Do you really think that providing 24-hour service helps you to keep customers? I don’t. In fact, I believe it contributes to losing customers.

Furthermore, I believe it’s the biggest factor in an HVAC contractor’s inability to retain qualified technical help. My observation is that forced overtime is the primary complaint among service techs and the primary reason for the exorbitantly high turnover rate in this industry.

Most contractors respond to complaints of long hours in this manner: “I’m paying them overtime. What else do they want?”

They want more family time, more leisure time, and more rest.

Any single service technician has the ability to generate more profits for an owner than 10 of what an owner might consider to be his “best customers.” Yet, many owners treat their techs like slave labor. Greed is driving them away from such companies and, in many cases, out of the business.

I hope you’re not so out of touch with reality that you envision your grateful customers throwing their arms around your tired techs and thanking them for climbing out of their comfortable beds to take care of their “emergencies.” That’s not the way it works.

A No-Win Situation

Here’s a real scenario. Your tech drags himself out of bed and drives to the home of a customer who is already steamed about being charged a premium rate and is trying to figure a way out of paying it. Your tech runs a cursory diagnosis and does just the bare minimum to get it running.

The customer agrees to the charge, then argues or gets rude when it’s time to collect. Your tech arrives home at 4 a.m. and sleeps until the very last minute before he heads off to his 8 a.m. call, unshowered and unshaven.

This tech is too tired to put his heart into his work. Not only is he not looking for “add-on” work, he’s trying not to find it. Selling additional work on each call simply means he’ll never get home.

Then, to add insult to injury, the ungrateful customer from last night calls to tell your customer service reps that he’s made a few phone calls and, according to his research, your tech overcharged him and he wants a good portion of his money back!

On the other hand, what happens when the previous customer calls in the middle of the night and can’t get service? Answer: He calls your competitor.

This time, instead of beating up your tech, he beats up your competitor’s tech. Now, it’s your competitor’s tech who feels worthless and hates the company. In fact, he might even quit to go to work at a company where techs are not worked into the ground.

A person should enter the profession expecting to work overtime during the initial rushes at the beginning of each season. Of course, a scene I see played out with amazing frequency is techs running calls until all hours of the night and then not having any calls to run the next morning! Why?

If you’re really greedy, don’t provide 24-hour service. Seriously. Being more realistic toward your techs’ normal human limitations as to the number of hours they can be productive each day will result in higher average dollars per call, fewer callbacks, fewer accidents, more satisfied customers, and lower employee turnover.

Guest columnist Charlie Greer is a service technician, a salesman, president of HVAC Profit Boosters Inc. He is the sole instructor of the Sales Survival School for HVAC technicians and salespeople. He can be reached at 800-963-4822 or

Publication date: 07/14/2003