Installing Equipment Bought By The Customer

[Editor's note: This letter is in response to John R. Hall's March 29 column, "A Box Is A Box Is A Box."]

Most residential contractors are now using flat-rate service pricing. I think they should do the same thing for installation of customer-purchased equipment (have a set price to install a 4-ton condensing unit, coil, line set, electrical, etc.).

When a potential customer calls, just mail them a price list. Nine times out of 10 there will be additional work when the contractor gets there, due to the lack of knowledge on the homeowner's part.

How much profit is the contractor going to make? That is up to the contractor. However, I do not think their bottom line will see any diminished value.

Andy Morehead
Service Manager
Continental Mechanical of the Pacific

A CO Detector Saved Our Lives

Not long ago, my family and I were exposed to high levels of carbon monoxide. Thank God our lives were saved, only because of that little carbon monoxide detector. Otherwise, God knows what would have happened to us that night.

On May 2, we were invited to a confirmation party at a friend's house in the evening, so my wife and son left for the party and returned home around 11:30. My wife drove the car inside the attached garage of our house, turned the lights off on the car, closed the garage door, and walked inside the house and closed the door between the house and the garage.

Guess what happened? She forgot to turn the car off. No one even knew that the car was on. Since the car is new and quiet, no one even noticed this.

Early in the morning, we heard some beeping noise in the house. Everyone was wondering where the noise was coming from. Everyone got up from sleeping and started walking all over the house. Finally, we figured out the beeping noise was from the CMD [carbon monoxide detector] and it was reading 238.

I said something is wrong here. We all have our bedrooms upstairs, except my elder son, whose bedroom is on the main floor, next to where the carbon monoxide detector was plugged. The house didn't smell, but we had sort of an odd feeling.

That night we left the A/C fan running, since it was a bit warm. I checked the utility room, and then my son opened the garage door from the house and slammed it shut. The carbon monoxide was from the garage, from the car, which was on for five hours inside the garage. Right away, we opened the garage main door, opened all the doors and windows, and here we are today.

I can't forget that night or the fact that the little plug-in detector saved our lives. God knows what would have happened to all of us by the next morning.

Carbon monoxide is a silent killer, so don't take any chances. Install a carbon monoxide detector in your home; you won't be sorry. It's worth it to save a life.

Miguel Barreto
Mike's Refrigeration Service Plus
Bogota, N.J.

You Can't Buy Employee Loyalty

Mr. Greer's column ["Take This Pop Quiz; Answer Honestly," May 10] addressed a weakness in our industry that should be our strength - employee loyalty. We are in a service industry. We spend dollars finding ways to keep and build customer loyalty. Do we forget that our primary customers are those individuals working for us?

Employee loyalty can never be purchased. Money and a sweet deal may get good people in the doors, but it will not keep them. Here are some ideas to build employee loyalty I've gleaned from outside sources.

First, start with a company policy manual and a schedule of company benefits. Have the immediate supervisor review these with new employees. Do this on their first day. Address those topics that are most sensitive on the first day. Set a standard from day one.

Create a business attitude that builds trust and loyalty from the top down. Know your primary customers are those people directly responsible to you. The best way to lead is to serve them. Listen when they have a need; respond to it within 24 hours. Learn their spouses' names, information about kids and special interests.

Hold weekly or monthly meetings with field techs. Discuss issues but also listen to their daily challenges. Repeat back to them what you just heard them say. This will let them know you were listening. When possible, bring problems to these meetings and ask for helpful solutions. When the correction is implemented, they were part of the solution. Never forget that commitments from management must be fulfilled, no matter what the cost. Don't say it unless you mean it.

Prove your loyalty to your employees, and good employees will be loyal to you.

Dan Brett
J.P. Brett & Sons
Naples, Fla.

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Publication date: 06/28/2004