Industry Expert Shines Light on Path Forward During COVID-19 Pandemic
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Learn how Ken Goodrich takes action to keep employees safe, grow business during the worldwide Coronavirus outbreak.
In a crisis, natural human tendency causes us to either freeze and fixate on how bad things are going to be — or take action to keep everyone safe and try to lessen the impact.
Ken Goodrich, CEO of Goettl Air Conditioning and Plumbing, falls in the latter camp.
With Goettl branches in multiple states and nearly 800 employees, Goodrich immediately sent a video outlining the precautionary steps he’s taking to keep his customers and employees safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But he went a step further, too. He also spent more than $1 million to install Ultraviolet (UV) germicidal lights in the homes of every employee.
Goodrich’s message is an important one. Home service workers — plumbers, HVAC techs and electricians — provide essential services, before, during, and after the global Coronavirus pandemic, and they need to be protected.
“A/C or HVAC is not a luxury … or plumbing and electrical. It’s a safety issue,” Goodrich says. “We’ve always been an essential service.
“Our job is to make sure customers are safe and comfortable. … It’s our duty.”
With everyone spending more time at home, keeping mechanical systems working properly is vital, he explained in a live webinar recently hosted by ServiceTitan.
Customers rely on clean air and comfortable temperatures in their home, especially if someone’s sick. They also need clean running water, along with power and light, to protect their health and well-being.
“We’re monitoring every single day, and marching forward … operating professionally and safely,” Goodrich says.
Goodrich’s leadership during a time of national crisis provides a great example for others in the skilled trades to follow, says Ara Mahdessian, CEO of ServiceTitan.
“We can’t control what’s happening out there, but we can control our response,” Mahdessian says. “We don’t know how long it will last, but it will end at some point. We need to focus on what we can control, and adapt the best way we can.”
In a live webinar with Mahdessian and Tom Howard, ServiceTitan’s Vice President of Customer Experience, Goodrich explained how he’s adapting to this “new normal” for the home services industry.
“I’ve been through several international challenges in the past … wars, 9/11, the Great Recession,” Goodrich says. “We can’t slow down … everyone needs to adapt and pivot, stay optimistic.”
Lead with strength and stick to your business plan
Goodrich says he always tries to maintain a strong front with his employees, pushing them to hit their goals and perform at a higher level. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, he has visited Goettl branches more often to talk to employees and identify customers’ concerns.
“Just being out in the middle of things with my people has received a lot of positive feedback,” he says. “Be visible, empathetic, and try to address their concerns.
“I’ve had less than five people who decided to self-quarantine or stay at home. Don’t discourage that, by any means. Let them know you are with them, stand by their side.”
Despite the coronavirus concerns, Goodrich says, Goettl is already 16 percentage points up on its business plan for 2020, with 38 percent more earnings year-over-year.
“Remain optimistic and stay focused on your goal,” he advises.
Take necessary precautions to keep your service techs safe
While Goettl keeps moving forward to provide essential services, it’s not business as usual. In the company video, Goodrich and other employees explain how the company is doing things differently — yet the same, in some instances.
For example, Goettl’s techs:
Wear protective gloves on the job — something they’ve done for years to protect customers.
Wear shoe booties inside customers’ homes — again, something they’ve done for years.
Remove and discard dirty HVAC filters directly into a trash bag for customers.
Communicate information to customers about services or repairs outside (instead of inside at the kitchen table) whenever possible, to protect themselves and the customer.
Are dispatched directly from their homes to yours, instead of from Goettl office branch. CSRs also work remotely.
Wash their hands frequently and practice good hygiene.
Sanitize all work surfaces, including service trucks.
“Our guys have gloves, masks, hand sanitizers on every truck,” Goodrich says. “At each business, we’re cleaning all day long, computers, keyboards, door handles … someone’s designated to do that.”
He also purchased more than 600 UV germicidal lights to install in his employees’ homes.
“We did that for peace of mind … to show them we care,” he says.
Stay on top of customer call volume, and encourage home maintenance
With everyone staying at home, mechanical systems definitely get a workout — sometimes doubling or tripling a household’s normal usage.
“Call volume is up in a big way on plumbing, and we’re up on HVAC,” Goodrich says. “We are more select on where we go, what services we are providing … to prevent further risk to employees.”
