Sept. 4, 2012
Over the course of 2012, this space will identify opportunities within customers’ homes that you may not have observed in the past. The opportunities are based on a recent homeowner survey conducted by Decision Analyst, Inc.

Q: How important is it to manage the ego — or the natural feeling of self-importance— of customers?

A: A member of a Linkedin group I belong to recently posted the question; “Is ego the leading reason service businesses fail?” My first inclination was to respond, “In this economy?” But then it hit me: “Maybe it is.”

I’m sure there are some HVAC contractors with huge egos. If you’re turning red as you read this, you’re one of the very few. I don’t think many of the contractors I’ve met over the past 30 years have that problem. Those I keep up with, who are successful in business and in life, are far from egocentric.

The definition of the HVAC contractor business is “service” and I think we all know ego takes second place to the customer. So, can ego be a leading reason service businesses fail? I would have to say yes, but the question is, whose ego are we talking about? The employee’s? Yours? Perhaps . . . the customer’s?

While some of you will fail because of your ego or that of your employees, I believe the ego that more often sinks your ships is the ego that belongs to your customers. Most often, it’s the customer you don’t believe has one.

Whether they are retired, part time, full time, entry level, or CEO, when they call you, they must be prepared to pay for your time. The problem with their system has already inconvenienced them. They certainly don’t want you to inconvenience them and their time further.

It seems the less money they have, the greater their ego will appear to you and to those around you. Many, if not most will have an ego that can get in the way of your success. How have you prepared to manage their ego and bring them peace of mind? Here are some suggestions:

1.Did a real person answer the phone when they called?

2. Did your employee have the skills to help the customer calm down?

3. Did your employee take control of the call, and quickly set the appointment?

4. Did the technician arrive on time?

5. Was he/she cordial, but not too talkative?

6. Did they respect the customer, their furniture, floors, pets, and home in general?

7. Did they leave a homeowner who genuinely believes that they and your company have their best interests in mind?

8. Have you built a sense of trust with them?

I know you’ve heard them all before, but in reality, say no to any of the above and at best you’ve bruised an ego.

Have you ever hear kind “Ms. Smith” tell you she had to take a half-day of vacation time to meet with you, because you couldn’t tell her exactly when you would be there? Did she go on to say you couldn’t even tell her ahead of time how long it would take you? That’s ego talking!

Have you ever seen a customer grimace when you hand over the bill? It could be due to the price, but maybe it’s because you never spoke with the customer before you started the work, and give them time to ask questions.

Homeowners have egos. And dealing with those egos is as much a part of your job as repairing or replacing an HVAC system.

Other ways we can “bruise” customers egos include:

• Late arrivals.

• Not speaking with the customer before beginning the repair.

• Not respecting the home.

• Not respecting their pet.

• Using incorrect or unpleasant words.

• Not being expressive enough.

• Being too expressive, and taking up too much time talking.

• Showing up after the last appointment looking sloppy and sweaty.

Broken egos are inevitable, but you must have a plan in place to restore them. Remember too, that if you’re the business owner, how valuable it can be to let the customer know that they’re talking to the owner, who’s in the most powerful position to solve the problem, and give them the attention their ego crave.

Decision Analyst’s American Home Comfort Study of homeowners explores what customers look for in HVAC contractors. To learn more about this study, or to purchase it, contact Garry, at [email protected].