What if it were possible to identify and remove a potential barrier SMACNA contractors face in the residential market? SMACNA’s manual, Successful Customer Service Practices for HVAC Service and Retrofit Contractors, written specifically for residential contractors, illustrates a different way of looking at customer service when compared to commercial markets. Residential customers, the manual reveals, require a more personal approach.
“Residential service calls require that the contractor have different soft skills than those required for commercial work,” said HVAC expert Ruth King, author of the manual. “There’s more to a service call than simply solving the customer’s heating or cooling problem. And residential contractors will find themselves dealing with women more often than men, since they are more likely to be home during the day.”
The manual explains the importance of good customer service, and of developing a customer-care culture in the residential market. The manual identifies and evaluates customer types and suggests effective service policies for each. The manual also shows the customer service role of each employee and provides sample scripts to train employees on customer interaction and phone etiquette.
Communication is key. “Fixing the equipment is expected,” King pointed out. “Communicating with the customer and making her feel comfortable is required for the customer to trust your company and continue to write paychecks to your company.”
Paul Heimann of SMACNA contractor Welsch Heating and Cooling, sees the manual as a tool that contractors can use to grow their businesses. Heimann is also on the National Residential Contractors Council Steering Committee, which commissioned the manual.
“Everyone has a problem with their furnace and air conditioner and somebody needs to be there to fix it for them, and we think SMACNA contractors need to offer that service to their customers,” Heimann said.
“You have to present yourself in a completely different manner than when you are walking into a commercial office building,” Heimann continued. “You have to explain what you’ve done, how you diagnosed the problem, what the problem is, what the resolutions are; and hopefully, they are affordable solutions. If not, it becomes a sales call. They have to have the skills to present higher than expected costs in a way that’s not negative,” he said.
Sample scripts train users on customer interaction. Customer service doesn’t just also happen in the customer’s home, noted Mike McCullion, SMACNA’s director of market sectors and safety. The first interaction with the customer is usually at the call center, he said. He notes that the sample scripts in the manual’s appendix are particularly useful here. “[They are] helpful in providing some added-value customer service tips that the call centers and technicians can utilize to improve profits,” McCullion noted.
At Welsch Heating and Cooling, the manual is important reading for new and existing employees. It can serve to fill in the gaps in case something was missed during training of new staff, and it also can serve as a refresher for long-term employees.
All employees are empowered to make decisions that are best for the customer and the company. They recognize that their success will come from repeat business and from customer referrals. “That’ll get us further business and continue to grow our customer base, which obviously is the goal with every company,” Heimann said.
Members may download a free copy of Successful Customer Service Practices for HVAC Service and Retrofit Contractors in the SMACNA store, www.smacna.org/store.