People today have no patience. That is not a complaint but rather an observation. I am as guilty as the next person. When my email or social media does not load instantly on my phone, seconds feel like hours. Rationally, I realize my frustration is absurd, but it is who I have become.

As HVAC contractors, you are operating in that world whether you like it or not. According to a recent study by Valve + Meter, home service companies are not doing a very good job responding to customers. The study surveyed 466 home service companies, and only 60 percent of them responded within a five-day time frame. I am not great at math, but that tells me four out of 10 companies take more than a business week to respond to a customer — if they respond at all.

Other findings included:

  • 95 percent of all home service companies didn’t respond within five minutes;
  • 71 percent of all home service companies didn’t respond within an hour;
  • 55 percent of all home service companies didn’t respond within one day; and
  • Only 37 percent of companies called actually called back.

Now, let’s unpack this information a little bit. The scenario for the study was someone fills out the contact form on a website, starts a live chat, or asks for availability on the company’s social media page. How quickly is the team responding?

Throw away the 37 percent who do not have the resources and/or motivation to call back customers. I am sure that is not anybody reading this publication, although I assume you would like to have them as competitors.

The expectation to get a response within five minutes might seem a bit ambitious. And obviously, the vast majority of companies are not able to handle that response rate. But some people — specifically some in the younger generation — expect that quick of a response. Now, it might not be a phone call, but a live chat, text, or social media response. You might be inclined to say that those people will never be happy, but that group of people is only going to increase as the years go by.

A more realistic goal would be to respond within the hour. Be it an email, phone message, or social media post, your company should be able to respond within 60 minutes. Now, this does not mean a complete answer or solution, but at least a response to show the customer has been heard.

Finally, if you can’t respond within a day — like 55 percent of the companies could not — you need to address the problem immediately.

Homeowners are no longer grading on a curve. By that, I mean they are not differentiating your business from the landscaper, Target, or Apple. They are expecting the same customer service from everyone — for better or worse. It used to be that you might have “good customer service for an HVAC company,” but that is no longer an option. I think the cable companies are the only ones that works for.

The first step for contractors is to find out what their average response time is for their business. As National Comfort Institute (NCI) has said for years: If you don’t measure, you’re just guessing.

Contractors should start recording the amount of time it takes to get back with a lead and document it. See how you do in a month’s time. Another option would be to make sure you are using technology to respond to customers in a quick manner. This can be software that helps you monitor your social media channels or getting a well-staffed live chat program for your website.

It is like the old Woody Allen saying: “Showing up is 80 percent of life.” Sure, items like price, North American Technician Excellence (NATE) certification, and product knowledge all play a part in if you close the sale. But something as simple as response time could make all the difference in the world.

Publication date: 12/10/2018

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