What Now? The Future of the HVACR Industry Post COVID-19
As we’re nearing the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is no surprise that the American economy has faced a multitude of challenges, with the HVACR industry being no exception. Similar to other industries, many HVAC businesses are prioritizing customer and employee safety, while also remaining profitable as product shortages and supply chain issues continue. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that COVID-19 vaccination rates are on the rise, the future of the HVAC industry remains uncertain due to factors like the Omicron variant. In this article, several ACCA contractor members share their experiences during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and also provide recommendations to ensure that other contractor members stay successful and kick off the new year with a bang.
While the HVACR industry has certainly been impacted by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, countless technicians continued to work and provide critical repairs to millions of Americans. However, it is more important than ever to prioritize their safety and comfort to ensure that your business continues to run efficiently.
First, conducting daily in-person and/or virtual health checks while enforcing social distancing will help reduce COVID-19 infections from spreading between staff members.
“We’ve mandated social distancing, masks, gloves, boot covers, and the use of sanitizer. We also installed sanitizer dispensers and hand washing stations in all vehicles,” said Martin Hoover, Owner of Empire Heating and Air Conditioning in Decatur, GA.
In addition to providing safety gear, it is important to actively encourage sick members to stay home. If there are employees who appear to have symptoms upon arrival at work or who have become sick during their shift, they must be immediately separated from other employees and customers, and then sent home.
“We are very conscious of public concerns,” said Hoover. “We’re ensuring that all employees who are not well are always kept at home.”
Lastly, do not forget to inform your customers of your safety protocols. When they are scheduled for a home visit, it is also important that they receive a reminder regarding safety guidelines and fill out a questionnaire regarding COVID-19 symptoms.
“As essential workers, we need to let our customers know we are open and available,” said Hoover. “However, you must do everything in your power to keep both your team members and your customers safe from each other.”
Enforce Better Communication
Today, miscommunication is the key to a business’ downfall. As the COVID-19 pandemic brings uncertainty in many aspects of society, it is more important than ever to practice active communication with your customers and employees to eliminate doubt and uncertainty.
As the HVACR industry is facing product shortages and supply chain issues, there may be instances where your customers will not be able to receive their products on time. In order to avoid unhappy customers, make sure to explain the situation to them sooner rather than later. From the customer’s point of view, there is nothing more frustrating than waiting for a product over a long period of time while being kept in the dark.
“You have to tell the truth to your customers and update them when you get the bad news of another delay in delivery,” said Malcom Sweet, General Manager at Integrated Facilities Services, Fenton MO.
During this conversation, explain to your customer that there are a multitude of factors causing these delays. You can also inform them that the delays may be due to shifting consumption patterns from the COVID-19 pandemic as well.
“The general public seems to be very considerate and patient with these current issues,” said Hoover. “There are always exceptions that will demand service immediately, and that is where we try to accommodate the best we can.”
In addition, don’t forget to communicate with your service technicians. As it is their responsibility to ensure that each of their customers are happy and satisfied, there will be instances where they will be provided with very limited resources and will be forced to work with equipment that they may be unfamiliar with. In order to prevent this from happening, it is best to provide them with additional resources such as access to equipment manuals, training programs, or virtual assistance to help them overcome any of these issues.
As the saying goes: “time is money.” During a shortage, planning ahead is the secret to success. For example, one of the best ways for your customers and technicians to save time and complete a job faster is to provide remote diagnostics. When you offer remote diagnostics, you will be counteracting extended lead times by allowing your service technicians to survey a customer’s home, diagnose any issues, and order any necessary parts and equipment sooner.
In the event that you are having trouble ordering specific parts, do not be discouraged. Instead, opt for alternatives that offer the same functions.
“Make sure to look for alternatives and propose them,” said Sweet. “For example, use a steel tank for a specified FRP tank instead.”
In addition, never fail to double check on your inventories. When your technician is working on their customer’s home, nothing is more frustrating than needing a specific part under the impression that they are in stock, to later find out that they are not available.
“Stay ahead of shortages as best you can and check on your inventories before committing to the job timeframe,” said Hoover.
While providing quick service to your customers is the ideal goal, do not be afraid to provide services that will take longer than usual.
Battling product shortages and supply chain issues changes day by day,” said Hoover. “It is not just the inability to get products, but also the pricing changes. We often have a longer job prep time to be able to get components from multiple vendors.”
While it may seem like we are nearing the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, the HVACR industry is far from overcoming product shortages and supply chain issues. In order to prevent these issues from affecting your business, follow these proactive measures to ensure that you are able to serve your customers in an efficient and effective way.
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