By Michael Benedict on March 26, 2015
When it comes to making customers happy almost immediately, being an HVAC professional might be among the world’s most rewarding careers. Who doesn’t love their air conditioning on a 100-degree day? What sounds better than a furnace firing up as the temperature falls below freezing?
If you own a small-to-mid-size HVAC business, you already know that the best customers are the ones who keep coming back. These customers return time and again for maintenance, repairs, updates, and other services for keeping their heating and cooling equipment running at optimal performance and efficiency.
Sure, your HVAC technicians technical capability is critical in today’s fast-evolving HVAC world, but so is building trust. Creating that trust, where your customers see your professionalism as much as they respect your expertise, is what will set you apart from your competitors.
How can you establish a strong relationship with your HVAC customers? These five tips can help you get started.
Respect Customers’ Time
For HVAC operators, calendar and clock management can make or break your company’s relationship with customers. When you have good time management, you know exactly where your staff is, what they’re doing, and how long they’ll be there — information that requires close to real-time communication between your headquarters and your techs.
In turn, you can give customers a much more accurate estimate of when a tech or serviceperson will arrive. Try to give them a range of just a few hours — say, between 8 a.m. and noon, or noon and 4 p.m. — and then make sure your job dispatcher gets a tech there on time. For HVAC technicians across industries, even these 4-hour windows are becoming unacceptable for dual-income households. Tighter time windows are becoming the norm.
Look Sharp and Organized
A HVAC customer service call is not as formal as a board meeting, but it has as much potential impact as any sales pitch. Is your service team showing up in ratty t-shirts, in need of a shower and shave? They might be the best technicians on the planet, but good luck getting them asked back if they come across as disorganized, with crumpled papers on a clipboard. A clean shirt is a must, so have your techs keep a few spares in their trucks, and consider trading up to a work-shirt or polo. It’s a little psychological trick, but shirt collars project professionalism.
Do your technicians do a lot of work outside? Before they go into a customer’s house, have them wrap their shoes or work boots in plastic. This prevents dirt from entering a customer’s house and shows that you care about the customer, even after you finish your work.
Likewise, consider trading the crumpled papers and old clipboard for technologies like mobile HVAC apps. They’ll not only make a far better first impression on customers, they’ll make it easier for you to track and communicate with techs in the field.
Explain the Work to Customers
With just a little training and guidance, even the most un-expressive techs can learn to share the fundamentals of what they’re doing in customer-friendly terms. Most customers, for instance, are not familiar with air conditioning systems terminology like load calculation and condenser coil, so make sure your techs can break it down using everyday language.
When the work is about to get underway, they can spend a few minutes explaining what they are about to do, the parts being installed or repaired, and the amount of time it should take. When finished, they can walk the homeowner through the completed effort and recommend basic preventative maintenance measures, all why reinforcing their competence and honesty. Improved communication can ensure a better customer experience and fewer time- consuming calls to your office.
Follow Up To Ensure Satisfaction
When the job is finished, a call or email to the customer within 24 hours goes a long way toward making sure everything went well. It demonstrates that your company cares about its work, while also providing another opportunity for customer outreach.
When you follow up, consider including an offer for a discount on future visits, advertising sales for other services, or just marketing consumer tips on keeping HVAC systems running well. Be sure to follow up a week or so later as well. If you send a regular newsletter or any other kind of communication, make sure you add them to your distribution list for future correspondence.
Simplify Your Billing and Customer Feedback
Nothing frustrates customers like a pile of paperwork at the end of a service call. The work is done, the system is running smoothly. They probably just want to pay and get on with their day.
Fortunately, mobile technologies are helping HVAC contractors streamline that entire process. Techs can use tablets or smartphones to do many things — take payments on the spot, right after the work is done; send paperwork by email; and even get customer feedback to help you fine-tune your outreach efforts. In today’s eco-conscious world, going mobile is a step in the right direction, and comes across as far more professional than carbon copies.
Technology can also help build trust. For example, if your technicians see that a condenser and/or evaporator coil are leaking, they can supplement text with photos taken with their mobile device. The customer can visually see the problem, as well as read about it. In an industry that customers don’t always trust, mobile apps can help bridge the divide.
The success of your heating and air conditioning business depends not only on your technical prowess but also on your relationships with customers. Combine the right tools and technologies, and you can take your customer relations (and your company) to a new level. At GoCanvas, for instance, HVAC professionals can turn existing paper forms into mobile apps — and deliver the kind of service that keeps customers coming back for more. When you’re ready, try creating a mobile app for free.