So all of your competitors offer 24 hour emergency service and you’re a one or two-man HVAC company with limited resources, how do you compete?
First, be realistic about your capabilities
It’s easy to advertise 24 hour emergency service on a billboard. It’s not always easy to get up in the middle of the night to answer a service call.
Before you decide to offer 24 hour service, make sure you’re aware of what you’re getting into and willing to handle the worst case scenario. You may not get many calls, but if you do, you have to answer and be ready to deliver. If not, the damage may be worse than if you were never an option in the first place.
Set your terms and stick to them
It’s 7pm on a Thursday night and a new residential customer calls with an “urgent” request. You know it can wait until the next business day, but they’re willing to pay double your rate. What do you do?
Determining your after-hours rates, service area, emergency stipulations, and other criteria in advance will help you avoid any uncertainty in such situations. Policies and procedures aren’t reserved for big companies; solo HVAC contractors can benefit from them as well.
Rules will help you run a consistent operation. Think about what matters to your customers, be realistic, then set a policy you can justify and stick to it.
Have a plan for fielding emergency calls
Operating a 24/7 HVAC company means phone calls may come in at all hours of the day and night. You’ll need a simple way to field those calls in accordance with your emergency service policy.
The easiest way to take calls around the clock is to forward everything to your cell phone. The downside is that every call made to your business line will reach you directly, including wrong numbers, telemarketers, and customers who are just looking to leave a message or ask a question.
A second option is a live answering service for HVAC contractors. They can answer on your behalf and filter out the important calls. There’s a small cost associated with hiring a service, but it’s typically around the same price as your cell phone bill and may save you a lot of headaches if business picks up.
Test it out and see what works for your business
If you’re already running an HVAC business, the obstacles above aren’t large barriers to entry. You can always start offering 24 hour emergency service for a trial period and see if it works.
Just remember what you’re getting into and that offering emergency service sets expectations for the customer. You have to be ready to live up to your advertising. Create a policy, plan for the calls, and assess the results as you move forward.
About the Author
Gere Jordan writes for Continental Message Solution, a leading provider of 24 hour HVAC call center solutions and telephone answering services. They provide professional receptionists, appointment scheduling, and after-hours dispatching solutions so companies can operate around the clock without the extra staff or distractions.