The HVAC industry can be a tough business sometimes. Contractors have little control over a lot of the items that affect their business — weather, regulations, the workforce, just to name a few.

Another obstacle for contractors is that customers continue to move the goal posts on them. The type of customer service HVAC contractors were delivering 20 years — or even 10 years ago — is no longer acceptable. Just think about all the services you are providing now that were not happening a few years back.

Our cover story this week on live chat is a perfect example. Homeowners want any business they are interacting with to be constantly “on” no matter what time of day. When they come to your website, they want questions answered. They do not want to take the time or effort to call your office.

Of course, it is not just limited to live chat. You are interacting with customers on social media, sending out enewsletters, and attempting to get positive online reviews … at least, you should be doing those things.

The tough part is that performing these tasks is just the cost of doing business these days. You are not setting yourself apart from the competition by doing these items. And everyone knows the key to dominating your market is being able to separate yourself from the competition. This does not mean simply explaining to customers that you have great people. I have news for you: Every one of your competitors is preaching the same thing.

While at the ACCA Conference a few months back, I heard a story about an oral surgeon on the East Coast who was separating himself from the competition. Although it may be time consuming, what he did was somewhat simple. The day before a new patient would have an appointment, the doctor would personally call them to explain what was going to happen the next day and answer any questions. He would sit down at his phone and make the calls at the end of every day.

This small effort made by the surgeon was a calming force in an otherwise stressful situation for his patients. It is only human to be nervous before embarking on a situation you have not experienced before. This is especially true when teeth and surgery are to be discussed.

How many times do you think his patients have told family members, friends, or neighbors about the doctor who called them the night before? That is how you stand out in your field.

You know what else can be stressful? Trying to buy a new HVAC system. This is something people might only do a couple of times in their lifetime. As the owner of your business, would you have the time to call each new customer the night before you are sending out a salesperson? You could give a brief explanation about what the process will be — who will be coming out, the questions they are likely to ask, how long they will be there. Hopefully this would prevent any surprises the next day and set the table for your employees to sell.

Maybe this does not fit into your business plan or is simply something you are not comfortable with. The point here is not to necessarily follow the oral surgeon’s plan but, instead, think about how you can differentiate your business from the company down the street. Is it worth a brainstorming session with the upper management team? Perhaps your salespeople or technicians have ideas, too.

And don’t be above stealing, because you do not necessarily need to reinvent the wheel. Does a business you visit — bank, pizza parlor, barber — have a customer service hook that you can borrow?

Let’s be honest — people are going to be talking about your company every day. It is up to you to make sure the conversations are positive.

Publication date: 05/21/2018

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