By Adams Hudson
Have you wondered why the most irritated people in the world always call you? Actually, it could have less to do with you than it does with the kind of contracting business you’re in. (Plus, there’s actually good news in the call which we’ll cover in a moment.)
Let’s get simple here: HVAC contractors get irritable phone calls because the customer on the other end is usually: a) very hot or b) very cold. Usually, an untimely breakdown has happened within the heating and cooling system, and the caller’s panic button is on full alert.
From this point, the service you provide can either soothe - or increase - these feelings of panic and irritation. That’s why a better understanding of common complaints from customers about contractors can help you a lot. But more bad news first.
Human nature reveals that a customer whose expectation was “met” gives zero word-of-mouth.
Those who expectations were “exceeded” give on average four mentions in 30 days. Yet for those who’s expectations are dashed, an alarming 22 “negative” mentions about you filter into the marketplace. Just imagine the damage this could silently be causing you every month.
Here are the top reasons customers do not like or recommend contractors to others.
Not scheduling the appointment fast enough
Think about it. You’re hot or cold. And your HVAC contractor has just said he’d be glad to come out and take a look at your system a week from Tuesday. The fact is, if you can’t provide quick relief, your customer will provide a quick hang-up.
Sure, you may have real scheduling issues in the middle of a busy season. But you’ve got to explain the scheduling to your customer and offer assurance that you’ll get there as soon as you can. Give a specific time, and keep it.
Through our marketing packages, contractors get great results with “temporary heating and cooling.” This settles and “locks in” the customer quickly. Then you can either properly assess the problem later or even wait on parts if necessary. (We recommend you paint your temporary units in a garish, company-logoed scheme.) This technique helps, but you may not get to solve anyone’s problem if you commit this next error.
Not showing up on time or at all
Chances are, you’ve got a customer who just left work in the middle of a busy day to sit in his hot or cold house and wait for you to get there. The longer he waits, the more irritated he gets. So, if you’re late, he’s not going to be happy. But if you don’t show up at all, he’s going to be really, really steamed. I’d go so far as to say that’s the last call you’ll get from him, but his friends and neighbors will get all the updates they can stand.
Your time is valuable and so is your customer’s. When you make an appointment, keep it.
Employ the confirmation call. It takes about two minutes to confirm the appointment and/or reschedule if running behind. No one expects you to be 100 percent punctual, but this technique is a dramatic improvement beyond the currently lowly expectations. Be a standout, be prompt and be quick. This brings to mind another no-no.
Not finishing on time
Your customer hasn’t got all day to wait on you to finish, so don’t dawdle. Don’t waste time by being too chatty. Get your work done, go over the invoice with your customer, offer options and up-sales to maximize your and the customer’s time. Customers want the problem solved and at that moment, they are most likely to be receptive to avoiding the problem in the future.
The big savings of a maintenance agreement program is the No. 1 upsell and can guarantee another locked-in customer who will bring you guaranteed sales in the “slow” season. Our top clients say the last revenue generator they’d give up is their maintenance agreement program.
Not cleaning up
Ideally, when you leave, your customer won’t even be able to tell that you were there, except for the comfortable environment. Cleaning the equipment and the surrounding work area is an essential part of good service. Don’t let your customer down by leaving the place a wreck. Besides, telling your customer the importance of keeping the equipment clean is an open door to discussing the importance of regular tune-ups and maintenance agreements.
There are several techniques that can be used to ensure that a mess isn’t left:
1) Shoe covers
2) Drop cloth
3) The old part goes in a plastic bag to show the customer
4) Lava rocks around new installation
5) Cleaning outside equipment on first visit.
Remember, your customers are calling you because they’ve got a problem. Your job is to solve those problems, not add to them. Fix the system and the customer in order to become the contractor who gains all the customers from the others who didn’t read this article. Have fun in your business. l FON
Adams Hudson is the president of Hudson, Ink, a creative marketing firm for contractors. You can reach his company at (800) 489-9099 or fax your letterhead to (334) 262-1115 to get his free “Sales & Marketing Insider” newsletter sent to you. Or simply visit www.hudsonink.com to read even more free marketing reports and articles.