John and Jeff Churchill, owners of ServiceOne
Originally published: 08.01.12 by Terry Tanker
Publisher Terry Tanker recently met with the father-and-son team running ServiceOne in Omaha, NE, one of the 2012 Tops In Trucks winners, to discuss strategy, marketing, add-on acquisitions, and competition in their market.
1. How did ServiceOne get its start?
ServiceOne was started in 1989 by a utility company that wanted to offer residential home warranty and service contracts for HVAC, plumbing, electrical, and appliances. My father worked for the utility, and purchased it in 2003.
2. How has the company changed since?
We’ve grown our commercial and on-demand work, but we’re still keeping a focus on the homewarranty and service-contract customer base, which is well over 12,000.
3. In addition to heating and cooling, you also provide service for plumbing, electrical, and appliances. Did you add these services over the years?
They were offered from the start. We’ve expanded into commercial and residential new construction and remodels, geothermal, main-line replacements and repair, boiler work, radiant floor heating, and controls.
4. How does your business break down by percentage?
Sixty percent is HVAC; 20% is plumbing; 10% is electrical; and 10% is appliance repair.
5. Do you market appliance-repair service just to existing service customers?
We offer appliance repair to existing customers and on demand customers. We run this part of our operation very similar to how we run our HVAC, plumbing, and Electrical
6. ServiceOne has developed a comprehensive website. What type of ROI does it have?
We are very pleased with the results we are seeing. We made major changes to our website last year. Our old website had nice graphics and very good content, but it was not very easy to navigate and was not optimized to be searchable. Our new website is very easy to navigate and is designed to be found by customers in need of service.
7. Is the website your main sales lead generator?
Networking and the Internet have become our main source for on-demand leads. Our current customer base is still our main lead-generation tool.
8. You’ve made great use of video on the site. Do you have a dedicated webmaster?
We do not have a dedicated webmaster, but we do use the expertise of our Operations Manager/IT “guru” and our Marketing Manager. We also outsource some of our SEO and design.
9. What other types of marketing do you invest in?
All types of marketing: television, radio, direct mail, sponsorship of events, Yellow Pages, vehicle wraps, etc. Over the last couple of years we have increased our investment in Internet marketing and lowered it elsewhere. Internet marketing seems to provide the most bang for the buck.
10. ServiceOne is 2012 Tops-In-Trucks winner. Why are trucks a worthwhile investment?
We have known for years that our trucks bring us many leads, so we thought it would be a good idea to increase our visibility in this area and make the vehicles even more eye catching.
11. How do you invest in each vehicle?
The vehicle wraps cost two-to-three times more than putting our normal vehicle stickers on them, but we feel the extra visibility is well worth the expense. We have 68 vehicles, and at this point, we have wrapped about 20% of them. Moving forward all of them will be done.
12. How did you select your logo and paint scheme?
We used the same logo that has been around for many years, so it would be recognizable to customers. The paint scheme was chosen because we feel the green swoosh is eye-catching and has a clean, environmental feel.
13. Omaha has been experiencing a record heat wave most of the summer. What management challenges has that presented?
The extremely hot summer, along with two June acquisitions, has caused every ServiceOne team member to bring their A Game.
14. Can you give me an example?
We are set up to have installers and appliance technicians help out with service technicians when needed, and vice versa. Most of our departments within Operations are cross-trained to help out in other areas. This helps us to balance the workload. The same thing occurs to some extent among dispatch, customer service, and our home-warranty departments.
15. How do you keep service personnel motivated when they are working nonstop?
We have a strong family feel at ServiceOne. We do our best to try and keep an eye on the pulse of the team members. If we get the feeling someone needs a break, we do our best to try and get them home early.
16. Have most of your calls been with customers that have service agreements?
The majority of our calls come from customers with service agreements both commercially and residentially.
17. How do you handle new on-demand customers?
If a customer does not have an agreement with us, our goal is to offer one every time. It is much easier to obtain business from existing customerscompared to ones that are not familiar with our company’s work and service.
18. What direction are you leading the company?
We will continue to focus on our core business, but we also see ServiceOne growing more and more into commercial, geothermal, and different areas of plumbing.
19. What are your growth strategies?
We will continue to look for and hire team members that have expertise in these areas and continue to train our existing team members in these areas. We will focus heavily on marketing and sales efforts, too. And, more acquisitions specifically related to geothermal, commercial, and or plumbing are possible.
20. What is the competition like in your area?
Like any other market, we see a diversified range of competition. There are definitely a number of quality competitors that do things the right way, and there are also many competitors that we see cutting corners. The competition overall is good and fair in the Omaha market.
Terry has over 23 years of experience in the advertising and publishing industries. He began his career with a business-to-business advertising agency. Prior to forming Hutchinson Tanker Ltd. and HVACR Business in January 2006, he spent 20 years with large national publishing and media firm where he was the publisher of several titles in the mechanical systems marketplace.
In addition to his experience in advertising and publishing, Terry has worked closely with numerous industry-related associations over the years including AHRI, AMCA, and ABMA. He has also served on the Board of Directors for the American Boiler Manufactures Association (ABMA) and as chairman, for both the Associates Committee and the Marketing Communications Committee of ABMA.
Articles by Terry Tanker
Two Longtime Contributors Publish Books
Both Ron Smith and Theo Etzel have written new books — proving once again their commitment to advancing the HVACR industry.
The Problem with Listening to Customers
Customer insight is about short term tactics that lead to deeper discounts, price matching, improved service, less inventory and more automation.
Chris Hunter, owner of Hunter Heat & Air
Michael Meier, VP/COO Meier Supply
Bob McEwan, retired general manager of GE Aviation