Some days I really get excited to be in this business. One reason is because we do a good job of providing service. Another reason is because I see so many instances of poor service by non-caring employees at other companies.

For some reason, it almost seems to have become the norm to not treat the customer properly nor worry about the quality of service you provide. (Think airlines and fast food restaurants.) But evidence of poor customer service just points up the opportunities available to a businessperson who will take care of the customer and provide good service.

Some Bad Examples

Here are a couple of recent examples that re-emphasized my feelings about the opportunities to provide good service.

My wife and I were at our timeshare unit in Florida in November - certainly not the peak season. We decided to go to dinner at a large restaurant that was a favorite. Up until our last visit in March, it had been so popular that all tables were full and dozens of people were waiting up to an hour for dinner. When we were there last March, in season, we noticed that although the restaurant was nearly full, there were no people waiting and generally it didn't seem as busy.

When we arrived this time, we were happy to see that nearly two-thirds of the tables were empty. When we asked the hostess for a table for two, she said it would be a 15- to 20-minute wait. We asked how that could be with so many tables empty, and she replied, "We don't have enough servers."

So now we know why their business has decreased so much. They forgot about serving the customer.

This next example happens to deal with plumbing rather than HVAC, but I've heard similar stories regarding HVAC contractors.

A friend of ours purchased an existing home with a need for a bathroom renovation. She looked in the two community newspapers that serve her area for contractors advertising bathroom renovations. As an aside, I know the advertising cost in these newspapers is quite expensive, and therefore represents a large financial commitment by a contractor to run an ad.

Our friend called all 20 contractors in the papers who advertised for bathroom renovations. Here are her results: Of the 20 called, only 10 returned her call. Of the 10, eight set up appointments. Of the eight, two failed to show up for their appointment. Six contractors looked over the job. She never heard from two of them. Three gave her a verbal bid, and only one of them gave her a professional written bid.

Remember, this wasn't just random calling of names in the phone book. These were calls to contractors who had spent hundreds of dollars seeking business and failed to follow up properly.

What are the messages here? There are a lot of bad service practices going on out there. There are also excellent opportunities for those of us who will just do the following:

  • Remember: The customer is the most important person in your business.

  • Treat the customer with respect.

  • Follow up on every contact.

  • Keep your appointments and be punctual.

  • Follow up with a professional presentation of what you plan to do.

    These things all seem so elementary that it's hard to believe everyone isn't doing them. But the fact is, they aren't.

    That's why I have those days when I'm so happy to be in the service business.

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

    Publication date: 12/08/2003