Recently I had the opportunity to attend the Air Conditioning Contractors of America annual convention in Palm Springs, CA. One of the things I enjoy most is talking to other contractors and listening to their concerns and ideas regarding the growth of their business. Increasing sales and taking the seasonality out of our business is always a favorite topic of mine.
One of the ideas I heard many years ago was to just let your customers know about the full range of services your company can provide. Most customers don’t know HVAC contractors can provide sheet metal work, air testing, coil cleaning, heating, piping, etc. It’s with this in mind that another idea came to me while listening to contractors talk about increasing sales.
Up until a few years ago, we were a national HVAC service and maintenance company, with hundreds of local HVAC companies networked together, specializing in retail facilities.
Customer Pushes Us Out of the Box
A customer urged us to think outside the box and consider performing additional services we had never performed before, nor even considered.
They wanted us to send a technician into one of their stores to replace light bulbs in ceiling fixtures. We had a good working relationship with this customer and they were willing to give us the opportunity to perform additional work — why not?
The first store we handled had approximately 25 lamps that needed to be replaced, as well as a couple of ballasts. We contacted our local HVAC service provider to send one of their technicians and the call went fairly smoothly. It seemed to be a win/win situation for all involved. Not long after that first lighting call, we were once again asked to provide a non-HVAC service. This time, to repair a leaking faucet in a store bathroom. We didn’t hesitate. We made arrangements to get someone out to the site, and another problem was solved for this retailer.
The trend over the past few years has been customers that want "one stop shopping." That is, the ability to place one call to take care of almost all repair and maintenance items regardless of the trade. Most facility departments are understaffed and need to work with a company that can bring value-added services to them. Why couldn’t local HVAC contractors meet those demands and strengthen their relationships with their customers?
Contractors Offer More Efficient Building Services
There are many facility maintenance companies responding to the needs of their customers and providing single-source responsibility. Local HVAC companies can perform most of the services that facility maintenance service companies do. After all, we’re already in the business of responding to emergency service calls, and understand the dynamics of moving technicians around as efficiently as possible.
Paint With a Big Brush
Think big picture. Suggest to the customer that while you are on site performing a quarterly PM (planned maintenance), your technician can spend some additional time checking for lamps and ballasts that need to be replaced. Why couldn’t you also suggest taking a look at the bathroom faucets and repair leaks while on site?
I believe if we take time to explore these possibilities with customers, they’ll welcome the concept. Dark offices or leaking faucets are not conducive to an efficient workplace. The next time you have the opportunity to visit a customer site, take a look around and see how many fixtures may need attention. Why not suggest to the customer that your company could do this work as part of your scheduled quarterly visit?
I’ve mentioned only two additional services, but each of you can decide how many or how few additional services you may want to provide. You don’t have to perform all of these services with your own techs. Form alliances with a local plumbing or electrical contractor. Get creative and stress the value-added aspect.
The whole idea is that you fill the needs of the customer and allow them to call one telephone number — YOURS. Dispatch your tech or alliance partner, but assure the customer that you have the responsibility to make sure the work is performed in a timely, cost-efficient manner.
The bottom line is we all have good solid customers that need repairs on more than just their HVAC systems. I think you’ll find that if you offer these additional service solutions, your customers will welcome you with open arms. n
Bob Keingstein is vice president of BOSS Facility Services Inc., a contracting company specializing in commercial services and national facility maintenance. Bob can be reached at 866 BOSS 4 ME (866/267-7463) or firstname.lastname@example.org.