At long last, the summer is here. Each heat wave is accompanied by a wave of service calls. Step outside in any residential neighborhood and you are greeted by the hum of compressors. As the mercury heads north, it’s almost possible to hear those same compressors coughing, sputtering, and dying. It’s a sound that warms a contractor’s heart. Ka-ching, ka-ching.
On the surface, it’s all good. It’s better than good. It’s great. The call board is full. Money is rolling in. Contractors get calls without marketing.
What’s not so good is the stress and strain the summer imposes on your team. This is money season and your guys are humping for the team (and themselves). The danger is it’s easy to burn them out. It’s easy to drive them away. Summer is when service technicians, installation crews, and salespeople are most needed and most in demand by your competitors. How can you keep them and keep them productive when the heat is on?
Management By Walking Around
Yesterday, on a Service Nation Alliance Advisory Board call facilitated by Contracting Business Hall of Fame inductee Ron Smith, Ron stressed the need for the boss to practice show up randomly at jobs with ice for the crew’s cooler and sports drinks. Smith said it’s good for the installation crews to know you care (and also that you’re checking up).
When call volume is heavy, your instinct is to keep every tech in the field as long as there’s work to be performed. After all, people are hot and miserable. In your quest to take care of the customer, don’t forget to take care of your technicians.
You should be the judge when your techs need a break. Know when to send them home to rest and recharge. This may mean losing some calls to other companies or even turning some down.
One of the first applications of air conditioning was movie theaters. People went to the movies to cool off, regardless of the film. There’s just something about a cold theater in the summer. Buy some movie gift cards and give them out when someone’s gone the extra mile.
If you don’t like the idea of movie passes, try something else. Buy gift cards to an ice cream shop or to a coffee shop (for the iced coffee drinks).
Let Technicians Sell
Your salespeople can get just as stressed as your technicians. If they’re running crazy, running leads, let some of your technicians sell (this is another Ron Smith suggestion from an earlier Service Nation Alliance Advisory Board meeting). Appeal to the technicians’ sense of teamwork and care for the customer.You need their help to take care of these customers. At least for the time being, you need them to take a shot and helping customers select new systems on calls where a repair is impractical, unaffordable, or simply not in the customer’s best interests. Make sure the techs know you’ll back them up if they need help. All you want is for them to make a good faith attempt.
You should accept that the technicians may not be proficient in loading up the customer with options for higher efficiency, accessories, and other improvements. The technicians might leave some money on the table. It’s better to leave a little money on the table than to miss sales altogether because you’re stretching your salespeople and yourself too thin.
Don’t forget that most technicians have plenty of comments about the things salespeople sell and installers install. Explain that this is their chance to ensure the system will be easy to service.
Keep Your Own Cool
You aren’t immune to the stress of the season. If you find yourself getting hot under the collar, get out. Get away from your team until you get control of your emotions. As boss, you need to be steadfast, calm, and cool in the midst of the chaos. When you’re angry or irritated, never show it. In fact, you should only show these emotions with purpose, during times when you’re actually calm and in control.
When people are working hard and working extra hours, they will make mistakes. Accept it. Don’t dwell on them when this happens. The last thing someone needs when he’s working his tail off is for the boss to focus on something he did wrong and to chew him out over it. When someone makes a mistake, ask if he learned anything. Then, show appreciation for everything else he did right. Thank him for the effort he’s showing.
End of Summer Bonus
Finally, consider offering an end of summer bonus based on company sales or profitability. The bonus will encourage everyone to pull together to make the most of the season. Since the bonus is only paid to people who are with the company throughout the bonus period, it’s an employee retention tool. So extend the bonus period a little past the time you need everyone to stay. For example, if things start to wind down in early September, set the bonus period to end October 1.
In the HVAC industry, this is our Christmas. To make the most of it, make sure you’re taking care of, and rewarding your team.
Matt Michel is the CEO of the Service Roundtable, which offers contractors a free buying group for parts, supplies, equipment, software, consulting, and other services that makes membership in the Service Roundtable a profit center. In addition, the Service Roundtable provides members with a vast array of sales, marketing, management, financial, and operational tools to help contractors generate more sales drop more to the bottom line in less time. The Service Roundtable’s online community gives members a network of thousands of other industry professionals to help with business problems and offer innovative ideas. The cost is nominal at $50 per month, flat rate, all-inclusive. For a free tour of the members only website, call toll free 877.262.3341. For a quick look at the site, visit www.ServiceRoundtable.com to take a tour and visit the “free stuff” available for download. To see examples of weekly products included in membership, visit www.Facebook.com/ServiceRoundtable.