The summer is undoubtedly the busiest time for any and all HVAC contracting companies worldwide.
Although this increased custom is welcomed by all companies it can sometimes become their undoing. If you are not properly prepared for the sudden influx of business the sun can bring you may as well be burning money. We’ve put together 20 tips to not only help you prepare for the rush summer can bring but also to help you make an extra bit of cash out of it.
Set Targets & Goals
Have you worked out how much you want to make this summer? Think about your profit and margins. It’s also important to work out what an average call would be and how many you would need to hit your target. Also set out how many installations you will need.
Once you’ve worked all of this out find out what you need to achieve every month and then break it down by week. Make sure your team is aware of these targets and set expectations for each individual. If and when you hit your goals reward everyone for what has hopefully been an extremely busy summer!
Set a Flat Rate Charge
If you are still charging time and materials you are doing yourself, and your customers, a disservice. Switching to a flat rate charging system will simplify your life massively and almost always allow you to make more money while simultaneously keeping your customers more satisfied. Take a look at what the other companies in your area charge, if you can afford to undercut them do. Increased competitiveness, happier clients and more money in your pocket, you can’t really argue with that.
Ensure Your Website Is Up To Date
If you have a website (if not, why not?!) it’s important to make sure contact information, pricing, focus pages and everything else is fully up to date and ready to receive traffic. We all know that more and more people are discovering businesses online and what a shame it would be if your outdated or misleading site was the difference between you getting a new client or not. If you don’t have the time or expertise to do this in house hire someone externally.
If you haven’t taken a step back and looked at your prices for the past couple of years you could be sitting on thousands of pounds worth of lost revenue. A re-pricing activity is always a good idea but becomes even more relevant in the summer. Do it properly and calculate service price requirements from scratch. Ensure all your overheads are covered and that you are making as much of a profit as you can get away with.
You could also think about increasing your pricing for the summer months. A multitude of industries increase their pricing during high demand periods so why shouldn’t you?
Clean and Service all Equipment
There’s nothing worse than having a piece of business critical equipment fail on you during your busiest period. The knock on effects can be catastrophic for your delivery timelines and most importantly your bottom line. To avoid this try and ensure all equipment, including vehicles, is thoroughly serviced and properly cleaned ready for it all to kick off. It may seem like a substantial investment but it will certainly save you more, in terms of lost business, in the long run.
Offer Fast Response at a Premium
When it does get really hot you may well not be able to get to every call in the same day. When this problem arises think about offering a ‘premium response’ service that would jump your client into an advanced queue for slightly more cash. Again, plenty of other companies do this so why shouldn’t you?
When the heat is on and the phones are ringing think about trying to prioritise calls based on severity of the situation and potential for profit. For example, give priority to those customers that look like they have the potential to turn into a full replacement job.
Use a Performance Based Pay System
Performance pay incentivises technicians to work better and think on their feet. By rewarding them for carrying out good work and thinking independently you are also increasing the quality of your work company wide. This, in turn, should lead to your company gaining more business and making more money.
Sell System Enhancements
Once a month pick a product enhancement to offer to your customers. This can be anything from a state of the art update like WiFi thermostats or a sensible inclusion such as a standby generator. Make sure all your staff are aware of these changes and ensure they mention them to your customers. Also think about tying in your marketing to reflect the product you are pushing.
Think About Leads
Encourage your technicians to honestly look at every machine they service and think about whether it will completely give up the ghost within the year. If the answer is yes they should be suggesting a system replacement to your clients. This isn’t about making up work where there isn’t any to be had, that is both immoral and illegal.
This is simply about maths. How long does an air conditioner usually last in your market? If it’s 15 years that means about one out of every 15 services that your engineers carry out will be on a unit that will fall over within the year. It’s all about finding these opportunities and capitalising on them.
Service Agreements = Cash
Service agreements are one of the single best ways to attain a constant source of income for your business. It’s important that everyone in your business is focused on trying to sell these agreements. People taking calls in your office should be enquiring as to whether customers are signed up to the program. If not they should sell its values. If the caller can’t be captured over the phone get your technicians to follow up when they’re on site.
By comparing the cost of the repair the techs are carrying out plus a couple of tune-ups without an agreement and with an agreement you should be able to capture a good number of clients on the spot. If they’re still not interested follow up with some form of direct marketing pushing the benefits.
Don’t Forget to Train
When people are knocking at the door demanding your services it can be easy to forget about putting the times aside for training. The problem is, if you start to neglect staff training you neglect the success of your business. A well trained and skilled team of technicians will consistently deliver great results first time resulting in happier customers, less callbacks, better staff morale and a better business image.
Utilise Post-Call Debriefs
Best practice would be to not dispatch more than one call at a time. Of course this isn’t always practical. Ensure all calls are scheduled with plenty of time for your guys to do the work properly and get back without rushing.
After every call ensure each technician is properly debriefed. Make sure standard tasks were carried out as they should have been and also enquire as to how the call actually went. Create a checklist of things to go over. This is all with the aim of ensuring proper procedure is followed to deliver a consistent service.
If and when the phones are ringing off the hook and you physically can’t field anymore enquiries turn off more costly marketing channels but continue to focus on social media and other forms of nearly free marketing. This is also the time to switch to promotional materials that can boost the value of existing calls such as fliers pushing the benefits of a system upgrade. These can be distributed by your technicians on site.
If your summer period is going even better than you could have dreamed (and the money is accruing) don’t rest on your laurels. If you’re staffing is pushed to breaking point think about hiring a new tech. If a few of your vans are on their last legs think about replacing them. Growth only comes when there is the financial backing to sustain it.
It is very important you allow your technicians enough time on a call to carry out the work properly and thoroughly. Not doing so can lead to shoddy work, demoralized staff, large numbers of callbacks and irate customers. All things that can have a huge impact on a business at any time let alone its busiest period.
Manage Customer Expectations
Ensuring your customer’s expectations are realistic should be core to any service businesses values. It can be tempting to over promise to clients with the aim of winning business or retaining existing business but once you start you will find yourself on a very slippery slope. When you find yourself unable to fulfill promises your clients will be extremely unhappy. Honesty is the best policy when it comes customer expectations.
Rest Yourself and Your Staff
Although the summer period is, without a doubt, your busiest period every year it’s important to know when you or your staff have worked too hard for too long. Yes you can make them work straight through the summer but their work quality will undoubtedly suffer as they burn out.
An unexpected early finish here and there (or even a half or full day off) can give your techs valuable time to recharge their batteries. They’ll return to work refreshed and ready to go with even more respect for you as a boss. It’s also important for you to take the time off when you need it. A ship will sink if its captain is not battle ready.
This may seem to be an obvious one but there is nothing worse than being caught short of stock that people actually want or need. Turning people away simply because you haven’t accounted for their demand is a sin in any industry. To prevent this from happening carry out a stock take just before the summer season kicks in and order in anything you have projected you will need.
Most Importantly of All, Thank Your Staff
Your technicians are going to be working super long hours in super hot locations for months on end during the summer rush. There’s no denying that it’s not going to be much fun for them. This is why you should make an effort show your appreciation for what they do.
Offer them free isotonic drinks every morning to take on site. Thank anyone that goes above and beyond the call of duty. Acknowledge the fact that the summer period effects not just your technicians but their families too. Award a weekend at a fancy hotel to the tech that put the most hours in. Maybe offer them all restaurant gift cards at the end of the period. These are all just suggestions, as long as your techs feel like the extra graft they are doing is appreciated you are looking after them correctly.
Written by Ryan Hill