4 Ways to Handle the Influx of Calls During Summer
HVAC contracting is seasonal work at times. There are definite spikes when the temperature falls or rises and people realize their units, which they’ve not fired up during the milder weather, need servicing. This can create an influx of calls, particularly during summer’s scalding days. If you dread the phones ringing off the hook this coming June, July and August, you’ll want to read this article for a list of solutions to deal with the sudden rush of new and existing customer calls.
Support Your Staff
All the additional calls can put stress on your staff. Get them the help they need and try to minimize other work during this time. J.R. Davis of Davis Heating and Cooling finds that about 35% of his business comes during the summer months. “It can get pretty crazy on those days when the temperatures are super-hot. People are desperate to find someone to get their air conditioning running again.” Some of the things that Davis does that help his staff stay on track:
- Get busy work out of the way well before summer hits. File papers, send out follow-up letters or make follow-up calls, and make sure bookkeeping is up to date.
- Hire a seasonal worker. “We have a young lady who comes in every summer and works while she’s on break from college. She’s already trained, so she can hit the ground running.”
- Use a temp service. If your staff can’t handle the volume of calls, consider hiring a temporary worker from a service. You may have to pay a little more per hour, but you’ll also get your money’s worth without the stress of feeling you need to provide a permanent job after the peak season ends.
Another issue that can arise is scheduling. Your technicians only have so many hours in a day and no matter how efficient they are or how perfect your scheduling, there will come a point where there is simply no one available to go on that call. Some things you can do that might help with this situation include:
- Contact past employees and see if they are interested in coming back for the season and doing a few jobs for extra money. One or two extra technicians can be enough to put you over the hump.
- Take on an apprentice or two. However, you must plan ahead for this. They should be at least partially trained by the time your peak season hits. That means you need to train them from about February to May and then really utilize their help over the summer.
- Talk to local trade schools about offering an internship over the summer.
Offer Call Backs
You might plan everything out and still face a situation where you simply can’t handle the call volume. People may get frustrated and hang up if left on hold for too long, especially if they are hot and cranky at the time. One thing you can do that will reduce lost customers is to offer a call back service. During increased call volumes, offering call backs can reduce abandon rates by about 32%. There are many benefits to offering call backs:
- Reduces hold time. The customer can do other things and simply wait for you to call back.
- Reduces abandon rate, as mentioned above.
- Lowers customer frustration. There is nothing more irritating than listening to elevator music while on hold for ten minutes. This shows that you care about the customer and his time. This can translate into loyal customers who use your HVAC services for years to come.
Hire a BPO Provider
If the main issue you are seeing is that you can’t handle the calls, then you might want to consider hiring a Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) provider. This is essentially a call center, so you’ll want to be sure they offer the same level of customer service as you do. If using a BPO, be sure that you:
- Test the BPO before using it for your customers. Call it as though you are a customer and see how they handle everything from the politeness to customers to scheduling the customer in.
- Make sure your budget allows for the costs of a BPO provider, who typically charges by the call. “We do occasionally use a call service,” Davis shared, “but sometimes it gets costly, so we only use it when we have to.”
- Make sure they fully understand your scheduling system and will be a help and not a hindrance in scheduling calls. Hiring a provider may allow you to free up your staff for follow-up calls and working one-one-one while technicians are on the road trying to find customer residences.
The seasonal nature of HVAC can create stress on your staff, but with a little pre-planning and some smart contingency plans, you can get through the flood of summer calls and come out on the other side with happy customers and a healthy profit.
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