It’s so important to educate customers on the importance of maintaining their home mechanical systems during normal times, and challenging times. The states his company serves — Arizona, Nevada, California and Texas — are going to start heating up in the next few weeks.
Can you imagine trying to take care of a sick loved one without a working HVAC, plumbing or electrical system in the home? Customers will need a reliable A/C system to remain comfortable.
It’s also a matter of health. To keep everything clean requires running water and electricity, and controlling temperature and humidity levels helps limit the spread of the virus.
Goodrich’s message communicates the need to keep home service techs and customers safe, and emphasizes the importance of maintaining and repairing home systems so they function properly, Mahdessian says.
“It’s important to do maintenance now, instead of when it gets busy in the middle of June. This is your version of flattening the curve … flatten how many air conditioners go bad,” Mahdessian says.
Right now, Goodrich says, don’t think in terms of maintenance agreements as a selling opportunity. Instead, present them as options for great customer service.
“We truly believe in maintenance … we are taking care of our customers, making sure they have reliable systems,” he says.
Keep your foot on the gas for marketing your home services business
Consumers rely on home service workers to keep their mechanical systems operating safely. Now is a time to shine and come to the rescue when they need you most.
“In every one of these crisis situations, I turned on the gas … in 2008, 2009, 2010, we grew over 40 percent,” Goodrich says. “I cranked up the marketing. Do not retract. Retracting is death.”
Educate homeowners about all of your products and services, instead of only talking about replacing their air conditioner. For instance, show them how an indoor air quality or water purification system can help to protect their health, or the benefits of a clean air duct system with UV germicidal lights.
While it’s a little tough to get supplies right now, Goodrich expects a huge uptick on indoor air quality systems in the next 60 days. He’s already placed an order for $500,000 in IAQ equipment. In comparison, he says that total equals more than he spent on similar equipment for all of 2019.
“It’s giving us more discipline and precision in the field. It’s making us a better company,” he says.
Goodrich also offered these marketing tips for contractors to follow in the upcoming months:
Don’t run out of cash. “Keep a good, close eye on cash every single day. We’re prepared to extend some terms with vendors, to create some cashflow if we run into that challenge.”
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Extending credit terms on major equipment “creates a lot of cash.” Negotiate with new vendors that may be losing business from other contractors who shut down during the crisis.
Do not pay Cash on Delivery (COD) for equipment. “Negotiate with vendors. Free up cash. Do not pay COD. Get some breathing room, stay focused, and drive your revenue.”
Personalize your marketing message. Take a short video with your smartphone and talk about the precautions your company is taking to ensure the health and safety of your customers and employees. Your customers will appreciate hearing from you.
Keep marketing to customers, whether you run a small or large company. “The principles are all the same. Do the maintenance calls, be available for customers, talk to them. Knock on the doors in the neighborhood, leave door hangers, send out mailers. You just have to stay in the game. You have to book every call.”
Assess the effectiveness of your sales techs. If your “Diagnostic Fee Only” tickets reach 20 percent, that means 2 out of 10 people are deciding not to hire your company to fix their problem. “Even today with my business … I will pick up the phone and ask them why. I can usually change their minds. When we’re sloppy, we’re above 20. When we’re good, we’re below 10.”
Create a script for your techs to use to ease customers’ fears. Keep it simple, explain the necessary precautions you’re taking, and how a reliable mechanical system keeps their homes healthy and safe.
No matter what happens, keep searching for ‘yes’
Goodrich remembers the day everything clicked into place when he first started out. He was living in an apartment and needed to pay rent, but he’d gone three or four days without a single call.
He picked up the phone book (remember those?) and started calling customers whose last name started with A, and booked enough jobs for the next day. The following night, he moved on to the B’s and booked enough jobs for the next day.
“It’s no different for anyone today. It’s really about mindset, having the desire to win and not fail,” Goodrich says. “You’ve just got to talk to customers and explain how you can help them, protect them, and get those calls on the schedule.”
“Persevere until you get the yeses, and understand you’re going to hear a lot of nos,” Mahdessian says.
Goodrich agrees wholeheartedly. It’s that approach that got him to where he is today.
“Go get your nine nos — get them out of the way — then get your one yes and move on,” he says.
Resources for the trades
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