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Time To Think About Winter

Originally published: 07.01.07 by Ruth King


Extra effort during the busy summer season stockpiles work for slow times.

It's summer, and the telephone is ringing off the hook. Cash flow is good, and you feel nothing but positive. Now is the time to earn profits and prepare for the slower times. You might think I'm nuts, but according to Jim Rohn, one of the richest and most successful business philosophers, "Ants think summer all winter. Ants think winter all summer." The busy time is the best time to prepare for the slower time and improve productivity.

Here are 12 things to do:

1. Make sure your technicians write down everything that they see wrong with a system when they perform a diagnostic. During busy times, technicians might avoid writing everything down because they fear the customer will agree to have everything fixed, causing the technician to work late.

2. It is unlikely that the customer will have the technician fix everything. However, save these tickets in a tickler file for work to do when it gets slower later this summer.

3. Make sure the technicians fix the disease, not the symptom of the disease. When it's busy, technicians have a tendency to find and fix the first problem they see.

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Many don't take the time to find out why the problem occurred. The last thing you want, and the customer needs, is a callback a few days or a week later.

4. Work to reduce and eliminate callbacks. You never want callbacks. However, they are especially painful during the busy season when you definitely could be performing a revenue-producing call rather than a non-revenue producing callback or warranty call. (For tips on reducing callbacks, see Ron Smith's June 2007 column at www.hvacrbusiness.com/smith.)

5. Take care of your warranty customers and service-agreement customers first. Dispatch has to be good at saying "no" without saying "no." Tell everyone in your company to take care of these customers first.

6. Continue to sell service agreements. When an agreement is sold, the first check will be this fall for residential agreements and at a mutually convenient time for commercial agreements. Always talk about agreements. They will keep you busy in the slower times of the year.

7. Return telephone calls. Sometimes you get so busy giving estimates and handling the day-to-day tasks that returning telephone calls is low on your priority list. If someone has called with an issue, you need to resolve it as quickly as possible. The last thing you need when you are busy is for a minor problem to become a major crisis. (You don't need this EVER!)

8. Call customers to whom you have given estimates. You might think you are so busy that you can't take another job. However, if you've given an estimate to a customer, you have to call that customer back to see what they have decided to do. You might get the job (the customer might be waiting to see who does call back). You also might get valuable information about your competition.

9. Take a few minutes to ensure that the materials and instructions for your jobs are complete. You don't have the time to waste running to the parts house (not that you do at other times of the year either). This is the time of year to be productive. Stopping work to pick up a part hampers productivity. In addition, customers appreciate it when you complete a job without having to stop in the middle and disappear for a while.

10. Make sure that everyone finishes jobs even if they must work a little past normal quitting time. Customers will appreciate your crew's additional effort to finish that day, so they don't have to spend part of another day at home. In addition, a completed job allows customers to get back to their normal routine — and get back to being more comfortable than they were the day before. They don't have to wait an additional night for that comfort. If it takes an hour of overtime, it is much better to finish a job than to come back the next day. Besides, you'll spend more than that hour in labor and truck expense getting back to the job and completing it.

11. Continue disciplining. If an employee breaks company policy, even in busy times, you must discipline and take the appropriate action. Losing an employee because of a disciplinary action is tough when it's busy. However, everyone else will see that you are following the rules and respect you for it. Most times they will pitch in to get the work done.

12. Say thank you frequently. Let technicians know that you appreciate their hard work. There are many ways to say thank you. In meetings, publicly thank everyone for their hard work and let them know you appreciate their taking care of your customers. When you get customer appreciation letters, read them during the meetings or post them on a bulletin board where everyone can see them.These are activities that you need to continue to do when it is extremely busy. You might think you can't handle one more service call or one more job. However, you'll always fit in what needs to get done. And remember: When you are busy is the best time to look for work for the slower times.


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