Build Relationships with the Right PM Program
Maintenance agreements are one of the key components that can affect the bottom line of an HVACR contracting business. When a maintenance agreement program is managed properly, it eliminates “slow seasons,” increases revenues, and builds strong customer relationships. If not managed properly, it can be more trouble than it is worth and create irreparable damage to your business.
With so much on the line, why should you put the time and effort into developing and marketing a program? Here is what a few ACCA contractors have to say about that.
Keep Your Technicians Busy
Your best technicians are honest and productive; and they make your company look good. They are the ones you want to keep busy, and maintenance agreements help you do that.
“The type of employee who is okay with working half-time for months, and no-time for a month or so, is not the driven professional that I want working for me,” says Brian Leech of Service Legends in Des Moines, IA. “Maintenance agreements help me hire and retain top quality employees, because fulfilling the maintenance agreement removes the slow season. I don’t have a slow season. I have ‘the busiest season’ and ‘the busy season.’”
Todd Kletzof Classic Air’s One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning in Virginia Beach, VA, agrees. “Technicians are no different than other employees, they want security and they want to provide for their families year round,” he explains.
Thanks to a strong maintenance agreement program,Kletz says,“I cannot remember the last time that we parted ways with a technician as a result of us not being able to provide sufficient hours.”
Opportunities For Additional Business
Maintenance agreements keep you in front of the customer. Your technicians will go out to their homes to perform their scheduled maintenance. During this time, they can catch any issues that if not taken care of can become bigger and more costly for the customer in the end.
So, how does that create additional business? Contractors say that well maintained systems lower their start of the season service calls, making it easier to service their non-maintenance agreement customers and allowing them to take on more customers that are new.
Leech enjoys this perk. He says,“Of course we have an increase in repair calls at the start of the season, but not like our competitors. When they can’t get to their customer in a satisfactory time frame, their customers call us, and we usually can. That is business we take, because our maintenance agreements allow us to be in a better scheduling position, and not playing catch-up like our competitors.”
So, What’s In It For The Customer?
If the technician offers a maintenance agreement at the time of a repair or service call, the customer may have a heightened level of scrutiny, upon hearing the suggestion that they might want to pay more money now to head off possible future problems.
Customers may think, “Future system problems are a possibility, but I just had something fixed,so my system will be just fine for a while.” These customers don’t initially see the value of spending the extra money, because they don’t know all the advantages.
Kletz points out that you need to make sure your technician is telling the customer all of the benefits. He says, “It is important that all the benefits are shared with all clients. What is important to one might not be important to another.”
Here is where the quality of your maintenance agreement will affect your sales. For some customers, knowing they will get a thorough system check and tune-up may be the value that convinces them to buy. But for others, it may be priority scheduling, discounts on parts, or same day service.
Ask yourself two questions:
- Do my technicians believe in the maintenance agreement program we offer?
- Do my technicians sell the maintenance agreement with the confidence that comes from knowing that the product is truly valuable to the customer?
Early in his career,Leech remembers thinking that service agreements were of little value to the customer. In fact, he would tell a customer as much. Years later, he changed his perspective. “I didn’t believe in maintenance agreements,because I wasn’t doing a thorough system check or tune-up.”
Leech says that he had an “aha!” moment when he learned what a proper tune-up was, and how he could really deliver on the maintenance agreement. “Now, my techs spend a couple of hours doing the job right, and I am confident that the service we provide is a good value to customers.”
Once you have sold the maintenance agreement to the customer, you have to keep them. That can be tricky, but when you deliver on what you promise, they become “Raving Fans.”
Maintenance agreements can provide real benefits to businesses and customers.Managed effectively, maintenance agreements will help you avoid “slow seasons,” bring in new customers, and increase revenues. The rewards will endless if deliver on the value you sell to the customers, because they will be happy and comfortable and will share their experience with friends and family.
Tweaking Your Maintenance Agreement Program
Wouldn’t it be great if everything just worked perfectly the first time around?
Unfortunately, that isn’t how it goes, and often times you need to adjust a few things to get them working the way you want them. For HVAC contractors, maintenance agreement programs are not immune to this process.Maintenance agreement programs require attention and with the right adjustments can lead to even better returns.
Brian Leech reviewed his program and decided to change his payment plan. He went from an annual fee to monthly, and saw a nearly 50 percent jump in retention.
He also saw the need to make changes to his offering when maintenance agreement customers were called for some strange problems.
“Initially we offered a free diagnostic service as part of our maintenance agreement program, but later we changed that, because the technicians would go out on a free diagnostic call and find that the customer’s children had turned the switch off, or that the thermostat wasn’t on,” Leech said. “That wasn’t productive for us, so we now apply the diagnostic fee to any repairs we do. Since we’ve changed this policy, our customers don’t call us for those things anymore, they take a little responsibility themselves.”
Todd Kletz of Classic Air’s One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning in Virginia Beach, VA, also had to adjust his initial program. One of the great benefits that customers get when they sign up as a maintenance agreement customer with his company is same-day or 24-hour service.
Kletz says, “We didn’t know what the demand would be for this and it caused a few operational challenges for us. Since our customers see this service as a convenience, we adapted to meet their needs and now have our call center open from 6 a.m.–11 p.m. And for the start of season surge, his we have techs available 24/7.”
So, even with the “perfect plan” in place, review the program regularly to make sure that you, and your customers, are getting the most from it.
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