It is important to treat a callback as the highest priority service call you can have. Many years ago when our company focus was still on new construction, our service manager, Roger Zahn, made a point to me that I’ve never forgotten. He told me that people don’t call for service because they want to buy it. It’s not like a new dress or a new motorcycle that they want to purchase. They are calling because they need it, but if they had their choice they’d rather buy the dress or motorcycle.

His point was that you have to provide fast, quality service because essentially the customer is not happy that he had to call you and spend money with you in the first place. How does this relate to callbacks? If the customer wasn’t happy when he called the first time, even if you responded quickly, do you think he is going to be any happier having to call you back a second time? The answer is obvious.

We create many callbacks ourselves. This occurs when the sales engineer makes too many promises to the customer regarding the installation. While our sales engineers explain that we sell quality equipment, they emphasize that any mechanical equipment will fail at some point. They actually use the fact that the equipment will break down as a sales tool, highlighting that we provide 24-hour service, 365 days per year.

It is in everyone’s best interest to reduce the number of callbacks in the first place. Whenever possible, the same technician/installer should be sent back to the call, even if it requires sending another technician/

installer with him.

This is important for two reasons. The first is so he realizes that there was a callback on one of his jobs. The second is that he learns what is necessary to correct the problem. It will have much more impact if he sees it firsthand than if you merely tell him he had a callback and you sent a different tech to correct the problem. While sending two technicians on a callback may be more costly in the short run, in the long run, the training and experience learned by the original technician will be well worthwhile.

Crunching The Numbers

In studying our callbacks, we have found some interesting facts. On service callbacks, the callback is usually the result of one of two things: an experienced technician trying to “band-aid” up a unit that really needs replacing or an inexperienced technician who didn’t make all of the checks necessary to be sure that what he believed was the problem was is in fact the problem. Both problems can be reduced with better training and communication.

You must communicate to the experienced technicians the benefits to the customer of replacing worn-out equipment. He must realize that he is not really helping the customer or the company in the long run by installing “band-aids.” More classroom training may be necessary for less experienced technicians.

Callbacks on new construction jobs are typically for different reasons, and the causes are often things over which we have no control. New construction practices will sometimes cause problems with the HVAC system. For example, longer joist or truss spans can result in greater floor or ceiling deflection and ductwork “squeaking.” These basic construction deficiencies are a fact of life, and we may need to adjust some of our installation practices to reduce some problems.

Another problem area in new construction has to do with the fact that we are often dependent upon other trades to perform their work properly in order for our systems to operate as intended. Newer HVAC equipment requires greater technical expertise than equipment in the past. To reduce callbacks, we must provide the other trade with sufficient diagrams and information so that the work can be done correctly.

We all know we don’t like callbacks. Hopefully we can eliminate most callbacks before they occur. And on those remaining, we need to treat them with high priority and use whatever resources are necessary to make sure the customer is taken care of properly.

Guest columnist Butch Welsch operates Welsch Heating & Cooling in St. Louis. He can be reached by e-mail at

Publication date: 06/02/2003