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In summer, cooling is hot. In winter, heating is hot. In between, however, business for HVAC companies can be lukewarm at best. There can be regional differences, but demand usually peaks for HVAC businesses during summer and winter before slowing down for months at a time. Although it can be discouraging when the phone stops ringing, you can find ways to drum up business or put that downtime to good use.
Here are eight ideas to generate business and take advantage of some housekeeping during slow times.
1. Cross-train. When business slows, it’s a logical time to offer training or advanced certifications to employees. Home service companies are wise to cross-train younger technicians to keep their talent pipeline pumping. Cross-training not only motivates technicians and provides professional growth, it also can give your business a chance to add another trade (such as plumbing or electrical) or division (such as facility maintenance or commercial).
2. Catch up with customers. A good home service business has many service agreements or memberships with its customers. The in-between seasons are a good time to call and schedule HVAC inspections under the service agreement, which translates to upselling opportunities.
3. Consider coupons carefully. Coupons can entice customers, depending on how well your marketing works. A company can offer deals such as waiving diagnostic charges and providing free estimates. It’s not the ideal way to do business, but coupons can serve a function, especially for repeat customers. They are one of the cheaper ways to advertise and you can put them on your website.
However, use coupons and discounts judiciously; don’t give away the farm. Be methodical and spend money wisely. Make the focus on building your brand, not selling services. It may not generate immediate calls, but it will bring in long-term business.
4. Make ‘happy calls.’ Downtime also is a prime time to catch up on follow-ups, old estimates and make happy calls to see whether customers are content with previous services. Customer service representatives focused on customer satisfaction and loyalty can help drive business even when the phones aren’t ringing.
5. Diversify. The easiest way for a home services company to grow is to add another trade to serve your existing customer base. Companies can offer dual inspections, such as offering a plumbing inspection with an HVAC checkup. Diversity in services is crucial for growing a home service company.
The goal should be to get in a home as much as possible to build trust, whether it’s for HVAC or plumbing or services.
6. Keep training. Training is key year-round but it makes sense to conduct it when business is slow. Provide technical training, send employees to tech school or organize training around whatever kind of business management software you are using. Train employees on how to be more comfortable with sales or how to enlist customers into care plans or memberships.
Your employees can also ensure trucks are clean and inventory is complete. If it’s extremely slow, your techs can perform building maintenance on your shop, office or warehouse. You can never train someone too much. It will always pay for itself.
7. Calls to action. Business management software can make it easier to increase business during slow periods. It makes it much easier to pull lists, call customers on those lists and look up the age of customer equipment such as water heaters and heat pumps. Then send coupons to replace systems. This is known as “call to action” marketing. Project management software makes this process automated and much easier to utilize than tracking down paper copies.
8. Things to avoid. Avoid cold calling. A customer may think, “Nothing is broken. Why is this stranger on my doorstep or calling me?” Avoid offering cheap services. The customer will suspect that the tech will aggressively try to upsell them. Avoid badgering customers. Home service is all about relationships. Don’t spam with emails and text messages. It can be detrimental to your business. Home services are relational, not transactional.
Take a moment to think about what you can do in your business to increase calls and keep your techs busy during the slow periods of the year. l
Anthony DiDomenico is a customer success manager with ServiceTitan and former controller at CoolToday. ServiceTitan is a mobile, cloud-based software platform that helps home services companies streamline operations, improve customer service and grow their business. For more information, visit www.servicetitan.com.