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    Are Your Loss-Leaders Losers?

    April 3, 2013
    Pre-season HVAC system tune-ups get the phone to ring, but if your technicians aren't selling additional products or serviceson these calls, your bottom line is going to take a beating.

    HVAC pre-season tune-ups are usually loss-leaders that are supposed to get you in the door for perfectly legitimate up-sells.

    There’s nothing wrong with using a loss-leader to get the phone to ring as long as customers buy enough additional products or services to make up for it. When your tune-ups and inspections are loss-leaders and customers don’t buy anything else, you’re really taking a beating.

    You can’t afford to continually send techs out to do pre-paid service agreement tune-ups and loss-leader “tune-up specials,” and have them bringing back zero ticket after zero ticket, or minimum charge after minimum charge.

    It Starts With the Appointment Setter

    Your appointment setter should prep your customers, not just set appointments. He or she should tell them, “We’ve raised the standards on our precision tune-ups and inspections, so it may take a little longer to do than it has in the past. In order to make your system last as long as possible, keep your energy consumption to a minimum, and prevent surprises during the cooling (or heating) season, we decided to elevate our precision tune-ups beyond conducting normal, routine maintenance. From now on you can expect our technician to draw up a comprehensive list of every deficiency he sees in your air conditioner (or furnace, boiler, or heat pump).”

    Now customers are going to expect a list, and won’t be surprised when your tech presents one. 

    When the tech shows a customer the list, if the customer reacts by saying, “I just thought you were going to do a free tune-up and now you’ve presented me with a list of thousands of dollars!” the response is, “It’s just a list of every single deficiency I saw in your system. At least now you know.”

    Is Your Dispatcher the Problem?

    Every time I say the problem could be with your dispatcher, all dispatchers in the country, both the good ones and the bad ones, get defensive. So I’ll start by saying that if the shoe fits, wear it – if it doesn’t, don’t.

    No one would ever admit to this (not even to themselves) but some dispatchers and incoming call-takers would rather see your techs do a rush job (and have the company lose money on every call) than tell a customer they’re going to have to wait. They just don’t have it in them.

    If you ever hear your dispatcher tell a technician, “We’ve still got 10 more calls to run today and no one goes home until everyone gets taken care of,” none of those 10 customers will get the ultimate service experience, and you will lose money on every single one of those 10 calls. You would be much better off not running those calls at all.

    You could listen in on the dispatching in my family’s company for a year and you would never hear a dispatcher tell a tech to hurry up or threaten him in any way, no matter how many calls we have to run. We re-schedule people every single day, including during the slow seasons. Yes, it makes them mad. Yes, some people cancel on us altogether. Yes, that bothers us. But do you know what bothers us even more? Running a call and losing money on it!

    Too Many Calls?

    How many tune-ups do you want your techs to do per day? When you look at the numbers, even six tune-ups per day are hardly possible. If there are 30 minutes of drive time between calls and 15 minutes worth paperwork and clean-up at the end of each job, in an eight hour day, that leaves only 35 minutes per call. That’s barely enough time for a complete inspection, let alone any kind of work at all. Then what happens when the tech sells an upgrade? Where’s the time to do it? If he does sell a lot of add-ons, what time does he get home at night?

    Success is not the number calls you run per day, it’s the number of dollars you bring in.

    In my family’s company, where tune-ups and inspections are primarily what we do, we give each tech two calls per day. If he totally blanks on one, we might give him another, depending on whether not blanking out is getting to be a habit or an occasional experience.

    Do you realize that if you limited your techs to two or three calls per day you could almost completely stop advertising?

    Are Your Techs Sold on What They’re Selling?

    When we train techs on add-on sales, we make a list of what we’d like them to sell. Then I start to ask them questions about the products. What I usually find out is that they know virtually nothing about the product, don’t know where to find it in the price book, have never seen one, have never installed one, don’t have it on the truck, and doubt its effectiveness anyway.

    Your techs aren’t going to sell something they don’t believe in themselves, and it’s easy to find out whether or not they do. Do they have these products in their own homes? If not, there’s your answer. If they don’t own it, they’re not sold on it. If they’re not sold on it, they can’t sell it.

    It’s hypocritical to be telling people they need surge protection, UV lights, upgraded filtration, or any other optional enhancements, when you don’t use those products yourself.

    Is It On the Truck?

    Make sure your company’s trucks are stocked with UV lights, surge protectors, corrosion grenades, and hard-start kits. Duct sanitizing is about the easiest add-on sale to make and the easiest service to perform if your techs have the sanitizing agent and a tri-jet fogger on their trucks.

    It’s hard to sell, and cumbersome to install, something that’s not on the truck. If your techs sell a product or service today and say they’ll be back to install it tomorrow, customers will have either changed their minds or found someone else to do it cheaper. So adequate truck stock is vital.

    The 10 techs who work at my family’s company come into the shop for training and stock replenishment four to five times per week.

    Charlie Greer is the Tom McCart HVAC Consultant of the Year. For the month of February the techs in his family’s company ran nothing but tune-ups, and averaged over $800 per call.
    The vast majority of that was selling products and services already stocked on the trucks. To receive an email with his Inspection Report, System Essentials handout, and the Done Deal presentation their techs use, email Charlie at [email protected]. Visit Charlie on the web at www.hvacprofitboosters.com. You can always call Charlie at 800/963-HVAC (4822). Initial consultations are free of charge.