As a former Customer Service Representative (CSR), I remember how difficult it was to assure customers that they had called the right company – to make sure they knew we were going to take care of their needs better than any other company out there. That was when times were good. Now, we have this coronavirus hanging over our heads. Now, more than ever, customers are concerned about having us out to their home, because they’re concerned about the possibility of spreading the virus. They’re also worried about having service work done because of looming potential financial insecurity.

If you’ve ever been in one of my trainings, you know how adamant I am about exhibiting empathy when working with customers. In my experience, it’s something our businesses fail to do consistently well. This is a big problem, because right now – more than ever – our customers need to know that we understand their concerns. They need to know that we’re doing everything in our power to address those concerns, and that our intentions, as they relate to the services we provide, have not changed. We are in the business of helping people live safely and comfortably in their homes; our intent is to help and protect people. This intention has always been at the heart of the services we provide, and it’s even more essential now, in these uncertain times.

As HVAC businesses, it’s important to understand that our customers need us in this moment. Think about this for a second: We live in a time where people are tied to their homes more than they ever have been in their entire lives. They are utilizing the HVAC, plumbing, and electrical systems in their homes more than they ever have in their entire lives.  As a result, it’s more important than ever that those systems operate safely and properly.  When those systems fail as a result of increased usage, we need to be there for our customers. We also need to assure them that our companies are doing everything necessary to protect customers from the spread of COVID-19. Other companies might not be taking such stringent precautions. It’s only because we are taking extra precautions that we’re able to be there for our customers when they need us the most. 

When we arrive at a customer’s home, we need to assure them that we’ll take their safety and well-being as seriously as we take the safety and well-being of our technicians — we must be obsessive in this regard. We must ensure both the customer’s safety and our technician’s safety by using all the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that’s necessary and available. From there, it’s critical that we utilize our time while in the home to the fullest. Our technicians need to do everything in their power to eliminate potential future issues with our customers’ systems — right then. This is an effort to reduce the additional foot traffic related to having another technician out to the home, on another service call, if something else should fail in the future. In other words, when a customer has an issue that demands our attention now, it’s absolutely critical that we do a complete and full evaluation of their entire system so we can catch potential issues now. We don’t want to have to come back. All of this is an effort to make sure the customer’s system is running safely and properly, while reducing the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

A lot of customers are currently putting a hold on having maintenance performed on their systems because they’re afraid of having someone in their home with the potential of spreading the virus. This is totally understandable — that feeling of “Why would I have you out to my house if nothing is wrong? That seems like an unnecessary risk.”

Here’s why. In a few months, our customers’ systems are going to begin to fail due to increased usage — it’s inevitable. And when that happens, our companies are going to have fewer technicians to respond to those service requests, as well as a slower service call process, which is necessary to ensure the safety and protection of everyone involved. Not only will our companies likely have fewer technicians, but other companies in the area may not be around at all any longer, due to financial reasons. So, what does this mean? Demand is going to spike and we’re going to have fewer people to respond, at a time when people are relying on their systems the most. We simply won’t be able to get there, and our customers’ safety and well-being will then be at risk for an entirely different reason: because we weren’t able to address their issues proactively by providing the critical maintenance needed now to keep their systems up and running. Now, more than ever, is the time that our customers should be maintaining their systems, because they’re using them more than ever.

To tie this to a very familiar current topic of conversation, now is the time that we, as an industry, can “flatten the curve” as it relates to HVAC failures. If we don’t get out in front of this issue by performing maintenance proactively, we’re going to have a spike in failures that we simply cannot keep up with. And people will suffer.

This is on us. We have an opportunity to be heroes. We have an opportunity to keep people safe – to make sure they don’t have to suffer. But to do this, we need to make sure we’re communicating clearly about why it’s necessary to have these services provided, especially in a time like this. And we need to set customer minds at ease by explaining that we can provide these services while ensuring the safety and well-being of their family and our technicians.

Do not stop providing the services that make us most valuable in a time when our customers need us the most, even if they might not realize it yet. Do not let your customers get to the point where their systems fail and we cannot be there for them. Do not forget our commitment and intent to help our customers and their communities. 

Customers are afraid of the unknown. It’s our job to educate them – to be there to help them. It’s our job to ensure the safety and reliability of the systems that provide our customers with the comfort and necessities in their home that they are relying upon now, more than ever.

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