It’s mid-September and the summer heat has started to break for most of the country. As we enter the off-season here are six end-of-summer practices that will help ensure future prosperity.
1. Mail a Second Chance Letter
Air conditioning breakdowns in the heat of the summer catch consumers off guard. Even if they have a Jurassic air conditioner and should know better, the actual breakdown is unexpected. It’s hot. The customer wants to get cool, so he takes the fastest, least expensive approach. It’s literally a “heat of the moment” decision.
If given time to think about it, many people might make a different decision. They might decide that it doesn’t make sense to throw good money after bad in an aged product that might not survive the next summer. So give them a second chance to make a different decision without the pressure of a hot house.
Contractors in the Service Roundtable have had success mailing “second chance” letters to customers for whom repair work was made over the summer. The letter reiterates the paragraphs above and lets them decide again by offering to credit the cost of the repair against a system replacement if they act by a looming date. You can sweeten the pot by offering to double the repair credit, noting that you are giving them credit for this summer’s repair and next summer’s projected repair costs.
2. Sweep Excess Cash
Hopefully you are flush with cash. It’s the end of a summer that started cool for most of the country, but ended hot. While a new bass boat is tempting target, a better option is to sweep the excess cash into a separate, conservative investment account. It’s good practice to sweep excess cash every month, but at least do it at the end of the quarter. This will ensure the cash is available when you need it for investments in the business, slow months, and so on.
You have heard the term, “cold, hard cash.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Cash is not cold and hard. Spare change is cold and hard. Cash is warm and soft. Having a lot of it will keep you warm and help you sleep better this winter, but not if you leave it in your operations account where it tends to evaporate.
3. Plan Your Off-Season Promotions
Over the next few months, the thermostat will not be driving your business. It’s time for marketing to shoulder the load. Plan your initiatives now. How will you spur maintenance work? What will you do to sell more service agreements? Are there local community events that you can use in your promotional efforts? What will you do around the fall holidays?
Autumn is an excellent time to run an oldest furnace contest. Work with a manufacturer or supply house to donate a furnace that you will give away at a fall home show or other event to the homeowner with the oldest furnace, provided he is willing to pay for a professional installation by your company. Because the homeowner knows he has an old furnace and is willing to pay the installation cost if he wins the contest, every lead is a qualified lead. Executed right, an oldest furnace contest can yield significant replacement work. Check with the Service Roundtable for a free copy of “The Oldest Appliance Contest,” which gives you everything you need to run your own contest.
4. Identify Recommended Repairs That Customers Rejected
Over the course of the summer, your technicians made many repair recommendations that were a good idea, but not critical at the time. Go back through the summer’s invoices and look for ignored recommendations.
When work slows, instruct your CSRs to reach out to these homeowners, noting that you understand having to pay for a lot of work at one time can be a bit overwhelming, but these repairs really should be made, and offer an off-season discount since you have a little excess capacity this week. Note that you cannot afford to offer this discount when the call volume is higher.
5. Project Your Six Month Manpower Requirements
Next March sounds like forever, but it will be here sooner than you think. Will you need new technicians next year? Will you need to replace any technicians? Too often, contractors fail to answer these questions in advance. The result is panic hiring using the 98.6 degree employment test that far too many times results in a hiring mistake. Plan now for next year.
The HVAC industry has a variety of turnkey programs that can take a mechanically inclined novice and very quickly transform him into a functioning service technician. Moreover, this is a service technician without the baggage of bad habits learned from another contracting business. However, growing your own technician takes time and investment. You must plan ahead so you can have the manpower in place when you need it.
6. Set a Date for an Annual Planning Retreat
Few contractors make an annual plan. The Service Nation Alliance is diligent about planning. There is something magic that happens when you make a plan and achieve buy-in with your team. You will grow faster, more profitably, and achieve success beyond anything in the past.
Your annual plan should address your growth and profitability requirements, budgeting, capital budgeting, manpower projections, a marketing calendar, and training plans. It is not as complicated as it sounds. The hardest part is driving a stake into the ground to do it, setting a date, and following through.
While you do not need to start the planning process today, you do need to set a date. I recommend doing this off-site, away from the daily distractions. When we were a smaller operation our annual planning retreat was a one-day event with follow-up inside the office. As we grew, we created a two day process where we break after one day, department managers meet with their teams, and we reassemble to go over the final numbers and budgetary requirements.
Will these six practice give you a better, more profitable company? Yes! They absolutely will. So get after it!
For a free copy of The Oldest Appliance Contest, contact the Service Roundtable Success Team at 877.262.3341 or visit www.ServiceRoundtable.com and click on the Free Stuff link. To learn more about the FAST TRACK turnkey program to help your recruit, screen, hire, and train your next technician, call 877.262.3341 and ask for Kerry Webb or Bob Viering. For information on the Service Nation Alliance’s Annual Success Plan, call the same number and ask for Theresa Wilkins or Chisholm Brunner.