This issue of The NEWS focuses on the emerging parts and service business. In the following pages, you’ll learn how distributors are using technology to streamline their warehouses, just how hot the summer has been for HVACR distributors, and more.
And, appropriately, I’d like to shine a light on one crucial HVACR contracting position that perhaps flies a bit under the radar: service dispatch.
In many cases, the first person a potential customer speaks with is service dispatch. During that initial conversation, assumptions are made and judgment is passed within the first 15 seconds. If the dispatcher comes off unfavorably, odds are the caller has already mentally moved on to plan B.
In addition to learning the person’s name, address, and whether he or she’s worked with the company before, the dispatcher is the first to learn of the scope of the problem as well as the system’s age, brand, size, type, etc.
Even when pushed to do so, dispatch should refrain from offering a quote or suggesting a price range during this initial contact. There are simply too many variables to consider. Instead, the dispatcher should mention a portion of the appointment charge is refundable if and when service is complete (if applicable). This is also a good time to bait the customer with discounts, specials, or coupons, as well as recent accomplishments, awards, or news coverage. If the company was recently in the neighborhood repairing a neighbor’s system, be sure to bring that up.
Set an appointment at the customer’s convenience. Once the appointment has been set — as long as the customer isn’t in a hurry — offer a 1-minute rundown of what will occur during the tech’s visit. This general roadmap reassures the customer that the company follows a professional approach and helps differentiate you from the competition.
Each’s company’s field team is full of unique personalities and skills. Certain people excel in specific situations. Some are aces with the gauges while others possess charisma that could charm the skin off a snake. Service dispatch should recognize this and strive to put the right pieces in the right places based on not only personality, but the scope of the project, time, location, etc.
Dispatch must recognize some calls net greater profit than others, and calls must be prioritized accordingly. A call on a faulty 15-year-old furnace should absolutely be prioritized over a service agreement tuneup. And, if at all possible, you should aim to send your Zig Ziglar. If your Ziggy is scheduled for another call, dispatch should strongly consider pulling him away from that appointment and sending someone else. While not ideal, if the company is forced to reschedule a low-priority call to address this juicy system replacement, it shouldn’t hesitate to do so. Your techs are much like chess pieces. If you’re confident the queen (best salesman) can get the job done quickly and efficiently, why send a rook (greenie)? If you’re simply sending the closest guy to the closest job to save $12 in gas money, you’re leaving a great deal of money on the table.
AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL
Finally, service dispatch should be viewed as the company’s air traffic controller.
Airports very carefully monitor which planes are flying in which direction at what time. This should be the same for your service department. And, no air traffic controller would allow a pilot to radio in and dictate his or her route or location, no matter the reason. Your techs must recognize they are servants to the company’s service schedule and that it can change at any moment. Remind them that each call is meticulously assigned with the company’s bottom line in mind. And, if they get a little too big for their britches, perhaps it’s time to remind them who’s signing the checks around here.
Have you taken a close look at your dispatch department lately? Is there room for improvement? While often unheralded, service dispatch is undoubtedly a key cog in a successful contracting business. With the proper people and procedures in place, dispatch can become a vital part of running an efficient, profitable service department.
Publication date: 8/15/2016