My observation has been that most contractors want everyone in their market area to call them, and will hire just about anybody they can find who is willing to run those calls.
This can — and usually does — result in accepting lower-quality service calls. Too many calls require you to lower your standards, and hire low quality technicians. This lowers the overall quality of your company.
Higher Quality Calls
There is a difference between calls. Service calls to people willing to pay a small, nominal fee to get a highly-trained HVAC professional in a well-stocked service vehicle to come to their home to take a look at their problem, and offer solutions, are of higher quality than service calls run on those who won’t.
I know a contractor who is so concerned about losing any call that comes in, he advertises free estimates on repairs.
I’m all for free estimates on replacement equipment, but this contractor will actually send a technician to a home to give them a free estimate on a single small repair, with no up-front financial commitment on the part of the customer. His technicians get turned down about 50% of the time. On repairs calls, you’re supposed to get fewer than 1% turn-downs.
When you have a minimum charge, even if you waive it when the customer buys the work on the spot, it will cost the customer extra to send you away, get other prices, and call you back to make the repair at a later date. This minimum charge creates a “sense of urgency,” which is a vital component to a sale.
Very few people will hang up on you simply because it costs something to get a highly-trained service technician in a well-stocked service vehicle to come out and solve their problem.
One-hour Response/Same-day Service
A growing trend in the industry is to advertise that you’ll have a technician to the customer’s door within one or two hours of them calling and requesting service. Many contractors promise sameday service to anyone who calls.
It’s unrealistic to demand that your technicians do a thorough inspection, sell more than the bare minimum, provide over-the-top service, clean up, valve tag, and hang door-hangers when they’ve got the dispatcher begging, pleading, and demanding they hurry up and get done with the call they’re on because they’ve got irate customers for which they’re running late. Dispatchers often love the technicians who get the most turn-downs, and have the lowest average dollars-per-call, because they run the most calls per day.
When you promise same-day service, your technicians don’t really want to sell more tasks per job, and can’t, or they’ll never get home at night.
This forced mandatory overtime, which is often caused by making unrealistic and impractical claims in advertising, is the biggest cause of low average dollars per call and high employee turnover rates.
ou can’t have a high average dollar amount per call and a high number of calls per day.
I realize that in our day, we worked long hours, whether we wanted to or not, and we liked it — but things have changed. People don’t do that any more. You’ve got to accept this change and adapt to it. Evolve or die!
Higher Quality Technicians
Many of the people who’ve attended my classes during this past year have made me so concerned that after giving it considerable thought, I’ve decided I better say something.
I recently did a private school for a company that, in my opinion, appears to be going down the drain. In a class of nine technicians, five didn’t know what the word “inferior” meant. They had a limited working vocabulary. Their thoughts were so scattered, they couldn’t put a complete sentence together, and therefore were unable to make themselves understood.
There was a man who’d been working in this country for 18 years, but didn’t read, write, speak, or understand English.
Hardly any of them could do basic math.
You might say, “My technicians aren’t like that.” These owners would have said the same thing if they hadn’t been in the room with me, and seen it for themselves. They were as dumbfounded as I was. They said, “They weren’t like that at their job interview.”
If your only contact with your technicians goes as far as your initial interview and an occasional, short conversation, you may be in for a surprise.
My old boss at Modern Air Conditioning told me to always interview people a bare minimum of two times before offering them a job, because they’ll never, ever be the person they were during that first interview again.
What kind of impression do your technicians make on you when you’re trying to show them something, or there’s a disagreement? This is the same impression they’re making on your customers — and your customers are judging you by the impression they’re making.
Like Attracts Like
Every contractor claims to have high standards. At the same time, I hear contractors say they have no choice in who they hire, because quality people just aren’t out there. However, as one who works side-by-side with the front line of our industry, I can tell you there are plenty of good technicians out there.
You may not be seeing the higherquality technicians, because birds of a feather flock together. It’s the law of attraction. Quality people want to be identified with, and work with, other quality people. Start lowering your hiring standards, and your best employees will bolt on you. Quality people can find a job anywhere. You can’t overwork them, or push them around, or you’ll push them right out the door.
You don’t need a lot of employees, you don’t need to run a lot of calls, you don’t need to give service away, and you don’t need a large company with a lot of customers to make good money in HVAC service and replacements.
Plenty of smaller companies with hand-picked, high-quality service technicians and installers make more net profit than much larger companies that hire anyone who is willing to work.
The combination of losing a technician and hiring a new one costs tens of thousands of dollars. The cost of a bad hire or two is astronomical. Companies with no veteran employees, that are always full of nothing but “new guys,” typically are the least organized and the least profitable. A high employee turnover rate is self propagating.
Going for the highest quality calls, and sending the highest quality technicians out to run them, results in higher average sales, higher profits, higher quality work, higher customer satisfaction, higher self-images, and a higher quality company.
When it comes to accepting customers and hiring employees, I suggest you go for quality, not quantity.
Charlie Greer is the creator of “Slacker’s Guide to HVAC Sales on Audio CD,” and “Tec Daddy’s Service Technician Survival School on DVD.” For information on Charlie’s products and speaking schedule, or to request a catalog, call 800/963-HVAC (4822) or go to www.hvacprofitboosters.com. E-mail Charlie at [email protected]