Photo by ThinkstockiStock

Photo by Thinkstock/iStock

Increase Profitability by Improving the HVAC Customer Experience

The “relationship-centered” approach is revolving in nature, and capitalizes on the opportunity to forge ongoing, mutually beneficial relationships.

I was chuckling and grinning ear-to-ear as I left the bank the other day. Errands are as common and uneventful as it gets, but this one was uncommon. It was…memorable. My teller seemed to understand the same secret ingredient that the successful contractors employ every day—the secret of how to transform a mundane transaction into something much more magical. More on my experience in a minute.

Contractors are “in the hole” from the start Homeowners come to you pre-frustrated and pre-disappointed by the inconvenience and pending expense of their
unwanted HVAC problem. This is part of what makes your job as a contractor so challenging--the fact that every day you’re entering situations where you’re already in the hole with the customer. And you haven’t even met them yet!

Disgruntled customers are easily won over by a contractor whose focus is not only to solve their HVAC problem, but also to provide them with an exceptional customer experience. - Derek LoVerde

But this built-in “deficit” is also what makes your work so opportunistic. Disgruntled homeowners are ripe for the picking. That is, they are easily won over by a contractor whose focus is not only to solve their HVAC problem, but also to provide them with an exceptional customer experience. That’s how you can take away your competitor’s customers--and, if you’re not careful, how they can take away yours.

This diagram illustrates the two customer life cycles:

The eight steps in the Relationship-Centered Customer Experience are:
1. Experience Continues
2. Customer Feedback
3. Reviews & Referrals
4. You WOW Again
5. Ongoing Touchpoints
6. Another Need
7. Repeat Purchase
8. DELIGHT the Customer!

CLICK HERE FOR A PRINTABLE PDF OF THE DIAGRAM

You’ll notice the “transaction-centered” customer life cycle is very short and linear in nature, has a defined end, and misses out on a world of opportunity with the customer. In contrast, the “relationship-centered” approach is revolving in nature and capitalizes on the opportunity to forge ongoing, mutually beneficial relationships. This is part what of it means
to be “customer-centric” and is how the successful contractors operate.

What the largest Trane dealer does
The best way to accomplish all of this is by elevating the customer experience — namely, delighting the customer at every turn. This includes doing something unexpected after the job is complete, just when the customer thinks their experience with you is coming to an end.

Take one of our clients for example. It’s Reliable Heating & Air, the largest Trane dealer on the North American continent. Reliable has achieved their success in large part by being the “Nordstrom of Heating and Air.” One of the ways they elevate the experience is by delighting customers with an unexpected gift of freshly baked cookies or candy after an installation. In fact, their founder and president said “We've found that marketing to our customer after the sale is one of the smartest things we can do.”

There’s no question that your focus and expertise is pulling customers out of their home comfort predicament. But remember that’s your competitor’s focus and expertise as well. What if you also had an expertise in delighting customers?


Speaking of smart, that describes my teller at the bank. I was babysitting Spanky, my in-laws medium-sized, energetic canine, who was with me in the bank drive-through. The teller noticed Spanky in the backseat and we had a brief back and forth about dogs while she processed my deposit and then returned the “space capsule” (at least that’s what I call it). I opened the capsule, and to the surprise and delight of both man and dog, included with my receipt was a crunchy, miniature dog bone for Spanky. The teller realized an opportunity to delight, and seized it! Needless to say, Spanky and I
were giddy as we drove away. And now I’m telling you and many others about my unexpected, memorable customer experience with my local bank. Proof positive that delighting customers keeps them thinking about you, and gets them talking about you.

Outperforming Competitors
There’s no question that your focus and expertise is pulling customers out of their home comfort predicament. But remember that’s your competitor’s focus and expertise as well. What if you also had an expertise in delighting customers?

That’s where you can really get the edge. And the trickle-down is gains in customer engagement, repeat and referral business, positive online reviews, employee performance, and overall profitability.

Here’s the big picture of this whole article: you win and keep customers and gain the competitive advantage when you start transforming ordinary HVAC jobs into memorable experiences for your customers. That’s because homeowners will become the loyal, raving follower of the contractor that delights them the most.

When consumers were asked what specific thing a company could do to motivate them to spend more, the majority said “improve the overall customer experience”. (1) 81% also said they are willing to pay more for a better customer experience.(1) This means that if you give the customer what they want (a better experience), then they will give you what
you want (a bigger bottom line). And the beautiful thing is that you can pass along the cost of a customer experience
program, because the customer is willing to pay for it!

4 steps to improving the customer experience
1. Top-down mindset. Company culture and team member attitude are the result of the culture and attitude at the top. That’s why the most important first step is to make a commitment at the executive level that you will be a customer-centric organization who delights customers at every turn.
2. Inspire your team. Incorporate a new “language” into your management meetings—“delighting”, “wowing”, exceeding”, “surpassing”, “listening”, “customer centricity”, etc. In addition, make customer experience training a part of the “curriculum” for your managers, CSRs and field personnel.
3. Empower your team. The customer experience should be standardized across all team members, but, as with any structure, provide some flexibility as well. Equip your team with resources and freedom to delight customers on the fly when the opportunity arises—just like my teller with the dog bone.
4. Reward your team. While the commitment to delighting customers originates at the executive level, it is ultimately executed at the team member level. The reward system is powerful, so implement rewards tied to providing exceptional customer experiences. “You delight our customers, we’ll delight you.”

What do you see on the dispatch board? Remember. When the customer-centric contractor looks at their dispatch board, they don’t see transactions. They see
opportunities to provide amazing customer experiences. What do you see?

 

Derek LoVerde has been the Director of Sales & Marketing for To Your Success since 2004, and is one of the architects of their industry-leading consumer
survey and online review platform, as well as their cloud-based customer experience software for contractors. Derek can be reached at 888-793-2429 or [email protected]

(1) Oracle 2012 Customer Experience Report

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