It’s the middle of summer and chances are the clean and inspect season has taken a backseat to the “When are you going to send someone out — I have no air!” season. I hope you are getting swamped with calls. Better yet, I hope you are getting swamped with calls from your “clean and inspect” customers.

After all, the goal of your spring and fall clean and inspect programs is to sign up customers for future service and lock them up for a few years. Whether you actually make any money on your clean and inspect is a matter of debate. You may earn a little profit up front or wait and hope that the profits come from future service and sales calls.

Wide Range of Prices

The News’readers told me about their clean and inspect charges and what they hoped to gain from spending a little time looking over dirty coils and frayed wires. The results of this informal poll were interesting.

For the record, the prices charged by contractors who responded ranged from $19.97 to $131.21. The reasons for the big discrepancy?

“I’ve done $19.97 for years,” said the $19.97 contractor. “We are in a growing area and many people will need service work. This is just a charge for inspection, not cleaning.

“We spend a lot of money to get a customer but it has worked out well and increased our customer base.”

The $131.21 contractor had a different philosophy. He commented, “We have been here since 1947 and have lots of repeat customers.” He also cited a 40% profit on the clean and inspect.

Here are some of the other noteworthy responses:

“I charge a lower price than my competition. I lose money on every clean and check I do. I consider this a loss leader. Our service techs are neat and clean, in uniform, and respect the homeowner. We get a lot of business from these people when the time comes to replace. [Because of this] we don’t often have to compete against anyone.”

“We charge $60 per visit for a one-time tune-up. We just recently raised our rates across the board and sales are still going up. I still wonder how much money I may be leaving on the table.”

“Our clean and check is $79 which is based on my highest-paid tech. I have found there really is no bonus to offering a discounted clean and check. It may help to get the ‘cleaners’ out of the way if you offer a discount. ‘Chimney shakers’ are always undercutting our rates but they don’t seem to cut into our business. The general public is hip to the $29.95 scams the chimney shakers bring to the table.”

“The goal of a discounted clean and inspect is to find legitimate work. It keeps us in the customer’s mind. But how about the $19.95 check that nets a couple of hundred dollars? I only wish I could say their name.”

(Translation: The $19.95 price is the bait for some contractors, who shall remain anonymous. In this reader’s estimation, these “questionable” contractors hook the customer with outlandish charges for unnecessary repairs. Hmmm.)

“We charge $59, which gives us the opportunity to inspect customer’s property and make recommendations for future work. Our industry should promote the value of clean and checks to the public.”

Plant the Seed

Respondents agreed that the goal of a clean and inspect was to plant the seeds of a lasting relationship with their customers. I also got the impression that contractors were tired of feeling the sting from “chimney shakers” and wanted to promote their good name and honest reputation.

By adding up the responses, the average price for a clean and inspect was over $70. Now I’m not saying that you should gauge your prices by this poll, but at least it gives you a measuring stick.

Each neighborhood and community is different. Older, more established neighborhoods may have the $70 customers while new neighborhoods with young families are more likely to pay less.

The real barometer of a successful clean and inspect? The number of callbacks. One contractor said he blitzes the neighborhood at certain times of the year and gets a 60-70% return. The real question is: How many of the 60-70% call back for service and replacement?

I’d like to thank the respondents for taking a moment to get in touch with The News. I hardly had to break a sweat writing this column — you gave me all of the material I needed.