COVID-19 has made a significant impact on the home service industry. At the beginning of 2020, the home service category grew an average of 13 percent. However, according to the Home Service Economic Report, revenues by the end of March had fallen 30 percent compared to earlier in the year. The positive news for residential HVAC companies is that businesses across the United States are rebounding as revenue and new work being scheduled continues to grow.
Although this is good news, the pandemic and aftermath to follow are far from over. Social distancing and the reduction of physical touchpoints with clients are realities that are a part of how businesses operate. Now more than ever, clear, upfront, and accurate communication with customers is critical. Here are some of the key communication learnings our HVAC customers applied in the wake of COVID-19.
1. Cite the experts
Before moving forward with any customer communication, you should look to local governments and health authorities for guidance on how you can protect your customers, employees, and community. Even though the peak has passed in most locations throughout the U.S., there will continue to be new recommendations to follow that will be updated as circumstances change — don’t cast these resources aside. By citing these sources and language within your communications, you will appear more credible, informed, and trustworthy. After you’ve done your local research and you’re ready to craft your message, focus on building out the next steps to follow.
2. Get in front of every situation
Focus on letting customers know the measures your business is taking. This should include which services are (or will become) available, safety precautions your teams are implementing, safety precautions you require from your customers, and how customers can book new appointments. When drafting your note, it’s important to remember that customers will likely be concerned about safety of work in their homes for the foreseeable future. They will want assurance that services previously booked or potentially scheduled will follow safety guidelines to protect their home and families.
To keep notes informative and concise, avoid upselling services and using alarmist language. Be direct and clear and ensure that messaging aligns with the topics that need the most attention. This includes indicating which health authorities and protocols you are following (for example, the CDC) and why this will keep your customers, their families, and employees safe. Maintain a positive tone throughout the message.
3. Segment your client communications
Your customers are likely experiencing messaging fatigue with the surge of communications they’ve received throughout this pandemic. Now more than ever, it’s critical that the right customers get the right information. To do this, segment like-minded customers into separate lists. For example, one list should consist of customers with upcoming appointments and another with customers who cancelled services due to COVID-19 and may be starting to rebook.
Once your groups are created, draft emails that align messaging with each customer group to target the specific information needed as it applies to their services. This way you're sending timely, relevant information with the appropriate messaging based on customer needs. This personalization will go a long way in reminding your customer that they aren’t just another faceless email address on a list.
4. Respect your customers’ needs and adapt whenever possible
Even with the best communication plan, some customers may still feel inclined to cancel appointments due to COVID-19. In these cases, you must respect their decision and adapt. Find out what your customer’s biggest concerns are and look for ways to adjust. If customers are uneasy about being in the same location as your employees, identify an appointment time to service their home while they are out of the house and vocalize the sanitary practices you will perform while in their home. You can also offer no-touch appointments with virtual quotes and payments.
5. Keep your employees informed and motivated
Finally, apply all of the above steps to your employees. This is a very anxious time for customers and employees alike, so it’s important to be empathetic to both. Your employees will look to you for guidance on how to best navigate the changing landscape and expect you to be prepared with answers. By communicating openly with your employees, you can help alleviate their concerns and redirect their focus back onto your customers. Conduct regular video calls with your team, share positive feedback from your customers, and stay as optimistic as possible.
It is important to remember that this is uncharted territory for everyone, and no one is expected to have all the right answers. This is why keeping communication open and transparent is extremely beneficial for customers and employees. When working with customers through these challenging times and aligning employees with your company’s mission, you will help ease the transition into the “new normal.”