Do you have any idea what your field service and installation people are saying to customers? Are you sure they’re delivering the services necessary to keep those customers happy and comfortable in their homes?

I am an HVAC customer. Yes, it’s true. My house is serviced by a local HVAC contracting firm that I’ve been loyal to for nearly 18 years. As such, I do put my money where my mouth is when it comes to being a good and smart consumer of HVAC products and services. (Breakdown: Good Service Saves the Day, CB, August 2006, p. 8).

For each of those 18 years I’ve always purchased a service agreement on my complete mechanical system, including the water heater. Because of this and the fact that I work with a great contractor, I have very few problems with my HVAC system.

Hurray for me, right? But wait, there’s more. Just a few weeks ago it was time for my spring maintenance check. My wife called the contractor, made the appointment, and the day of the service came. I was out of town, so my wife took the day off work to await the technician. He, per custom, arrived right on time in a clean truck, wearing a clean uniform.

He came into the house and went right to work. When finished, he spoke with my wife about what he found (or didn’t find) and made some recommendations. All of which is normal for an outstanding service company.

It wasn’t until I came home from my trip that I learned that all wasn’t as it should be. My wife told me the technician didn’t and wouldn’t change the air filter. He told her the company no longer stocked filters on their trucks, and if we wanted a new filter we could buy one cheaper at Home Depot and put it in ourselves, or we could make a separate appointment to have him come back out and change it.

What? How does this make sense? Why do I pay for a service agreement if this basic service isn’t part of it? More importantly, if such a “policy change” was made, why wasn’t I, as a consumer, informed of it at the time of the change, or even when my wife made the appointment? How does this fit in with the first-rate contracting firm that I’ve been loyal to for so long?

It just didn’t add up. So I emailed the company asking these questions.

The contractor wrote me back, thanking me for my note, and telling me the timing of it was perfect as he was just going into a service meeting. He apparently planned to use this as a customer service object lesson.

You see, the technician was incorrect in what he told my wife. The company wanted technicians to encourage homeowners to buy more than one filter so they could change them more often and keep their systems even healthier. The idea was to be able to offer filters in bulk at reduced prices to help the consumer save money. The idea was to offer superior customer service. And because this mistake was made, my contractor knew he had some dissatisfied and confused customers. So he decided to give us a bulk package of filters, delivered to my door, the very next day.

Some might say that was the least he could do, and they’d be right. But the filters that go into my system are bigger and much more expensive than any I could purchase at a big box store. And by giving me the bulk package, he pretty much paid for my service agreement for the next year. So yes, it’s a very big deal and it absolutely strengthened the relationship beween his company and my household.

Guess what?

With the new filter in place and the system tuned up, the house is more comfortable too. In the end, it’s all about customer comfort and satisfaction .

So two points here: one, do you really know what your technicians are saying to customers? Are you providing enough training to at least feel confident that they’re communicating your message properly? Point two: things are bound to go wrong from time to time. Are you empowering your people to turn customer service lemons into lemonade?

In the end, it’s never bad timing to train your team on how to perform outstanding customer service. That’s how you create loyal customers.