Over the course of 2011, this space will identify opportunities within customers' homes that you may not have observed in the past. The opportunities are based on a recent homeowner survey conducted by Decision Analyst, Inc.

Q: What’s your company's callback policy?

A: This question was posted on LinkedIn: "What is your company's call back policy?" It was a simple request, yet it had been posted for 22 hours when I first saw it, and no one had responded.

I went to our American Home Comfort study to see what installation callbacks looked like, though I was pretty sure I knew. When replacing all or part of a central system for a homeowner, the contractor is called back for 3 in every 10 jobs. We've captured that information since 2002, and it simply is what it is: a large problem that eats into profits, and a company's reputation. What do you do? Does your installer go back on his own time to fix? Is he sent back at a reduced rate, or full rate? It all affects the way he addresses the homeowner, and the way he addresses the job at hand. It can make a bad situation worse.

None of the stated reasons for callbacks must be that simple to resolve (if they were, they wouldn’t still be happening) but, the top two reasons for callbacks seem the most simple to overcome. How often does your installer get called back to the job after they have stayed to run through a cycle with the homeowner, walking them through the controls, helping them feel comfortable with the new unit?

With "won't start," and "won't cool" being responsible for an accumulated 4 in 10 callbacks industry-wide, it makes sense that you work on that part of the business, if your rates are similar. After all, those two reasons alone account for one call back for every ten residential replacement installations. Your business may be different than the average, but if not, it would seem progress in these areas could go a long way toward saving tempers, reputations, and bottom line.

Garry Upton, of Decision Analyst, Inc., Arlington, TX, shares his interpretations of Decision Analyst's American Home Comfort Study of homeowners, and explores what customers look for in HVAC contractors. To learn more about this study, or to purchase it, contact Garry, at gupton@decisionanalyst.com.