Experienced service techs may object to this line of reasoning. After all, why should they check something again that they know they did right the first time? I get that. But I also know that an extra five minutes is a small price to pay for one last review because of the time and expense it may save down the road. Forgetting to reconnect a wire or seal a duct joint can literally cost a business hundreds or thousands of dollars.
Yes, I said thousands of dollars.
THE UNFORESEEN HAPPENSLet's say your service tech has done everything right for Mr. Very Picky homeowner. Your tech has gone over all of the steps of his or her installation or service work. The homeowner has consented to initial the checklist, signifying that he understood the work performed and is satisfied with it. I assume that your techs ask for this before they leave the home. They don't? It might be a good idea to start that practice.
The tech now cleans up the area, making sure it looks as good or better than it did when he or she arrived on the job. They don't do that? I would definitely add that to their checklist items. It now appears that everything has been done right and to the customer's satisfaction. Almost everything.
The unforeseen happens. A huge snowstorm hits the area. The buildup of snow around the furnace vent provides enough blockage to cause incomplete combustion. There is a buildup of carbon monoxide (CO) gas into the home. Fortunately, the customer has a working CO detector (which your tech checked) and it alarms.
The customer is alive but unhappy. He claims that your tech should have told him about the consequences of a blocked vent. He is so angry that he tells everyone he knows to call a different HVAC company when they need service or replacement work.
Your tech knew he or she had covered all of the checklist items and made sure they had checked for proper airflow and complete combustion. In fact, your tech recommended to the customer that he keep any objects away from the vent openings. Your tech simply didn't warn them what might happen in the event of a heavy snow.
THE UNSEEN COSTSThat's a very unfortunate occurrence. But things like that do happen despite the best efforts of service technicians. Something is bound to be overlooked which cannot be predicted. I can't fault the service tech for something that he or she may never have encountered before or that wasn't on their checklist. But maybe now it is time to add a "worst-case scenario" to the checklist, too.
The problem is that the customer will now act as a deterrent to future, unknown business. He might have had a neighbor who needed a new furnace and was looking for an upgrade. Or maybe had a relative who was complaining about the dryness in the home and needed a recommendation for humidifying. Or maybe he had visited his allergist's office and the doctor wanted to know who might be able to help his patients with indoor air quality products for the home.
All of those scenarios could have added up to thousands of dollars of future, unknown business. And because your tech, right or wrong, didn't mention the effect of snow buildup on a furnace vent, you will lose that unknown business.
The customer double-crossed your good work and your good name - an unseen cost your company really can't afford. If you'd like copies of a 33-point installation checklist or two-part service checklist, e-mail me. Then add your own special double-check touches to it.
John R. Hall, Business Management Editor, 734-464-1970, 248-786-1390 (fax), firstname.lastname@example.org
Publication date: 02/27/2006