle has been fought over ownership of service agreement customers and why not? You all know the cost of getting new customers, and in today’s economy, I’m sure a lot of you are looking for excuses not to spend more money on attracting new business.

You smart ones are going back to your own customer lists and trying to sell new service agreements, extend current agreements, or upgrade existing service agreements. This is time well spent because these customers are your meat and potatoes, with a side of coleslaw thrown in for good measure.

But what if you aren’t content to just visit these customers once or twice a year? What if you can find a way to get into their homes more often? Would it be worth your while? I bet it would. And it would be one more reason for your customers to remain loyal to you because you really do care about them, right?


I’ve been known to come up with some pretty wacky ideas on how to increase the bottom line. I admit that some of my ideas are out there, but some are pretty darn good, too. My latest idea to increase customer face time is still up for grabs - at least some of my contractor friends are looking for the nearest white jacket to fit my girth.

I’ll preface my idea by saying that I am not a mechanically-inclined person. And I could certainly be labeled the “anti-Bob Villa.” Just ask my wife. I turn a simple leaky faucet into an all-day affair with the ending pipe configuration looking like something out of a Three Stooges episode.

Knowing that, it shouldn’t surprise you that I don’t do a good job of changing my air handler’s filter (shhhh, don’t tell anyone). I have a Clean Effects unit and I am simply too lazy to pull it out, rinse it off, and try my darndest to get the little door back on. I am so lazy that I deferred to my contractor to make an early season clean and inspect in order to have them clean the filter. (Yes, I am a service agreement customer so I do practice some things that I preach).

Then it occurred to me; why not bump up the price of a service agreement to include two more filter clean/changes every year? That would mean four visits to the home and the opportunity to sell additional products or services during the visits.

Voila! I struck pay dirt. Or did I?


I asked a number of contractors if this was a doable idea, including my own who told me he would normally schedule one-half hour for his tech to clean my type of filter. He didn’t comment on whether it would be a good idea to charge more for a service agreement and make more visits - probably still laughing.

One of my contractor friends, Russ Donnici, was very candid. “Sorry to be a downer, but we wouldn’t do it just to get some face time to sell them something. I think after the first try at trying to sell them something they would catch on and not be pleased.” Fair enough, but not everyone is the sharpest pencil in the drawer, Russ.

My dear friend Aaron York said it would not be the fiscally responsible idea to pursue. “Being in their homes four times a year is good, but it would cost at least $75 to put a competent tech, one able to find needs and sell accessories etc., in the home even for 10 minutes to change the filter.” I hate it when you’re logical, Aaron.

Larry Taylor didn’t poo-poo the idea but he did comment, “We have found that with higher MERV filters, they are only needing to be changed one or two times at most so increasing the number of trips for filter changes would not work.” MERV, schmerv, change it anyway.

My friend Sonny Knobloch said being in a home more than twice a year could become a scheduling nightmare. He concluded, “I would find another way to stay in touch with the customer.” OK Sonny, I’m waiting for that other way.

As you can see, I do not take offense to people suggesting that my idea is not workable. I have a very thick skin.

At least one guy, my extraordinarily great friend from Nebraska, Scott Getzschman, liked the idea. He said, “It should take no more than five minutes in the home, however billable would be one-half hour. We have a few elderly customers that have us change the filter on a quarterly basis.

“It is a great idea. I would say the number to make this attractive is close to an extra $40 for the maintenance plan.”

Hey Scott, care to become my agent?

Publication date:10/27/2008