We all know invoicing is important. That much is true across every business and every industry. But invoicing best practices aren’t universal. Sure, the tried and true fundamentals are sound—be clear, be detailed, be professional—but the real secret sauce of a great invoicing process is industry-specific.
HVAC contractors have a unique set of challenges to address with their invoicing, as well as a unique set of opportunities to seize. In the HVAC world, the function of a service invoice goes well beyond that of a simple receipt.
Service work often accounts for the majority of an HVAC company’s invoicing. With so much invoicing happening in the field, facilitated by the techs completing the repairs, the universal tactics to command prompt payment become less relevant.
Since there’s a representative physically present, the game becomes less about exuding authority and more about reducing friction and expediting the process. And then there are the opportunities.
So stick around, because this isn’t your typical best practices run-down rehash. We’re taking a deep dive into 5 best practices that really make the difference, specifically for HVAC contractors.
Collect Customer Information.
Use each service invoice as a vehicle to collect and store information to streamline future interactions.
Ensure you have up-to-date customer contact information, including phone number and email. Appointments are typically scheduled within a window of time, and you know that calls have a way of taking longer than expected. Real-time communication is often necessary to keep scheduling coordinated.
Take it a step further and securely store payment information for each customer. Having a current credit card on file makes completing transactions easier for everyone. If you’re doing things right, most customers will be repeat customers. With a card on file, invoices can be completed quickly and easily with just a signature.
- Tech tip: In tenant/landlord situations, make sure you have the contact and payment information that you can actually use.
Gather System Specifications
A service invoice’s data collection duty doesn’t stop at the customer.
Use your service invoices to keep record of equipment information, filter and humidifier pad sizes, oil fuel nozzle types, and any component specifics that are unique to the customer’s system. Work previously done to the system and any past service records should all enter your office’s file through the service invoice.
With virtually unfettered internet access, techs today have an array of tools at their disposal while troubleshooting a problem. No doubt, these tools make calls quicker and technicians more efficient. But adding data collection into your invoicing practices can make each call flow even smoother.
- Tech tip: The key to data collection’s practical usefulness is in making the stored info available to mechanics in the field. Sage’s free invoice templates for HVAC contractors makes it easy to organize information, codes, and keep track of each customer’s equipment, parts, and related systems.
Accommodate Every Method of Payment
And that doesn’t just mean “accept credit cards.”
You need to accept all forms of payment, including the old ones. Believe it or not, people do still pay with cash. Make sure techs carry change to accommodate. You’re far from reducing friction if your tech can’t break a twenty to get paid.
You have to maintain a balance between new and traditional methods. Have your office set up to run paperless and make sure you’re able to accept credit cards and deposit checks right from a phone or tablet. The technology is there and frankly, your customers expect to be able to pay how they want. Just keep in mind that the HVAC industry serves all demographics—so you have to be able to accommodate varied preferences.
- Tech tip: If you typically use an electronic work order and invoice, make sure you keep some old school service tickets on hand—while it’s becoming a necessity to embrace the paperless future, you can’t do so at the expense of your less tech-savvy clientele.
Capitalize on Service Contract Opportunities
With every invoice is another opportunity to create a lasting relationship with a new customer.
Have your service contract offer built into your invoicing process. If using a paper invoice, include a section where the customer can choose their plan and sign up on the spot. The easier, the better. Make sure to have the contract terms printed on the back or the invoice itself should they accept the offer.
Creating a seamless link between present repair work and the sale of a service contract is a strategic endeavor. Whether you have multiple techs out there running calls or it’s just you, it’s important to have a system in place that never misses the opportunity to secure future business.
- Tech tip: There’s no better position to be in than technician for the sale of service contract, and no better time than when they’re already paying for a repair.
Offer discounts for future work.
Guarantee future business by integrating an incentive into each invoice.
While it’s standard to shop around on a full system replacement, it’s rare customers get a second opinion on repair work. That means your biggest hurdle is being the first one in the door when the repair is needed. By incentivizing the customer to call you next time there’s a problem, you seriously up your chances of getting in the door and getting the business.
The incentive can be as simple as a coupon for a waived service fee or 15% off on their next call. Giving the customer something of value ensures they will remember your company positively and think of you first when something goes wrong.
- Tech tip: Paper invoices often get tossed away. Emphasize the value of the physical coupon so the customer is sure to hold on to it. The idea is to maintain a presence. If you can, double down and send the coupon in an email to give a gentle reminder of the customer’s unused benefits.
If you’re following these practices, you’re ahead of the curve. But there’s one final piece to the puzzle.
The future is here, and with it come sophisticated pieces of software that make employing these best practices a breeze.
Running multiple fast-paced and geographically diverse appointments each day, techs need to get in and out of calls quick. The right invoicing software can open and maintain a valuable line of communication between office and field personnel that allows techs to spend more time completing jobs and less time filling out paperwork and bringing it to the office.
For some industries, full migration to online invoicing is a "no-brainer." For HVAC today, the best thing you can do is take advantage of the benefits without fully abandoning the old methods.
Kay Dexter is Sage’s Small Business Product Marketing Strategist and entrepreneur advocate for Sage in Atlanta. Sage is the global market leader for technology that helps businesses of all sizes manage everything from money to people – whether they’re a start-up, scale-up or enterprise. With Sage Business Cloud, our mission is to free business builders from the burden of admin, so they can spend more time doing what they love — which we do for three million customers across 23 countries.