While at ACCA’s National Meeting this February in New Orleans, I had the opportunity to attend an excellent opening session. Keynote speaker Joe Calloway’s message was strong and resonated very clearly — “become a category of one.” In other words, make your business so different that you’re not just ahead of your competition, you have no competition!

During his address he challenged us to think about the best service experience we’d ever had. That got my wheels spinning to come up with the ultimate HVAC service experience a customer could have. The following short story describes this ultimate service call.

The Ultimate Service Call

Prior to approaching the front door, Joe warmed up his CO analyzer to outdoor ambient conditions. He knocked firmly, but respectfully on the door of Mrs. Malloy’s home. As the door opened, Joe stepped back two steps, making sure his photo ID badge was clearly visible on his company uniform, which was decorated with a number of certification patches and emblems. He cordially introduced himself and asked if it was okay to enter the home.

Upon her consent, Joe placed his disposable shoe covers over his work boots and followed Mrs. Malloy into her home, CO analyzer on, and in hand. She asked Joe what the instrument did, and he explained that it checked for even small amounts of carbon monoxide that could, over time, cause serious health problems. He also explained that he’d check all of her combustion appliances: stove, water heater, dryer, and furnace — even her gas logs — to make sure they were operating safely.

They stopped briefly in the kitchen to discuss the problem with her system, and after leaving a low level CO monitor on the counter with a fact sheet on the product’s benefits, Joe proceeded to the equipment room to check things out.

Prior to inspecting the outside unit, he walked to the thermostat to check its operation. Before touching it, he put on a pair of latex surgical gloves to make sure he wouldn’t leave any smudges on the wall or thermostat.

Joe made repairs to the condensing unit, replacing a faulty contactor, and came back in to make sure everything was working properly. He then proceeded to drill holes in the equipment cabinet and duct to measure the system’s total external static pressure.

Finding nearly 0.9-in. wc., he documented the readings and made a quick visual inspection of the ductwork. He also drilled a hole in the flue to check draft with the blower on and off, and documented the readings. He then checked CO readings on all the combustion appliances.

Before leaving the equipment room, Joe quickly wiped down and waxed the outer cabinet of the furnace and the top of the water heater — he even cleaned off the tops of the washer and dryer — chuckling to himself that his wife must never get wind of his cleaning skills.

He then asked Mrs. Malloy if she had a minute to discuss his findings and repairs. He described her system’s high static readings, asking a few comfort questions. Upon discovering some long-standing comfort and IAQ issues, he offered Mrs. Malloy a discount coupon for a complete airside diagnostic that would uncover the source of the problems and suggest solutions.

To Mrs. Malloy’s amazement, Joe then entered the kitchen to check her oven for acceptable CO levels on light-off and while running. He made a slight adjustment to the air shutter, bringing light-off CO well below acceptable levels. He then pulled his microwave leak detector from his shirt pocket and asked Mrs. Malloy for a cup of water. He placed the cup in her microwave, turned it on, and quickly scanned the door seal with his detector. Our hero explained to the awestruck homeowner that his company wanted to make sure her family was as safe as possible in their home, and often found high levels of radiation leaking around oven doors. Her oven was fine.

Next, he checked the gas logs in the living room for carbon monoxide. Upon reading unacceptable levels, he repositioned the logs slightly, re-checked, and with a big smile exclaimed, “that’s much better.”

At this point Mrs. Malloy was speechless. She had never witnessed this level of service in her life. By the way, she also purchased two low-level CO monitors — one for each floor of her home. Joe promptly installed the monitors and instructed her on their use and operation. Finally, he opened a disposable wipe he had pulled from his pocket and wiped down the thermostat.

Mrs. Malloy asked Joe who she could call to report his outstanding service, and schedule an air diagnostic. Pulling out his cell phone he offered to schedule the appointment himself. With the diagnostic set up, he handed her his card and headed for the door, thanking her for the opportunity to serve and protect her family.

Dominick Guarino is chairman and CEO of National Comfort Institute, a national training, certification, and membership organization. He can be reached by phone at 800/633-7058, or by e-mail at domg@ncinstitute.com. For info on NCI, visit www.ncinstitute.com.