• 'Performance Reviews' from the Market

    Oct. 26, 2010
    Is the market telling you to do something differently?

    As I read over one of my manager’s reviews of another employee, I wondered what the employee who received the review will do with the information.

    Employees often “label” managers with perceptions that predict how the employee will react to comments. Their reaction — and follow-up action/inaction — tends to mirror what they think of their manager.Do they respect him or her? Do they take his or her constructive criticism seriously?

    Do you receive the market’s reaction to your work in an instructive, constructive, destructive, or benign way?

    As small business owners, your own “performance review” doesn’t come from a single person; it comes from the market in which you’ve chosen to compete. As you receive input from your market’s review of you and your business, what do you see?

    Do you receive the market’s reaction to your work in an instructive, constructive, destructive, or benign way?

    Today’s economy has all of us working for a manager (the market) that’s in turmoil. Some of you have a market that’s absolutely upside down, while others have a market that is less affected by the economy. Whatever the condition of your company, the market has something to say to all of you. The instructions that can help you succeed are there for all to see. Are you going to review those instructions, especially now, as the heating season has begun?

    The business that you’ve built and grown is yours. How do you work through your impressions and biases, to really understand what steps you need to take next? Information is an important first step. If what you’re doing is proving to be successful, keep on keeping on. If what you’re currently doing is not working, your manager — the market — is telling you to listen and do something differently.

    During 2010 Comfortech, a colleague — Ken Reese — and I presented information covering the service call from the homeowner’s eyes. In the past 12 months, 48% of all HVAC service calls were maintenance calls, and 30% were emergency service calls. Twenty percent of all service calls were for needed service (such as adding refrigerant), which didn’t constitute an emergency call. They were calls you could schedule based on what your technicians were doing at the time.

    Were half of your homeowner calls clean and checks or service agreement calls? If half of your business is maintaining your customer’s systems, what are you doing to keep them as customers?
    1. Are you and your technical staff serving as the “consultants” they hired you to be?
    2. Have you made sure that their house won’t be one of those “in-season” emergency service calls that you may too busy to get to when the break occurs?
    3. Do you make the money needed through this effort to keep you growing?
    4. What vehicles do you have to keep you connected to your maintenance customer:

    • Seasonal mailings?
    • Email posts of pending weather changes, such as preparing for the first freeze?
    • Phone calls from you to let them know how their systems are performing?

    Three in 10 were emergency service calls. These are almost money in the bank if you can get a technician to their house:
    1. But are you staffed to get very many of these?
    2. Do you have employees that are ready, willing, and able to handle this business in a constructive way?
    3. Do you find a way to encourage these customers to remember you? 4. What do you do to convert this group into other services for which you can build your business? While the homeowner is pretty much captive, their “emergency” is what keeps the residential business a highly seasonal one, counting on the age of the equipment and the weather, not on your expertise at growing a sustainable business.

    Two in 10 were homeowners who knew they needed service (added R-22 or R410A, etc.). What have you done to make sure this homeowner remembers you, likes what they remember, and calls you for that service?
    1. What have you done to stay memorable?
    2. What makes them want to call you over your competitor?
    3. How does your staff treat this customer when they call? Have you listened to your “manager,” the market? Have you built a business that will react to the needs of your homeowner?

    Have you built a business that will help your homeowner escape the emergency that three in 10 experience on an annual basis? Is your business out of sync for the residential business in your market at this time? Once you can get by the bias of the way you’ve painted your market, and better understood the market and your staff’s capabilities you can focus on the one, two or three most important requirements of your market (manager) and better tool for success.

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

    Many of Garry Upton's previous ContractingBusiness.com articles can be found by visiting: http://bit.ly/uptonfaqinCB