I recently received a phone call from a frustrated homeowner who was concerned with the outcome of her cooling system repair. As she paid the $420.00 invoice, she asked the service technician what the problem was and how he fixed it. The service tech commented, “I fixed it, it’s working now.” She was far from satisfied. Let’s take a look at questions she was left with and the answers she was committed to getting.
Trust or Fear?
Whenever you buy a product or service, you make a decision by comparing the money you pay to the value you anticipate receiving. Some consumers have learned to fear scheduling home repair service. They’re not sure what the repairs will cost and whether it will deliver what they expect. Many feel vulnerable and subject to the whims of whoever walks through their door.
As HVAC professionals, it’s our job to answer our customer’s concerns no matter what our role in the industry is. We should be committed to doing so in language they understand. Then we can go further by providing evidence of what we accomplished. They want to know “How much did you fix it?”
What Does “Fixed” Mean?
We’ve established “I fixed it,” is not a good enough answer.
The definition of “fixed” may be different to each customer. An adequate answer depends on your customer’s knowledge, experience, and intent as they ask questions. Rarely do you know enough about your customers to prepare yourself for their questions in advance. Your success requires you to think on your feet.
Remember, customers want to be confident they got what they paid for. When you are finished, they make a lasting decision about you, your company, and the thoroughness of your repair.
Here are a few questions you should be prepared to answer when wrapping up a call. Remember, they may not ask them directly, but if your departing conversation addresses these questions, odds are you’ll have a happy customer.
Is the problem completely resolved? No one wants to continue worrying about a problem they just paid to have fixed. When customers ask this question, they want your stamp of approval, so they can stop worrying about it.
Does my system work better now? When a customer pays for a repair or replacement, they want to get more than what they had before the system was repaired or upgraded. There is little satisfaction in paying a significant cost and getting the same as they had before. They expect things to be better. Although sometimes unreasonable, “what more did I get?” is often what they’re thinking.
When you get your car out of the shop, you want to drive off believing your car is better than when you drove in, right? Your customers do too.
Even though you replaced a failed part in their HVAC system, and it works again, you should explain related benefits. For example, show them evidence of improved performance that leads to extended system life, or the freedom from worry by having the issue resolved.
How about the comfort in my office? All too frequently, when a customer schedules an appointment, what they really want fixed gets lost in translation. A customer service representative may be swamped with calls at that moment or in the habit of checking the box, indicating the reason for the visit. So be prepared to explain how the repair impacts comfort throughout the house.
Does my filter need to be changed? This question is an attempt to understand if anything was left undone. When you enter the home, ask permission to discuss any other issues you may find with the system. Explain it’s usually less expensive to make other minor repairs while you’re there, than to come back later.
Provide Evidence the Work Was Completed
If accessible, invite your customer to the site of the repair to show the completed work. Seeing is believing for customers. This visual inspection usually confirms they received what they purchased and eliminates many of their fears.
If a part was replaced, show your customer the replaced part. Offer it to them. Even if they don’t keep it, the offer is often enough to put them at ease. In the past they may have been the victim of a bailing wire and WD-40 repair that lasted only a few weeks.
Tell the Story of the Repair
Using language your customers can easily understand, take a few minutes to describe an overview of the diagnostic testing you performed, how you then identified the problem, found the solution, and made the repair. People love to hear a true story, especially when they financed it.
Don’t get carried away with too much technical detail. “Just the facts, ma’am” will do. Tell the story about your work, so they get an overview of what happened, and are confident calling you was a great decision.
If you adjusted fan speed, or repaired a leak, spend a minute explaining the procedure and the outcome you achieved.
You may get questions like “Did you do anything to the inside air conditioner?” This type of question may be an attempt by a customer to get better informed. Or, an invitation to extend your story because they need a bit more convincing. Answer this type of question with more than “yes” or “no”.
Provide Added Assurance
Once your customer sees the repair is complete, they still may want to go a little further before they can rest assured. They want you to look into the crystal ball and predict the future.
Although you usually can’t tell how long until the next repair is needed, how long until replacement, or how many dollars a month they will save, there are assurances you can give, in very general terms.
Your customer’s questions may sound like: Is the fix permanent? Are any other repairs needed now or soon? What is the life expectancy of this repair for my system?
By asking these questions, your customer is once again, asking for your assurance that they made the best decision. While it’s true you can’t answer these questions directly, you can use phrases from your experience that provide assurance.
Statements like: I typically see a repair like this only once in the life of this unit. Or, most of the time this repair lasts for many years. If your company provides warranties, you can offer the associated guarantee.
Whatever the appropriate response, disclose any part of a system that can fail due to internal or external effect. You cannot see into the future though. Finally, reassure them they made a good decision and thank them for the opportunity to provide your services.
Rob “Doc” Falke serves the industry as president of National Comfort Institute, Inc. (NCI), an HVAC-based training company and membership organization. If you're an HVAC contractor or technician interested in a free test procedure describing out-of-the-box diagnostics testing you can do on a service or maintenance visit, contact Doc at [email protected] or call him at 800-633-7058. Go to NCI’s website at nationalcomfortinstitute.com for free information, articles, and downloads.