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Workers in a seasonal industry such as heating and air conditioning experience ebbs and flows throughout the year, but the slowest time of year for HVAC typically occurs in the fall and spring, when homeowners tend to give their home heating or cooling systems a break.
While service calls may dip during these times, that doesn’t mean your HVAC company should take a hiatus until business picks back up. If you don’t plan and prepare now—during the busiest HVAC season of the year—your HVAC company may struggle to maintain reliable revenue streams during the down months.
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Here are 5 tips on how successful HVAC companies take a proactive approach to keep the revenue flowing year-round.
1. Sell and Promote Home Maintenance Plans
Home maintenance contracts. Service agreements. Club memberships. Call them whatever you want, but just make sure your HVAC techs and CSRs offer them to every single customer.
Home maintenance plans generate guaranteed, recurring revenue from new and existing HVAC customers who typically pay an annual fee for preventive HVAC check-ups in the spring and fall.
Other customer perks of club memberships include receiving priority service when something breaks down, waived inspection fees, seasonal discounts, free quotes, and more. They also help to build revenue and a loyal customer base for your company.
For Cool Today, a multi-trade company in Sarasota, Fla., customers who bought and renewed a membership at least two times accounted for nearly triple the revenue of first-time customers, says company president Jaime DiDomenico.
Finding success with selling memberships really comes down to understanding the difference between a “transactional” customer and a “relational” customer, DiDomenico says. Just ask your techs.
“Ask them if it’s tougher to sell a first-time customer or somebody who knows you and trusts you,” he says.
At every opportunity, coach your techs and CSRs to clearly explain the benefits of HVAC service maintenance plans to customers, such as:
Extend lifespan of HVAC equipment
Fewer mid-season breakdowns
Lower future repair costs
Address “invisible" issues, such as air quality concerns
Warranty coverage for some equipment
Priority service for repairs
Waived diagnostic fees
Waived emergency service fees
While selling memberships to an existing customer might be easier than a new customer, it is possible to do both. For instance, your company can offer free inspections on initial visits to identify potential issues, then offer solutions to help the customer remedy the problem over time or stay on top of it with a monthly maintenance contract.
Investing in a new HVAC system or paying to repair an older one may require a large financial investment, so help to ease your customers’ concerns by offering regular maintenance checks to keep their equipment in tip-top shape.
2. Adjust Your Marketing Spend in HVAC Slow Season
Some contractors believe it’s best to pull back their marketing efforts during slow periods (or statewide Covid-19 shutdowns), as a way to ride out a lull in the storm. To stay in the game and be successful, experts say HVAC companies should do exactly the opposite during slow seasons.
If you resist the reactionary and really think through and beef up your marketing strategy, you’re more likely to end up better on the other side, says Ben Stark, business owner and HVAC-R industry consultant.
“Don’t pull back, extend the marketing,” he says. “Push it a little bit, instead of pulling back.”
Matt Michel, CEO of Service Roundtable, agrees. “When it’s harder to find a customer, that’s not the time to pull back your efforts. It’s time to step them up,” he says.
Adjust your HVAC marketing spend to focus on targeted advertising campaigns that promote service plans or seasonal check-ups during spring or fall. Let customers know when it’s time to prepare for a cold winter or hot summer by including HVAC digital marketing, as well as traditional advertising on TV, radio, newspapers, and billboards, and sending direct mail fliers.
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Mastering HVAC digital marketing—from targeted email campaigns and paid social media posts to Google Local Services ads and 5-star Google reviews—increases brand awareness for your HVAC company and helps you build an online reputation.
With an integrated software solution, it’s easy to assign unique phone numbers to each of these advertising efforts and zero-in on the campaigns that produce the most calls for your service plans. Adjust your marketing spend regularly by tracking results for each campaign.
3. Offer Off-Season Discounts for HVAC System Upgrades
Installing a new HVAC system for residential or commercial customers generates the highest tickets in the HVAC industry. To close out inventory before the end of the year, manufacturers also tend to cut prices during the slow season.
Claim a win for your company and your customers by encouraging them to schedule HVAC system upgrades in the fall or spring, and throw in an extra incentive by offering coupons or off-season discounts. Ultimately, your company may earn a little less on each installation, but you’ve established a steady flow of income during the slowest time of year for HVAC.
As a bonus, once your HVAC techs enter a customer’s home to install a new system, they can explain the benefits of signing up for a home maintenance plan to keep the system performing at an optimal level year-round.
4. Start Planning to Hire Seasonal Help Now
As an HVAC company owner, you know how hard it is to find quality techs with the right skills in a climate where an industry-wide trade shortage has collided with high unemployment numbers because of the pandemic.
As we transition to fall, it’s time to start thinking about whether you’ll need seasonal help for the winter, or if you can wait until spring to hire seasonal help for the summer.
Summer is typically the busiest time of year for HVAC companies, but winter isn’t too far behind. Both busy seasons can be challenging for your techs, as well as your CSRs and dispatchers, with an influx of new jobs creating a flurry of scheduling complications.
Make sure to adequately staff both teams and provide the proper tools and training, so everyone feels confident to rise to the challenge during periods of high demand.
As the seasons change, consider the following:
What does your past seasonal data tell you about how many people you need to hire for the winter or summer?
Do you plan to hire more employees for the busy seasons, or offer current employees longer hours?
Would an integrated software solution improve your team’s efficiency in the office and out in the field?
Are you properly measuring your team’s performance, and rewarding them for a job well done?
The HVAC slow season is also a good time to consider whether you want to pay your employees an hourly rate or switch to flat-rate pay. Flat-rate pay differs from hourly pay, as it places the focus on technician productivity and rewards employees for performing at a high level, no matter how many hours they work each week.
5. Use HVAC Software
Optimize your online marketing presence to keep your brand front and center during the slower seasons. The trick is to get a head start on the HVAC slow season by building on the momentum you gained during the busy season.
With an intuitive, cloud-based mobile app such as ServiceTitan Mobile 2.0, you can customize your service maintenance agreements and make it mandatory for your techs to offer them on most service calls.
ServiceTitan’s HVAC software also helps you track maintenance plans, offer coupons and discounts on the job site, and deliver real-time reporting on home maintenance contracts and memberships so you can clearly see how they drive growth and profit.
“The two most important things we have noticed since using ServiceTitan is that it has allowed us to streamline processes and gather detailed information quickly and accurately. This has helped us become more efficient, organized, and profitable,” says Will Hallet, owner of Penguin Air.
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