Almost every HVAC contractor I have spoken with believes his or her company succeeds at customer service. I have yet to meet a contractor that tells me, “My business is going well even though we continuously drop the ball on customer service.”

But how many truly go above and beyond when it comes to customer service? Well, the ones building great businesses with healthy year-over-year growth are doing just that. And there are more than a few out there. As we continue to slug our way through this COVID pandemic, customer service is now more important than ever. It is time to start looking at it as an investment in your company.

Do not just take my word for it — that was a big theme of Kevin O’Leary’s keynote address at the virtual HARDI Summit. O’Leary is a Canadian businessman, but more likely, you know him as Mr. Wonderful from the ABC television show “Shark Tank.” He said the biggest investment his companies have been making is in customer service. And he has many companies.

“The No. 1 thing I tell all my CEOs is customer service, customer service, and customer service,” O’Leary said. “It protects price. It protects margin. It protects growth. Nobody leaves a great relationship with great customer service, even if it costs them more. I am sure most of you know that.”

The entrepreneur sees it as an investment.

“If there is an issue … let’s drill down. Let’s add staff to solve problems. Let’s tell the customers we are here to help in any way possible. The outcome was good. We did spend more in that period. Our costs went up a little on customer service, but we think of it as a long-term investment. And we have been able to keep those customers even though they could have drifted,” O’Leary said.

Do you want to make sure you keep all your customers? Perhaps try a new process that was talked about during the presentation. It revolves around a company’s team call. Do you have a weekly or monthly call that has all the important team members included? O’Leary suggests you invite the customer to the call.

In the days of Zoom meetings, this is now possible. It was much harder in the old days. Sure, your customer speaks to your sales person or technicians, but do they ever get to talk to the CEO or vice president? You let them know that they have the floor and this is an off-the-record conversation.

“You have no idea how powerful these conversations are,” O’Leary said. “Everyone gets value out of it. It is a fantastic format. Your customers really appreciate that opportunity.”

How about a customer service story closer to the HVAC industry? This one involves contractor Butch Welsch, a contractor in St. Louis.

For the last 50 plus years, the company has given a special Christmas gift to their best customers at the end of the year. This usually involves 200 gifts. The value has been twofold. The first is that the gift, usually a set of glassware, had the customer’s initial engraved with no mention of the company. The second was the fact that Welsch personally delivered these gifts to each customer. That gave him a chance to personally thank them for their business as well as ask about their plans for the upcoming year. Again, a theme of customer service is a business listening.

Obviously, COVID changed the plans for this year. There were many questions, including whether the customers would want to see them personally, or whether the offices were even open.

As a result, Welsch decided to send each customer a box with a mug and a dozen chocolate cookies. Included in each was a personal note from Welsch explaining why they were doing this, thanking them for the business, and wishing them the best for next year.

“The company mailed the gifts directly to the customers, and they have been a big hit,” Welsch said.

Customer service can come in many forms. However you do it, make the investment in 2021.