Will You Be Profitable This Busy Season?

Spring is here and that means we're getting into the busy season. Our industry will be getting into "make hay while the sun shines" mode. Contractors will begin obsessing over making certain they get a technician to the home or business of every single person who calls requesting service.

At first glace, that sounds like a good plan, but is it?

Did you know that more contractors go out of business as a result of the "busy season" than they do as a result of the "slow season?"

Incredible as it seems, it's true. But why does it happen?

Beware of Tunnel Vision
I believe the risks of busy season are a result of "tunnel vision." This is a condition your service techs get when your dispatcher says, "You have sixteen calls to run today and no one goes home until they're all taken care of."

At the same time, you're telling your techs to increase their average dollar amount per service call.

Rushing techs and long hours are the biggest causes of tunnel vision, which leads to a low average dollar amount per service call, mistakes, callbacks, accidents, unbillable time, high employee turnover rate, and of companies going out of business.

How Do You Make Money?
You don't make money by running calls. You make money only by maximizing your profitability on every call, one at a time. This means doing more work per call and consequently, spending more time on every call. A consequence of this is that your technicians will see fewer customers per day.

Will that hurt you? Some might think that if they can't get to the customer that day, the customer will call someone else.

Be advised, they already have.

During the busy season, customers tend to call more than one company right off the bat, and the first to arrive takes the call. If such customers have any manners at all, they sneak into the master bedroom and cancel the rest of their service appointments.

So, what happens when one of your competitors reaches one of your previous customers before you do? Will you lose that customer permanently? It depends.

Personally, when I was running a service company, I didn't worry about losing a call with one of my previous customers to a competitor. Why? Because of the only "bright side" to most technicians having tunnel vision: your competitors' technicians have it as well.

They’d go out there and do one task for "my" customer and turn a blind eye to everything else. They’d do things like replace a contactor, while leaving the indoor and outdoor coils and blower wheel dirty. They’d add refrigerant without repairing the leak.

They were not providing "the ultimate service experience." And it never even occurred to them to offer a service agreement.

Are your technicians doing that?

Customers who have their entire system looked over and get everything done that needs to be done on one call are ultimately more satisfied than those who get the minimum amount of work performed.

Look at your complaint records. You'll notice a pattern. As a rule, the most satisfied customers are those who spent the most money, and the least satisfied customers are those who spent the least. The ones that complain the loudest are the ones who pay your minimum charge only.

I knew that, just because we couldn't get to a customer quickly enough, we didn't necessarily lose the customer permanently. All we lost was a call that we didn't have the time for anyway.

Customers tend to take the level of service they receive from top-notch contractors for granted. They think we’re all alike. Sometimes a little taste of the "real world" brings the prodigal son home to stay. More than once, after trying out one of my competitors for one call, my customers came back to me. Their comment was, “I can see why there’s a waiting list for you. You’re the only ones that take your time and do the job right.”

Four Steps to Survive Busy Season
Yes, we're coming up on the busy season. During this wonderful and dangerous time, make sure you:

  1. Don't rush your techs. Allow them to do everything that needs to be done in one call. You’ll make more money and have more satisfied customers.
  2. Don't overwork your techs. Most companies have a lower average dollar amount per service call during the "busy season" than they do during the "slow season." Late hours are the reason why. Your technicians are human beings, too, and want a life outside of work, even during the summer. They won’t look for additional sales opportunities if it means they’ll miss dinner every night.
  3. Monitor your dispatchers. They’re usually more concerned with not having to deal with irate customers who don’t want to wait than they are with profitability. Their favorite technician tends to be the one who runs the most calls in a day, not the most profitable tech. Listen, and you’ll hear threats — some veiled, some blatant — to get techs to either hustle or work late into the night.
  4. Sell service agreements. Well-maintained equipment doesn’t break down during peak season. That leaves your techs available to take care of the people who aren’t taking care of their equipment.

Charlie Greer is the creator of "Tec Daddy's Service Technician Survival School on DVD," the DVD series that teaches your technicians how to find opportunities, and what to do with them when they do. Check it out at www.hvacprofitboosters.com or call 800/963-HVAC (4822). Email Charlie at [email protected].

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