SECTION 10 OF 10

HVAC Replacement Guidelines

Time for HVAC Replacement? Use this Urgency Rating Guide to Prioritize Calls

When homeowners call your company to schedule HVAC repair services, are your CSRs prepared to ask the right questions to determine how urgent the problem might be? After all, "emergency service" might mean a same-day heating repair for one customer, or a full cooling- system replacement for another.

A malfunctioning air conditioner or heating system can cause real health and safety issues for some clients, especially in the Midwest, where the outside air temperature can swing rapidly from one extreme to the next, says Steve Simmons, President & CEO of Air Comfort Heating & Cooling in Nebraska. 

"We have an older population in the Midwest," Simmons explains. "We have a lot of people who either have health issues or they're alone. Or they've just had surgery. Who knows what it is? They can't tolerate an 85-degree temperature, or a 50-degree temperature, in their house. We need to get to those people right away."

The coronavirus pandemic also put a spotlight on indoor air quality, and making sure the ventilation systems in commercial buildings meet CDC guidelines for safety. To ensure a safe environment for employees to return to work, some companies decided to update filtration systems, air filters, ductwork, and other equipment to create better airflow.

No matter the HVAC system issue, it's up to your CSRs to determine each call's level of urgency by asking pertinent questions. If it's not a health or safety issue, it may be time to replace the customer's air conditioning system, central air, or heat pump to regulate relative humidity in the home or business before temperatures start to swelter.

At Air Comfort Heating & Cooling, Simmons uses ServiceTitan's CRM software to automate pop-up questions on an easy-to-read dashboard to help his CSRs quickly identify opportunities for new system replacements, and then communicate those leads to the company's comfort advisers, service techs, and sales leads. 

He even decided to hire a new CSR, based on how ServiceTitan operates. 

"We're trying to form the position to maximize what we already have in place with ServiceTitan, instead of trying to force ServiceTitan into doing things our way," Simmons says. "We feel that's going to be far more efficient. They designed this stuff, so let's just use the tools they gave us."

Below, we asked Simmons, co-owner of a 15-person HVAC company specializing in residential replacements, to outline his urgency rating guide for prioritizing HVAC calls:

HVAC Replacement Urgency Rating Guide

Priority Level 1 

This customer needs immediate attention from a comfort adviser or sales lead, for the following reasons:

  1. Health & Safety—client reports a legitimate health issue requiring heating or cooling service as soon as possible, or service technician finds a critical safety problem with the unit, such as a cracked or damaged heat exchanger or carbon monoxide issues.

  2. Existing Club Member—with no heating or cooling on out-of-warranty equipment.

  3. Existing Client—with equipment over 10 years old.

  4. Technician Lead—turn over calls to comfort advisers or sales leads from tech still inside the home, if possible.

"We put health and safety at the top, and then we fulfill our obligation to the people who put their trust in us," Simmons says. "If somebody is part of our club membership program, they go to the top of the line. If we have an existing customer with really old equipment, those people will move up on the priority list."

A technician lead turnover occurs when a customer calls in to report a problem, such as a malfunctioning thermostat or blower problem, and the tech diagnoses a fairly extensive and costly AC repair on a 25-year-old air conditioning system with a bad compressor. 

Air Comfort's service techs explain the diagnosis to the homeowner, using a visual chart to show the age of the system and the expected cost for the repair, so they can make an informed decision on whether to repair or replace the system. If the client agrees it's time to replace, the tech immediately lets the office know to schedule a comfort adviser visit.

To determine the right type of HVAC replacement equipment with the best energy efficiency or energy-saving options, the service tech or comfort adviser asks questions about the home—such as how long they plan to stay, if they plan to move, or do they only use it during certain times of the year—to help them figure out the best course of action.

Priority Level 2 

For the following reasons, a comfort adviser or sales lead needs to contact this client within four hours:

  1. Inconvenience to client—no heating or cooling.

  2. Existing equipment over 10 years old.

  3. Existing client considering replacement.

  4. Technician note indicates customer interest in getting an estimate for new HVAC.

Simmons says his service technicians shine when they use ServiceTitan's cloud-based business software on a mobile app in the field. They can easily show good-better-and-best options with clear images, detailed product descriptions, and pricing to help customers make more informed buying decisions.

"I'm very visual, and I like to see pictures. I like to see how things form and function. Words don't mean a lot to me," Simmons explains. With ServiceTitan, "we can present something that has a little sparkle to it.

"There is no sizzle to our industry at all, until we get into the home and create that," Simmons adds. "When a customer gives us an opportunity to come and create some sizzle, we want to jump on that."

Priority Level 3 

A comfort adviser or sales lead needs to contact this customer within 24 hours.

  1. Comfort system working now.

  2. Technician advises the customer it's time to replace it.

  3. Getting other bids.

  4. May need repairs soon.

  5. Saw an advertisement suggesting replacement.

While the first two priorities require more urgent action, and typically involve existing clients, the third most important HVAC replacement call may give your company an opportunity to gain a new client. It's just a matter of getting to them when it's most convenient.

"Every client is always a priority, okay?" Simmons says, but a Priority Level 3 client doesn't require creating inefficiencies by modifying the existing schedule.

"If somebody's got a two-year-old system that was put in by a competitor, that person can wait, quite honestly," Simmons says. "We need to take care of priorities one and two, then we'll get to you. We're thankful you called us and we want to take care of you, but in all likelihood, if it's a major repair, you're going to call the other guy anyway."

Priority Level 4

A comfort advisor or sales lead needs to contact this customer when the schedule allows.

  1. Comfort system working now.

  2. Thinking about replacing sometime in the future.

  3. No problems, other than age.

  4. Client has indicated no rush.

"If somebody needs a repair soon or if they saw an advertisement showing replacement, they're in the inquisitive stage," Simmons says. "The primary objective is to show them we're responsive."

If you don't respond in a timely manner, he says, the customer will simply move on to the next HVAC company.

Priority Level 5 

This customer requires a follow-up from previous unsold quotes.

  1. Contact is initiated based upon opportunity provided by notes from a previous sales call.

  2. Contact may be by phone, email, text, in-person, etc.

  3. Leads obtained from database info, friend referral in no hurry.

  4. Great potential source for selling add-on, upgrade options.

"Priority Level 5 is just basically a follow-up," Simmons says. "Somebody needs a touch. We haven't heard from this person in quite a while.

"Maybe they were interested in doing something at one time, having some product or service done, and they said they wanted to think about it or maybe they said, 'I need to wait until I get my tax return.' Anything along those lines. We use that as our follow-up," he adds.

With easy-to-use tags and filters in the ServiceTitan dashboard, the Air Comfort team can quickly see all customers with unsold estimates and follow up with them during less busy times of the year. 

The software certainly beats Air Comfort’s former method of trying to follow up with customers using a paper-filled "tick file."

"It was poorly used, and it was hit and miss," Simmons says. "Often, a lot of the stuff was either forgotten, or you didn't know what the notes meant when you went and pulled that out nine months later."

With various notes, checklist inspections, and call recordings documented in a central hub, the service tech or comfort adviser can easily see the customer history before following up with specific recommendations for HVAC replacement.

"It's a big sigh of relief for them," Simmons says of his service team. "They're not expected to be a walking encyclopedia anymore."

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