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Maximizing Customer Comfort on a Budget

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You’ve probably encountered at least one customer who wanted (or needed) your services, but simply could not afford to pay for the entire proposed scope of work. While you naturally don’t want to cut corners on quality, you also may not want to turn such customers away.

Fortunately, there is a middle ground that allows you to maximize the comfort of customers on a budget without compromising your standards of safety or quality.

Make a Thorough Assessment

It may seem obvious, but a thorough assessment of the situation is needed before moving ahead. There is no other way to determine how much work is necessary or what equipment is needed. Depending on the apparent extent of the work needed, you could provide a free estimate or require a nominal charge for an initial inspection. It just might turn out that what the customer believed to be unaffordable is actually modest in scope and therefore not financially out of reach.

For instance, a customer calls to complain that the air conditioning system in her home simply doesn’t keep the house cool, or that indoor air quality is triggering allergies in her children. She’s worried that the central air system is failing, but she simply cannot afford a replacement. While it’s possible that the entire system is on the fritz, which could run well into four figures, another likely scenario may be that the ductwork and filters are clogged. In the latter case, a professional cleaning can be accomplished for much less than a replacement.

Determine what Must Be Done Immediately

If your initial assessment reveals faulty wiring or similarly serious code violations and safety hazards, correcting those shortfalls should take priority. Likewise, repairs of critical systems, such as heating during the winter or air conditioning during the dog days of summer should also rank high among circumstances that should be addressed immediately. Those areas are where your customer’s dollars should be spent.

On the other hand, aspects of a job that can be delayed at least for awhile without placing safety in jeopardy represent areas of possible savings for customers on a budget. For instance, in the example above, it might be a good idea to replace an aging central air conditioning unit for a more energy efficient model. But cleaning the unit is more critical for now, while replacement can wait. If you take this approach, impress upon the customer that the work that is being delayed should be performed at some future date. The hope is, of course, that the customer will call on you to perform the additional tasks when the time comes.

Provide Alternative Configurations

You should explain to budget-minded customers that the upfront additional cost of energy efficient equipment would be more than balanced out by savings on their heating or cooling bills, or both.

Think outside the box to suggest options your clients might not have considered, such as whole house evaporative cooler systems or geothermal system. Evaporative cooler systems work well in very dry climates such as the Southwest, but are not advisable in humid regions. Geothermal systems can be installed in a number of climates. Under some circumstances, geothermal systems are eligible for IRS tax breaks, at least through the end of 2016.

Offer Installment Payments

Depending on the job and the client, installment payments might be a viable option. For instance, if a long-time customer experiences an unexpected breakdown of his HVAC system, you might be inclined to allow him to make a down payment as a condition for installing a new system, with the remainder of the payments to be made over time. If you opt for such a scenario, get the details in writing before you begin work. And while the contract itself need not be stiff and formal, it is advisable to seek the guidance of an attorney while drafting it.

You don’t have to lose customers or sales just because of budget restrictions. By offering options and plans will help you, help your customers stay comfortable.

Audrey Henderson

Posted In: Customer Service

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