Sheet metal & Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association

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So what are these guys doing right?

Our sales are up significantly, our gross margins are up significantly, our net profits are beyond what we thought could ever be possible. . .”

Probst_200Can you say this about your residential business? Dave Probst, co-owner of Service Business Evolution, is out to make winners of as many residential service business owners who will listen. He spoke at SMACNA’s annual convention at the Residential Contractors Forum this past September. Here’s some of his advice.

When I began treating my residential HVAC business like a retail business, things really took off, Dave declared.

One call resolution

Starting with the customer service department he uses a one-call resolution technique. The person who answers the phone wears three hats: customer service, scheduling, and dispatch. This person sets service and sales appointments. They also schedule service manager follow up, technicians, as well as training, and vehicle maintenance. When the customer calls with a problem or complaint, they become an advocate of the customer.

Customer satisfaction—on the spot

His “One Call Resolution” system stops a lot of problems. If the customer is unhappy, the customer service rep is responsible for making it right. Over the phone this person can give $500+ in products and services to solve whatever issue may arise. The customer gets satisfaction right there on the spot. No talking to the service manager who has to check things out and get back to the customer. The conversations don’t become adversarial, as sometimes can happen when the customer is unhappy.

We don’t dwell on our mistakes. We do what the customer thinks they should get 100 percent of the time. It’s the cost of advertising. A happy customer spreads the word, so does a disgruntled one, Dave notes.

Training equals continuous improvement

“To keep unhappy customers to a minimum, employee training is critical. However, after 39 years in this business I’ve discovered that classroom training simply doesn’t work,” he explained.

People don’t learn well in a classroom setting. Instead, our continuous improvement process offers one-on-one training for technicians who need the help. People get training only in areas they are weak. The customer service rep sets up training classes just like a service call. With individual instruction the tech is free to ask the instructor questions they would hesitate to ask in a classroom setting.

Teach techs NOT to sell

“Once the tech starts a sales pitch the customer shuts down,” Dave acknowledged. “Instead, we train our tech to just deliver the facts: the cost to fix the unit. The customer knows the unit is 18 years old and needs to be replaced. Typically, they will ask the price of a new model. The customer will pull you to a sale, just get out of their way.”

Know thy customer

The firm has done considerable research about their customers. They know 73 percent are reactive. Reactive customer gladly will pay 30 percent more for a product. They have a problem and they are willing to pay to get it fixed.

The remaining 27 percent are proactive customers. This means they will do their homework and shop for price. They don’t mind giving them the price they’re looking for because 73 percent of his customer base is paying a premium for his products and services.

New business model

The SBE business model is to market, measure, and train. We just happen to be in the A/C business. We’re tough to compete against. This process solves problems and makes us more productive. More work and less problem calls is a winner.

Tips for success

  • Never forget the customer called you for technical competency.
  • Do what is right 100 percent of the time.
  • Be honest, smart, and do what works and the customer will love you.

About Dave Probst

Dave is a lifelong contractor, holding both residential and commercial licenses in HVAC and plumbing. From the age of 19 he worked his way up from technician to starting his HVAC business. He founded SBE in 2013 as a sales training and coaching business to share what he and his team have learned from growing George Brazil Air Conditioning & Heating, in Phoenix, Ariz.