Did I touch a few nerves or what? No article of mine has drawn as much feedback as my July 14 editorial, “Do You Really Want 24-Hour Service?”

I hereby supply some of the more interesting messages — along with my thoughts. (By the way, names are being kept confidential to prevent further mutiny by technicians.)

Reader’s comment: My dilemma is that my techs read your article while I was on vacation. (I can’t get them to read anything else, but they were all over this one.)

We don’t, per se, work our techs into all hours of the night, but we do push to get all calls complete in the same day, even if it means working a little late. I’m definitely with you on the 24/7 issue, but when we have customers who are down with no air or heat, it’s not a matter of greed or my desire to work my techs into the dirt. It’s just concern for customer needs.

My response: Since you’re so concerned about it, why don’t you go out there and fix it yourself? Don’t feel like it? Neither do your techs! Many contractors say they don’t ask anything of their employees they wouldn’t do themselves. Not true. I have yet to see a company in which the owner still runs service and participates in the “on-call rotation” that also pushes same-day service. Interesting, isn’t it?

If my air conditioning quit working in the middle of the night, I wouldn’t expect to be able to reach anyone on the phone, much less expect him or her to come out and fix it. Even if it broke down in the middle of the day during the middle of the summer, I wouldn’t expect anyone who’s any good to be able to come right out. It’s like the better restaurants. They’re crowded and you have to wait to get a table. It’s the restaurants you wouldn’t want to eat at that can seat you right away.

You’re going to have to make a decision: Do you want to simply decline to work your techs 24 hours a day or do you want to keep twisting their arms and explaining your concern for customers to them? Bear in mind that any single service technician has the ability to generate more profits than any single customer.

You Asked

Reader’s comment: What are we supposed to do if the customer has no heat or air?

My response: You are not supposed to do anything. A lack of foresight on their part does not constitute an emergency on your part.

For less than the additional cost of an overtime charge, a customer could visit a 24-hour Wal-Mart and pick up a few space heaters. As far as air conditioning, well, maybe the next time a tech tells the customer, “You really ought to replace that thing or you could be without heating or cooling overnight or longer,” the customer may listen up and act on the recommendation.

Reader’s comment: So often I hear companies talking to potential employees and really putting the fear into them on how difficult this business is, how they’ll be expected to be available 24/7, etc. Too many companies drive away great employees or, even worse, prevent potential great employees from entering the business with such expectations.

My response: Is that why it’s so hard to get young people to stay in our industry?

Final Note

One more thought: You don’t make money by driving around. You make money by increasing your “billable hour efficiency.” This is done by going to one call, checking everything out, and making a list of recommendations; then, if the customer wants the work done, doing it all on that call. The things your techs do on a single call that go beyond the bare minimum required to get the equipment operational are called add-ons. Sound good so far? Well, you can forget about add-ons if selling them means your techs will never know when they’re going to get home at night.

If my comments are rubbing you the wrong way, maybe that’s good. I suspect it means you know I’m right.

Think about it.

Guest columnist Charlie Greer is a service technician, a salesman, and 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 charlie@hvacprofitboosters.com.

Publication date: 08/11/2003